Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's "Red Friday" As 0-4 Rutgers Visits 0-4 Princeton

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PRINCETON, N.J. – It may be Black Friday in the merchandise world occurring right after Thanksgiving while the Dow Jones may be in the black at a historical level at the moment.

But here in Jadwin Gym this afternoon two of New Jersey’s historical finest women’s basketball programs will battle with each being operating in the red in unprecedented levels at the start of their respective seasons.

Rutgers arrives with a worst-ever 0-4 start in the entire history of the Scarlet Knights and the victors on the other side, while not cupcakes, are not necessarily the monsters of the nation Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer has scheduled before competing in the old Big East and now the Big Ten.

Princeton, meanwhile, is also 0-4, which matches the worst start in the 10-year era of mostly prominence in the Ivy League and nationally under Courtney Banghart. That launch occurred in her first season before going on to great things like an unbeaten regular season record two seasons ago and a first-ever for the Ivies at-large bid to the NCAA tourney last March.

The Tigers are young, having graduated four key players from the last of the Princeton ongoing rollover of heavyweights.  The result is they got shocked at the outset in their home opener by nearby Rider and then fell at a decent but retooling George Washington operation over the first weekend before suffering two tough losses at home in overtime to Dayton and then last Tuesday a narrow setback at the finish at Delaware.

While a loss Friday would mark the worst start in five games for Banghart, the Tigers would have to go on a more dubious run to near the all-time worst start in program history.

Princeton on Sunday will go to UMBC outside Baltimore.

Meanwhile, as has been the case several times ahead of opening day in recent season, Rutgers was hit with a major loss when the school announced All-Big Ten guard Tyler Scaife would not take the floor until 2016-17 following advice in the wake of a medical procedure performed in the offseason.

There is a slew of newcomers on the roster making chemistry a work in progress. Meanwhile Rutgers dropped the season opener to Chattanooga and then went on the road since, falling at Elon, predicted to finish second in the CAA; and then at Wake Forest and Virginia of the ACC.

Talent-wise, no knock on Princeton, but Rutgers would appear the favorite Friday and afterwards will be favored against visiting Bryant Sunday back in the RAC but then Duke visits next Thursday, Dec. 1, as part of the AVV/Big Ten Challenge.

The Blue Devils are out of the rankings for the first time in several decades but have to key players in Rebecca Greenwell and Lexi Brown, the talented backcourt transfer from Maryland.

It’s Duke’s first visit since the Blue Devils romped in the early part of the 2006-07 season, one of a slew of giants on the Rutgers nonconference slate. But eventually the Scarlet Knights got their act together and got revenge in March in the Sweet 16, beating overall No. 1 seed Blue Devils in Greensboro, N.C., when Lindsey Harding, set to become the top seed in the WNBA draft, missed two foul shots in the final 0.4 seconds.

Two days later Rutgers beat Arizona State to get to the Women’s Final Four where the Knights advanced to the title game before falling to Tennessee.

There is at least one highlight coming the night of the Duke game when Cappie Pondexter, who has gone on to international and WNBA star status, will have her number retired.

High Flying Rider

With the woes of Rutgers and Princeton occurring and Seton Hall no longer unbeaten the surprise in New Jersey is Rider, off to a 3-0 for the first time in 34 years since the early 1980s.

“We’ve had great chemistry, we’ve gotten off to strong starts in all our games, and with our newcomers combined with the vets, for the first time we have some depth,” said Lynn Milligan, in her tenth season at Rider.

The Broncs shocked Princeton in Jadwin Gym on opening night, only the second time they’ve won their, then came home to beat Lafayette before busting a previous 0-9 effort which went by the boards against visiting La Salle.

Next up are games Saturday against host Central Florida in Orlando followed by playing St. Bonaventure in the Sunshine State in the same arena on Sunday. Then it’s back home to meet Canisius next Friday.

Penn State Still Roaring While Villanova Continues to Struggle

Originally, set to play in Puerto Rico, the San Juan Shootout, which would have gotten under way Friday, began Thursday on Thanksgiving Day in Daytona Beach, Fla., the site moved because of medical concerns over virus conditions in the tropics.

