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.
By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru
Information and quotes in this story are compiled from team-submitted emails and website accounts.
Familiarity breed four upsets Friday night in three season-opening contests involving the Guru’s PhilahoopsW teams as visiting Rider stunned neighborhood and Ivy power Princeton 70-62 in the Tigers’ venerable Jadwin Gym, Drexel stunned visiting Penn State 83-60, and Lafayette ambushed host La Salle 56-49 in the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena.
In another game that surprised the UT-Chattanooga squad under Jim Foster took down host Rutgers 66-53 in Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J. Foster was on the other bench in an earlier time matching wits with the Scarlet Knights’ C. Vivian Stringer.
Elsewhere Villanova had trouble dealing with 10th ranked Mississippi State’s athleticism, falling 108-62 in an opener in Maine’s tournament, while the host Bears topped Purdue 67-47 in the other game in Orono.
For further detail let’s go to the tape.
Rider 70, Princeton 62 – It was subtle, but the warning was there a day earlier at the Princeton website when Tigers coach Courtney Banghart spoke off a talented Rider freshman and a bunch of unknown that exists from the opposition and a brand new era of her own players when it comes to season openers.
Princeton started the night with pomp and circumstances hanging a banner in Jadwin Gymnasium to denote its historic first-ever NCAA at-large bid to an Ivy school last March, making a sixth time in seven seasons to the Big Dance with the other five coming by way of Ivy titles, including four straight from 2010-2013.
Then the night reverted to Broncs and new circumstances with Rider going on to just its second victory ever in 14 attempts at Princeton, the other in 2002, and a first overall win against the Tigers since 2007 that came courtesy of a three-point stunner at the buzzer by Amanda Sepulveda for a 4-42 victory.
It was eight straight losses overall no matter which team made the bus ride between arenas to play.
The new star making a dynamic debut on Rider’s roster is freshman Stella Johnson, a native of Denville, N.J., who had 20 points, six steals and three assists.
“Stella, what a way to start her career,” exclaimed Lynn Milligan, a former Saint Joseph’s assistant.
Robin Perkins had 16 points for Rider.
“We expect to win, that’s what we prepare for,” Milligan said of her Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference group. “I think we set the tone defensively early and that’s what got us going.Our tempo was good all game.”
Rider forced Princeton into 21 turnovers.
An 11-2 run in the second quarter pulled the Broncos from a three-point deficit to a six-point lead and in the third the Broncos stampeded on a 19-4 run.
Six points from senior Julia Dugan helped Rider finish with an 8-0 shutout to clinch the win.
“Our senior leadership showed in the end,” Milligan said. :”I thought Julia made some nice plays down the stretch.”
The Princeton roster has 10 freshmen and sophomores combined.
Bella Alarie, a 6-4 freshman from Betheseda, Md., also had a dynamic debut in the game, scoring 24 a grabbing seven rebounds for Princeton, which travels to George Washington, Sunday.
The perennial Atlantic 10 power fell in its season opener to crosstown rival Georgetown 72-57, spoiling the debut of new coach and former UConn star Jen Rizzotti, previously at Hartford and who was part of the Olympic staff last summer for the USA gold medal winners in Brazil.
Former GWU coach Jonathan Tsipis had his debut spoiled at Wisconsin, which fell to host Charlotte, 68-43.
Princeton junior Tia Weledji had a career high with 12 points and senior Taylor Brown tied a career high with eight rebounds.
Drexel 83, Penn State 60 – In one of the biggest wins in program history, the host Dragons topped the Big Ten visitors in a season opener for both as senior Jessica Pellechio, a former Virginia Tech player in her second Drexel season, tied a career high with 30 points against the Lady Lions.
She also became the fourth in program history to connect on eight treys, shooting 8-for-15.
Freshman Bailey Greenberg, the former Archbishop Wood star, had 11 points and five rebounds, while senior Sarah Curran scored 14 points.
The family of senior Kelsi Lidge made a surprise visit from Colorado to see her score nine. Points and grab six rebounds.
Drexel, third in the nation a year ago, did a team imitation of the late Richmond star of yesteryear Ginny Doyle, known for prowess at the foul line. Coach Denise Dillon’s group were a perfect 22-for-22.
The Dragons have on previous win over Penn State, an 84-73 triumph at State College on Dec. 21, 2010, which was six seasons ago. Both are also the only wins over Big Ten opposition.
Drexel hosts Delaware State on Sunday.
