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.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Guru Report: La Salle Drops Penn on Adreana Miller Three-Pointer

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – As a clinic in well-played basketball it was a nightmare.

 As Philadelphia Big 5 suspenseful theater goes regardless of gender but regardful of the ending it was a classic.

And when it was over thanks to Adreanna Miler’s three-pointer with less than a second remaining in overtime Wednesday night  the recent uptick in La Salle’s won-loss record continued, courtesy of the Explorers’ 58-56 victory at The Palestra, while the ongoing shock over Penn’s struggles to date was also maintained.

The Explorers, who started the season 0-3 losing to Lafayette, Temple and Rider, have now won five of six for an overall 5-4 record and the sixth was a winnable game at Villanova in which the Wildcats emerged triumphant 52-49.

La Salle bounced back though winning at Dayton 54-51 Sunday in the opener to the Atlantic 10 race in which the Explorers were picked 12th by the conference’s 13 other coaches.

 Immediately after the winning shot in a game in which La Salle rallied from two seven-point deficits late in regulation and again in the extra period, Explorers coach Jeff Williams, shaking his head, couldn’t get answered the why and how in this one but was ready to proclaim, “We’ll take it.”

Perhaps Williams in his 7th season might be due some brightness after arriving from Pittsburgh as an assistant with a pretty good recruiting track record but has suffered through a myriad of injuries to key players.

The win stopped a four-year losing streak in the series for the Explorers, who still lead the overall by a lopsided 34-10 though Penn had won five of the previous six meetings.

“We talk about sharing the ball and being good teammates and they’re starting to get it,” Williams said. “We just wanted to be in position at the end of the game to have an opportunity to win.

“We got back in it and Adreana Miller hit that two big threes. We couldn’t guard their big kids so we switched it up to a 2-3 zone. They had some opportunities to make some shots but they were killing us on the offensive glass. They had a lot of opportunities but the ball just wasn’t falling for them tonight.

“We wanted someone to step up and be great. It’s good to get a Big Five win and our kids are learning to close out close ones.

“We host Fairfield Saturday and we don’t want to have a letdown.”

On the other side, however, Penn coach Mike McLaughlin, who was able to smile through his 2-win inaugural season here after years of molding Division II Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia to a dominate power, must be wondering how much more he has to take.

At the outset of the season times had changed from the mostly doormat era prior to his arrival at Penn.

 A deep talented roster with no major graduation losses was picked unanimously to repeat as Ivy champions without regard to the extra hurdle of a new Ivy four-team NCAA qualifying tournament at the finish, which will be played at The Palestra.

Another share or potentially outright claim to the Big 5 crown was no longer outrageous.

And in general the Quakers became part of the discussion on overall outlook as to who might be best in the city.

“An ugly win over an NCAA team” is how Williams labeled the effort, though Penn has an equal 5-4 mark overall.
For Penn fans, surprised at what they are seeing, it is more of just plain ugly especially when it had seemed things were finally getting on track.

After suffering from uncharacteristic stage fright in the opener at Duke, the Quakers shook off the volley and played competitively against the Blue Devils the rest of the way. But then came an upset home loss to Birmingham, a seemingly right the ship win at Rhode Island and then a 57-53 Big Five home loss to Saint Joseph’s, which has its own struggles so far.

But since then two easy-as-expected wins at Lafayette and Wagner followed heading into Wednesday night.

However, 45 minutes later instead of alive for a piece of Big Five hardware, Penn (0-2) has joined the Explorers (1-2) and Saint Joseph’s (1-2) as two-loss teams leaving Saturday’s showdown on the Main Line between Temple (2-0) and Villanova (2-0) to determine which of the two becomes the frontrunner with each left still having to travel to Penn next month.

“The gaps we have scoring the ball,” McLaughlin said about what isn’t working. “We go up 14, we have a good rhythm and then we go long stretches without scoring and executing.

“We allow people to come back little bit by little bit. Now they went on a 9-0 run and got it to 40-35 when we had control of the game. Same thing happened again in overtime. We don’t close. We left points on the table. I give (La Salle) credit, they fought to the end but we had ample opportunities to close it out and at the end the game. We didn’t close it out. It’s on us.”

