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.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Guru Report: Penn Rallies at Princeton to Open Ivy Play

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – The Guru interrupts the start of the overnight report with a quick message that Sunday’s American Athletic Conference battle between host Temple and Tulane in McGonigle Hall has been switched from 1 p.m. To 6 p.m. because of travel problems highlighted by a cancellation of the Green Wave’s flight from New Orleans due to inclement weather from the deep south through the Mid-Atlantic states.

The game will air on ESPNU, it had been slated for ESPN2, with former Duke and Texas coach Gale Goestenkoers and Pam Ward on the call. That said, you are now returned to the regular coverage.

PRINCETON, N.J. -- There were many things on the line when defending Ivy champion Penn traveled through the snowy weather on the short trip to Princeton for Saturday’s league opener with the Tigers in Jadwin Gym but a quick leg up on gaining the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament wasn’t one of them.

So unlike last year, when Penn opened with a narrow win at home over the Tigers and the title became the Quaker’s to lose, the late fourth quarter push to a 62-57 victory – the third straight by Mike McLaughlin’s bunch over Princeton’s decade of otherwise dominance – the outcome did not make the world come to crashing end for the Tigers faithful.

That’s because it’s a new era for the Ivy men and women this season with the league being the last conference to join the 31 others in having a postseason tournament to determine the representative to the Big Dance in March.

Just four of the eight members of the Ancient Eight get to battle on the final weekend of the regular season in March, however, at Penn’s Palestra. The Ivy office has applied a special hashtag #PathToThePalestra to the wars between now and the finish.

The dynamics of the schedule means that the host Quakers and Tigers could see each other twice within a week in March.

The Penn men chose not to meet  Princeton the same night for what has been an annual doubleheader like Saturday on the front end of the schedule so the women will have the Palestra to themselves that Tuesday night.

The pileup of games heading to the Ivy championship on the women’s side coming out of the last Friday-Saturday weekend may not happen next year since Princeton will have the call to decide how the regular season slate concludes.

But for now a potential twice meeting in the same week on the road is perfectly fine for Tigers coach Courtney Banghart.

“That’s to our advantage,” Banghart said Saturday after Penn bypassed her squad in the closing minutes. “We play them at their place last and then we’ve played there and hopefully we play (again) a few days later.”

Actually, this might not be the year it is simply another Penn-Princeton and the other six, the way Harvard, which visits La Salle Wednesday, has been playing among a few other improved Ivy squads to date.

“This could be the right year to start it because I think everybody is going to beat up on each other,” McLaughlin said.

Banghart revealed her mindset was entirely different Saturday than it’s ever been when daylight arrived followed quickly by the falling white stuff that didn’t taper off until the women’s game was under way.

“I was almost late for the game,” Banghart said. “I was shoveling snow. In the past, you got two chances, they knock you out once, you’re playing behind the rest of the year, someone knocks them off and all that crap.

“I said to Mike, `I haven’t been so  unnervous before an Ivy basketball game in 20 years. We’ve sort of said, all along, we’re just coaching for the Ivy League tournament – that’s all we want to do is get to the tournament with these young guys.

“This year, it’s really going to be exciting. There’s going to be a real push as to who’s in the tournament and that’s the real beauty of it.”

However, it remains to be seen whether anyone can repeat Princeton’s special notoriety last season after winning four of five championships before Penn thwarted the Tigers here last March for a second title, and Banghart’s group made the field anyway as a first-ever Ivy women at-large invite to the 64-team draw.

As for the game on the court, Penn and Princeton both had questions to answers on their makeups coming out of non-conference play.

The Quakers (7-4, 1-0 Ivy), the unanimous pick to repeat because of zero losses to graduation, struggled before improving play on their recent West Coast visit to CS Northridge and UC Riverside.

“We’re just having trouble scoring at the guard position,” McLaughlin said.

Princeton (6-8, 0-1), having lost all its starters, got off to an 0-4 start, but blasted both Jersey rivals Rutgers and Seton Hall at home. The Tigers are also showing one of the better freshmen in the country in 6-foot-4 center Bella Alarie out of Bethesda, Md.

So as it evolved, Penn’s struggles, Princeton’s youth, less long-range implications, in the end, the late afternoon festivities in Jadwin were still what they had been in recent seasons Penn-Princeton, game of runs and possessions, clutch playmaking down the stretch and for the third straight time, as previously stated, a Quakers win.

The key was Beth Brzozowski, who pushed the Quakers ahead to stay with three 3-pointers and nine overall points in the final six minutes.

Princess Aghayere, who began seeing more minutes out west, was steady in the post with six points and six rebounds. Michelle Nwokedi did her thing again with 13 points and 13 rebounds, 4 blocks and a steal, while Sydney Stipanovich was 5-for-8 with 10 points and Anna Ross with a pair of early threes collected 11 points. Kasey Chambers dealt eight assists.

On Princeton’s side Alaire was 7-for-11 from the field and had 17 points, while Leslie Robinson, the niece of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, had 10 points and nine rebounds.

 Gabrielle Rush, primarily a Tigers practice player last season, came off the bench to provide 15 points, a career high, and nearly tied it with an attempted trey that bounced off the rim with 17 seconds left in the game.

“It was the shot we wanted and we executed well,” Banghart said.