Lady Lion Sierra Moore, out for the 20115-16 season a year ago with an injury, scored 15 points.
Sophomore Tenya Paige also scored 15 points.
It was the first season opening loss for Penn State coach Coquese Wahington, which goes home to the Bryce Jordan Center to host Pat Coyle’s St. Peter’s squad Sunday. It was her tenth opener with the Lady Lions.
Chattanooga 66, Rutgers 53 – Jim Foster, the Hall of Fame coach, formerly at Saint Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, and Ohio State, bought his defending SoConn champions to the Rutgers Athletic Center and left with a victory.
Chelsey Shumpert had a game high 18 point for the winners while Sharita Parker’s 10 points were tops for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers heads out on a four-game road trip with the first stop Elon in North Carolina on Monday.
Lafayette 56-La Salle 49 – Amy Griffin got her points, scoring 16, while Jasmine Alston got her rebounds, scoring 10, but the visiting Leopards in the season opener for both, held Micahya Owens and Adreana Miller to 10 points, each.
This is the second season for Lafayette coach Theresa Grentz, who came out of retirement after the former Immaculata star built powers at Saint Joseph’s, Rutgers, and Illinois.
Actually she was an assistant two seasons ago to Dianne Nolan at the Patriot League school in Easton, Pa.
Harriet Otttenwill-Soulsby scored 13 points while Olivia Gumbs in her debut scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The winners outrebounded the Explorers 55-39.
A 9-0 run at the outset of the third quarter and second half carried the visitors to a 36-22 lead.
Grentz, a star center in her day, attributed the win to her team’s summer conditioning program.
“We wore them down as the game went on and it was reflected in the 55 rebounds we had tonight,” Grentz said. “Going forward we have to work on our ball movement and improve our field goal percentage.
“I was really happy with the way we hustled on defense.”
Lafayette travels to Rider, an upset winner at Princeton, Monday.
La Salle heads to Temple, a big winner Friday at Saint Joseph’s (see above post), and then the Explorers travel to Rider, Thursday, putting the squad in jeopardy of losing its first three games that in an earlier era the Explorers would have been the favorites.”
Lehigh 78, East Stroudsburg 22 – The Mountain Hawks of the Patriot League held off the Division II visitors from nearby in the Poconos as Quinn Mann scored 22 points at Stabler Arena.
The Warriors used an 18-3 run to keep it close in the first quarter.
“ESU is a strong program and they played really well and made a run to get back in the game to make it close throughout,” said Lehigh coach Sue Troyan, whose team travels to Pittsburgh Sunday to meet Duquesne.
Mississippi State 108, Villanova 62 – The Wildcats had their hands full with the 10th-ranked Bulldogs in the opener of Maine’s tournament as Mississippi State shot 60.3 percent from the field and got the 10th most points in school history.
Villanova will play Purdue for third place Saturday after the host Black Bears beat the Boilermakers 67-47.
“I felt our pressure and length really got to them,” said Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer. “We made a lot of jump shots tonight.”
Redshirt junior Roshunda Johnson had 21 points for Mississippi State.
Villanova shot a paltry 36.8 percent from the floor and was outrebounded 44-23.
Kelly Jekot, the Big East preseason freshman of the year, and freshman Mary Jedaka, the Big each scored 12 points, while preseason all-conference Alex Louin scored 11.
Newcomer Jannah Tucker struggled, shooting 1-for-8.
In the Purdue game, the Boilermakers dropped their first season opener since 2001.
Like Villanova, Purdue also struggled from the field, shooting 30.6 percent.
Maine senior Sigi Kozar and freshman Bianca Miller each scored 17 points, while Tanesha Sutton scored 12.
Purdue topped Maine back home in Indiana by 23 points last season.
National Noteworthy – Host James Madison challenged No. 13 Tennessee before falling 81-69, as Precious Hall, sidelined with an injury last season, scored 39 points, second most in program history. Jaime Nared had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Lady Vols. … A game between schools with new coaches on the sidelines, Vanderbilt, under former WNBA Indiana Fever head coach Stephanie White, topped visiting Kennesaw State 86-54 as Rebekah Dalman scored 19 for the Commodores as home in Nashville. Kennesaw State is coached by Agnus Berenato, a former coach at Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, whose sister Bernadette McGlade is commissioner of the Atlantic Ten. … Duke, which hosts Penn in the Quakers’ season opener Sunday, opened with a 98-38 win at Liberty as redshirt junior Rebecca Greenwell scored a career-high 28 points.
And that’s how it was on Veterans Day night.