Penn travels to Richmond Saturday.

As for the game itself, in the early going La Salle powered its way to an eight-point lead settling for one less at the end of the first quarter 18-11  as Amy Griffin scored 11 and Penn’s Michelle  Nwokedi scored all but three of the Quakers’ 11 points.

But then in the second period after La Salle made it 20-11, Penn exploded on a 12-0 run that became 16-4 with the Explorers not hitting a field goal attempt until Griffin hit a shot with five seconds left in the half to make it 27-24 at the break.

Penn remained in control after the break, building a 40-26 lead near the end of the third quarter and dating the run back to the original deficit at 29-6.

So how do you explain what happened next considering that for the game La Salle had 20 turnovers compared to 4 by Penn and the Quakers had 26 boards on the offensive glass versus 15 by the Explorers, who still had a 47-41 overall rebounding advantage.

There were missed layups and some careless ball handling to go with a 2-for-18 fourth quarter attack from the field for 11.1 percent compared to 5-for-11 by La Salle.

Penn shot 7-for-13 from the line compared to 15-for-19 for La Salle.

Still, Penn was  up seven at 45-38 with 4 minutes, 20  seconds left in regulation.

But the Explorers kept chipping away, making shots at the foul line when both teams failed to connect on a field goal till Griffin tied it with a shot but Penn retook the lead on Nwokedi’s score with 16 seconds left.

Griffin and La Salle were not done, however, and she tied it with a jumper with four seconds left to force the overtime.

At the outset of the overtime, Penn seemed to get another life courtesy of Nwokedi who powered the Quakers to another seven-point lead at 55-48 with 2:34 left.

Still, Nwokedi, who became more consistent later in the game, shot 10-for-24 from the field while Sydney Stipanovich had eight points off 3-for-15 and each grabbed nine rebounds.

Summing her night in terms of what worked and what didn’t,  Nwokedi said, “… learning to finish off with contact.”

Nwokedi blocked a shot – the two posts each had three on the night – but La. Salle got the rebound and then Griffin cut it to five with two free throws.

Stipanovich missed a shot and then Adreanna Miller hit a trey to cut the deficit to two with 1:17 left.

Kasey Chambers went 1-for-2 from the line for Penn, then Shalina Miller went inside to cut it to one with Penn getting possession.

But when Anna Ross went up with a shot with eight seconds left, Jasmine Alston blocked it and Griffin grabbed it.

The ball then got whipped over to Adreanna Miller, who slit the nets with the game-winner as Penn couldn’t get a shot off in the final moments off an in-bounds play.

Adreana Miller had 18 points behind Griffin’s 22 for La Salle while Chambers also scored in double figures for Penn with 10 fueled by three treys.


Contemplating the Remainder at the Top of the Big Five

Villanova and Temple are 2-0 heading into Saturday’s game at the Wildcats’ Pavilion.

The winner clinches a tie at 3-0. If either or Temple beat Penn with that record they win at 4-0 and could actually win by a rare two games if the other loses to Penn.

With one of the teams who is the winner Saturday takes a 3-0 record to Penn, they could still win outright at 3-1, something Villanova did last year, if both lose to Penn.

If one team wins Saturday and loses at Penn while the other does it in reverse then Temple and Villanova at 3-1 share the title.


Rounding Up the Rest of the Locals

It was a good night for Princeton, Penn State and Delaware but not so good for Temple and Rutgers, who meet each other at Rutgers a week from Saturday.

The comeback in the early season right now is Princeton, which got off to a tying worst-ever start at 0-4 in the decade-long Courtney Banghart era and now has a momentum thrusting 4-game streak to even the record at 4-4 as the coach’s career wins reached 196.

Included in this run are two wipeouts of Rutgers and Seton Hall to take the mini-Garden State series and Wednesday night’s 65-27 smother of Lafayette (1-9) at home in Jadwin Gym.

The last time a team was held under 30 by the Tigers was an Ivy season-ending 78-27 win over Penn on March 8, 2011, while Columbia, then called Barnard, scored just 14 on Jan. 8, 1941.