Comparing the two squads, Banghart said, “They’re the exact same team we played last year. My team, you guys have to introduce yourselves to them. And we could have won that game, easily. We could have played a whole lot better.

“So that gives me a ton of motivation – hey guys, we’re fighting, we’re there.”

McLaughlin said the reduced life/death implications in the rivalry because of the new tournament should not make the meetings between the two southern-most Ivy schools any less.

“It’s still Penn-Princeton. It’s one of 14 but they look forward, we look forward. It’s a great game, great atmosphere. It’s important. There’s no doubt about it,” he continued.

“It’s just different. Courtney and I did talk about the onus taken away as this is the one you had to get. But every conference is like that. They have playoffs. But rivalries are still important to the teams. It doesn’t take away what’s important to both of us.”
Saint Joseph’s Snaps Losing Streak With Solid Win Over Massachusetts

After a season in which offense seemed like rocket science to the Hawks, they launched a slew of rockets shooting a season-high 52.5 percent from the field to give Saint Joseph’s an 81-50 win over Massachusetts in an Atlantic 10 game at home in Hagan Arena.

Kristalyn Baisden had a career-high 18 points, while Adaisha Franklyn had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Saint Joseph’s (4-11, 1-2 Atlantic 10). Alyssa Monaghan had 12 points and Chelsea Woods, back in uniform, had 10 points.

Maggie Mulligan had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Massachusetts (7-10, 1-3).

The Hawks next host VCU at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday for the annual kids’ game.

Penn State and Rutgers Drop Big 10 Road Contests

The Lady Lions fell at Purdue 64-51 in  while Rutgers fell at the hands of a hot-shooting Illinois squad 78-41, ending the Scarlet Knights’ previous two-game conference win streak.

In the Penn State game in Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind., the host Boilermakers used a 13-0 run across the first and second periods to mount a lead the Lady Lions (11-5, 1-3 Big Ten) were unable to overcome.

Though 10 different players for the visitors got into the scoring column, Lindsey Spann was the only one to reach double digits, collecting 10 points.

PSU had been prolific from three-point land but connected on just 1-of-12 attempts.

Dominque Olden had 17 points for Purdue (11-6, 2-1) fueled by five three pointers.

In the Rutgers game at Champagne, Ill., the Fighting Illini (7-9, 2-1) shot 12-of-21 on three-point attempts with Petra Holesinska nailing five of them and finishing with 21 points.

A trio of Scarlet Knights (5-12, 2-2) – Shrita Parker, Kandiss Barber, and Desiree Keeling, each scored 11 points.

Rutgers next visits Nebraska, Tuesday, at 8 p.m., while Penn State goes to No. 3 Maryland Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Elsewhere in the Big 10 on Saturday, the third-ranked Terrapins made it three straight lopsided wins in conference since the narrow non-conference loss to top-ranked Connecticut, as Maryland took down visiting Northwestern, 96-65, in the Xfinity Center had home in College Park.

Destiny Slocum, another prized freshman, had 16 points for the Terrapins (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten) while Kristen Confroy scored 12.

In the same game, Nia Coffey had 22 for Northwestern (13-4, 2-2) and now is the fifth player in conference history to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Though it is very early yet in conference play in the Big 10, Maryland and Ohio State are the only unbeatens in Big 10 action.

Kelsey Mitchell had 26 as the No. 11 Buckeyes (14-4, 4-0) beat visiting Michigan 96-87 in a high-scoring conference game in Columbus. Katelynn Flaherty connected with eight 3-pointers and scored a career-high 38 for the Wolverines (13-3, 2-1).

Nationally Noted: Texas’ Aston Reaches Milestone

No. 15 Texas downed TCU 83-54 in Big 12 action in the Frank Erwin Center at home in Austin to give coach Karen Aston her 200th career win, including previous stops at North Texas and Charlotte. The Longhorns are 10-4 overall and 4-0 in the Big 12 while TCU fell to 8-7 and are still winless in the conference at 0-4.

What was once a major national showdown was just a key C-USA meeting Saturday as Ivy Brown and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers each scored 17 points as Western Kentucky (11-5, 3-1 C-USA) handled Old Dominion on the road at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., beating the Lady Monarchs 67-62 to be perfect against the ODU (7-8, 2-2)  since joining the conference.

Looking Ahead: 

Besides the Temple game, in two locally-involved CAA games, Drexel will try to bounce back from Friday’s home loss to Elon when the Dragons visit Northeastern in Boston Sunday while Delaware next catches Elon at home in North Carolina.

Villanova will try to make it two straight in the Big East when the Wildcats visit Providence while Rider will try to stay near the  top of the MAAC when the Broncs visit Siena.

On Monday night, La Salle hosts URI.

Nationally, on Sunday, No. 23 DePaul visits Seton Hall in the Big East, No. 4 Mississippi State visits Tennessee in Knoxville, where a Lady Vols win probably gets them back into the rankings while a Bulldogs loss probably drops them out of the Top 5.

Mo. 13 Duke visits No. 6 Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference while elsewhere in the ACC, No. 7 Notre Dame visits No. 14 Miami. No. 20 Oklahoma is at No. 17 West Virginia in the Big 12. No. 9 UCLA, trying to shake off Friday’s upset loss st Washington State, visits No. 12 Washington in the Pac-12, which has also scheduled No. 16 Oregons State at No. 10 Stanford.

And that’s the overnight report.



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