Thus in two games played, Penn State came off its upset at home Sunday over then-No. 13 Tennessee to beat Georgia State, 69-42, a season-low on points allowed the opposition.

Villanova, however, after having lost a lead to fall to George Washington on Sunday at home, was upset by Troy, 93-85.

In the Penn State game, the Lady Lions (4-1) made It four straight after its opening road loss at Drexel as freshman Jaida Travascio-Green had a career-high 18 points, fueled by five 3-pointers.

Senior Peyton Whitted had 14 points and 11 rebounds against the Panthers (3-3), who were outscored in the third quarter 18-0 during a stretch that allowed the Lady Lions to take total control.

Amari Carter had 10 points and Lindsey Spann scored 11.

Next up on Friday is a game against Georgetown at 11 a.m.

In the Villanova game, the Wildcats (1-3) had a lead erased at the outset of the second half by a 21-4 run from Troy (3-1).

Alex Louin had a game-high 23 points for Villanova while Adrianna Hahn had 14 points and hit four 3-pointers, freshman Kelly Jekot scored 12 and Jannah Tucker scored 10.

Troy got 21 points from Amanda Mendoza and 21 from Clarissa Banks.

Villanova finishes the two-day event Friday night playing VCU and then comes home to play its first Big Five game Wednesday, hosting La Salle.

Looking Ahead

Much of the locals are involved in holiday tournament play this weekend when Saint Joseph’s (1-3), off its narrow Big Five win over Penn Wednesday night  opens against BYU in New Mexico’s tournament Friday and then will meet either New Mexico or Tulsa Saturday.

Delaware (4-0) takes its unbeaten record and Tuesday win over Princeton against No. 24 Michigan State Friday night in Cal-State Northridge’s tourney and then will meet the hosts or Detroit Saturday.

La Salle (1-3), which finally got its first win Sunday beating American U., is in North Carolina  playing Miami of Ohio Saturday and then on Sunday meeting the host UNC Wilmington squad that Is part of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Drexel (3-1), which at the moment is the top women’s team in the city, travels to Patriot League favorite Bucknell Sunday, the Dragons’ first game after their stunning home upset of No. 11 Syracuse Monday night. They are then off until traveling to Cornell next Saturday.

Temple (2-1) also has a single game Sunday, trying to recover from last weekend’s loss at nationally ranked Florida by hosting Quinnipiac in McGonigle Hall. The Owls then travel to Harvard on Thursday.

Philly “Ancient” Women’s Coaches Reunite Sunday

They won’t meet each other but like fine wine four Philadelphia-bred coaches will line up in a quadrupleheader Sunday at the Massachusetts Mutual Center in Springfield, Mass., as part of the Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge.

The centerpiece is the 1 p.m. when No. 5 Louisville meets No. 4 South Carolina, coached by local playing legend Dawn Staley, who is quickly becoming a sideline legend also.

Lafayette at 3:30 p.m. will meet Hampton with the Leopards under the guidance of Theresa Grentz, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer who came out of retirement last season. Her squad beat La Salle in Philadelphia opening night but then lost at Rider and to two of the teams in this showcase last week in Louisville. Grentz, a star during the Immaculata glory days, has coached at Saint Joseph’, Rutgers and Illinois.

At 10:30 a.m. Saint Peter’s, coached by Pat Coyle, will meet Bowling Green. Coyle and her twin sister Mary starred at West Catholic and for Grentz at Rutgers. She has coached at Loyola of Maryland and for the WNBA New York Liberty besides serving as an assistant at several schools.

Finally at 6 p.m., Chattanooga, coached by Jim Foster, will meet Maine, a revived program under Rich Barron. Foster coached Saint Joseph’s, Vanderbilt and Ohio State into national rankings besides his current school, making him the only women’s coach to do so at four different institutions.

He was an assistant to Grentz on the 1992 Olympic squad and recommended Barron for Princeton, which he got revived prior to Banghart’s arrival after he took a job as an assistant to Kim Mulkey at Baylor.

On Tuesday, Chattanooga travels to Connecticut in Hartford. It was Foster, who hired UConn’s Geno Auriemma at Saint Joseph’s as an assistant, giving him his first women’s job before going on to Hall of Fame stature with his work at UConn.


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