Lafayette hasn’t won since opening night at La Salle.

Tia Weledji had a career-high 20 points for the Tigers, Taylor Brown scored 14, and Vanessa Smith had 11 while freshman Bella Alarie, the reigning Ivy rookie and co-player of the week, blocked four shots.

Princeton dominated the boards 52-31 and grabbed 14 steals.

The Tigers travel to Fordham Saturday.

Penn State had an easy time beating Holy Cross 84-48 at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass.

Lindsey Spann had 18 points for the Lady Lions (7-2) reaching 902 for her career while Kaliyah Mitchell set a career mark with four treys and scored 15 points, while Taniya Page scored 17. And Sierra Moore from the reserves scored 10 against the Crusaders (1-7).

Next up Saturday is a special homecoming as Susie McConnell-Serio, Penn State’s all-timer and Olympic gold medalist, returns as a coach bringing state rival Pittsburgh to the Bryce Jordan Center.

Delaware, meanwhile, traveled to Loyola, Md., outside downtown Baltimore, and escaped with a 47-45 non-conference win despite 40 percent shooting from the field and committing 17 turnovers against the Greyhounds (3-5).

Nicole Enabosi nailed three foul shots for the Blue Hens (6-3) in the final 14 seconds to seal the victory as coach Tina Martin gained her 398th career victory.

“It’s all about winning and he bottom line is we did that tonight,” Martin said. “Our offense has been struggling but our defense has been solid and we found a way to win tonight.”

Delaware has won 12 straight in the series and is 13-1 overall, though this is the first game between the two schools since 2005.

Erika Brown led Delaware, scoring 15 points, the only Blue Hen in double figures while Enabosi, the CAA player of the week, grabbed seven rebounds.

Next up is a visit from Army on Sunday.

So much for the happy talk from the local group.

Temple either got caught in a trap game or had too much homecoming from a bunch of Virginia-bred players because the wake up call came too late in a 71-65 loss at Hampton of the MEAC that dropped the Owls to 4-3 heading into Saturday’s Big 5 game at Villanova.

Hampton improved to 4-5.

The Owls did cut what had been a 19-point deficit to four with less than 30 seconds left before Temple was forced to foul, putting the opposition at the line to play keep away regarding the outcome.

Feyonda Fitzgerald celebrated her return by scoring 29 points while Alliyah Butts scored 17, and Ruth Sherrill grabbed 10 rebounds.

Finally, on the local scoreboard in the fourth game in the last seven games (whatever spin it takes), Rutgers went from heartbreaking loss in the overtime setback at home to James Madison Monday night back to massacred mode, losing over on Long Island, losing to former old Big East rival Saint John’s 65-39 at Carnesca Arena.

Kandiss Barber had 11 points for the Scarlet Knights (2-8) while Akina Wellere had 19 for the Red Storm (2-8).

Rutgers stays on the road Saturday traveling to play Houston, a one-year rival when the Scarlet Knights temporarily shared membership in the American Athletic Conference before moving on to the Big Ten.

Just one game on Thursday's slate in this category, Rider the little team that could, takes its 4-2 record to visit Lehigh in the Pennsylvania side of the Pocono mountains.



Camille Zimmerman had 27 points and the game-winner with 7.5 seconds remaining as Columbia beat Providence in overtime at home 66-64 to improve to 6-2 and drop the Friars to 7-2. … Kansas State became the 20th program and second Big 12 school to win 900 games as the Wildcats topped UT-Arlington 62-49 at home in Manhattan before hosting Connecticut this weekend. The Huskies are now 8-0 after beating Notre Dame and meet a Kansas State team that is 9-0. … George Washington, which earlier lost a local battle to Georgetown, dropped another one, falling 66-61 at American in overtime as AU evened the series with the Colonials at 13-13 to go 3-5 on the season while GWU fell to 7-3. .. Kelsey Mitchell scored 23 and became the fastest to reach 2000 career points as Ohio State (7-3) beat visiting Southern U. 108-73. The Buckeyes visit UConn, Dec. 19 in Hartford.