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.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Guru's Ivy Overniter-1: Penn Rally Over Brown Keeps Quakers Safe in First

By Mel Greenberg @womhoops

If it was earlier this season, Penn might have gone down for the count at Brown Friday night and new suspense would have been injected into the Ivy League race.

If it was last season, the countdown would be under way with magic numbers on the horizon as the Quakers shoot for another crown to add to their recent collection.

But this is the new world – one of which the Ivies are no different than the other 31 conferences in holding tournaments that send their winners with automatic entries to the NCAA tournament.

 In the instance of the Ancient Eight, however, only four will qualify in the men’s and women’s competition for next month’s inaugural event at Penn’s Palestra.

So dispense with the past and focus on the now and the first order of business – getting to the field.

Thanks to a tremendous comeback from a 16-point deficit in Providence to stay unbeaten in league play with a 71-68 win over the Bears and two games in front in the loss column of Harvard and Princeton, the first order of business can be achieved Saturday night with a win at Yale and if Cornell loses at home to Harvard.

In fact, the Big Red are the only team behind the first four that has a half-decent mathematical shot at forcing its way into the mix but that discussion will clarify more here following the outcome of Saturday’s action.

So for the moment, let’s look at Friday’s results, since Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said last week in New York talking about the new tourney that one thing that doesn’t change is valuing each game for a win.

And actually, the top seed will still be called the Ivy champion.

The outcome, dating to last season, was Penn’s 12th straight in the league and in sending Brown (14-8, 5-4 Ivy) to defeat, it stopped the Bears in fourth place from putting a little more distance from Cornell (13-9, 4-5), which beat Dartmouth 72-57, putting the Big Green on the verge of elimination.

In completing a sweep of Brown, which on the front end was much easier at the Palestra, Penn (15-6, 8-0)  thrived on a 45-33 advantage on the boards and 32-18 in the paint to win the game.

Center Sydney Stipanovich, who needed two blocks to become the all-time Ivy career in that department, picked up one to tie the 305 rejections registered in the Ivy books by Columbia’s Kathy Gilbert in 1991.

Michelle Nwokedi picked up her eighth double double on the season with 21 points and 11 rebounds while Anna Ross had 15 points, four assists, two steals and four rebounds.

That Stipanovich did not play during much of the rally is not a good thing for the league already trying to stop the Quakers from repeating because it means a large chunk of the Penn of the near future triggered the comeback.

Brown had a hot first period from the field, shooting 11-for-15, until things slowed down in the next quarter and Penn grabbed the chisel and began chipping into the deficit.

The Quakers got to within three but settled at six down when halftime arrived.

Nwokedi then scored the first eight points of the third and after a few lead changes Penn’s 20-12 scoring enabled the Quakers to head to the last stanza with a 53-51 lead.

Brown, which meets a Princeton team Saturday night that it upset last month at Jadwin Gym, stayed in contention.

 However, a three-point play, not shot, from Ross gave Penn a 69-68 lead with 1 minute, 27 seconds left in the game.

Then Kasey Chambers controlled the action in the backcourt and hit two foul shots for the final score and on to a happy bus ride down I-95 to New Haven, Conn., and Saturday’s action, tipping at 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, on the scene at Yale Friday night, Princeton made it six straight following the Tigers’ 0-2 start in the league, putting a strong fourth quarter on the Bulldogs to post a 69-47 triumph at the John J. Lee Ampitheater.

Taylor Brown and Bella Alarie each scored 13 points for the Tigers (12-9, 6-2 Ivy), who are a half-game behind Harvard (19-3, 7-2), which again had to hold off Columbia (12-10, 2-7), this time 58-55 in the Lion’s Levien Gym in New York.

Princeton took a 49-38 lead on Yale into the final quarter and outscored the Bulldogs 20-9 over the final 10 minutes to put Yale (11-11, 2-7) on the verge of elimination from tournament contention.

Roxy Barahman led Yale with 10 points.

Princeton will try to avenge its loss to Brown when the game tips in Providence at 3:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, it was another thriller with Harvard and Columbia, which may not show in the won-loss record but on the court definite progress under Megan Griffith, the new coach and former Princeton assistant to Courtney Banghart.

Columbia fell behind early by 12 just as the Lions dug a hole up at Harvard last time they met following Columbia’s win at Dartmouth in four overtimes the previous evening.

Against the Crimson, the Lions were down eight with under three minutes in regulation and moved within one with 19 seconds left after a pair of foul shots from Tori Oliver.

Columbia fouled, got possession of the ball, but then traveled and sent the Crimson to the line, with no other option. Harvard misses the second shot, but Camille Zimmerman was unable to connect and force an extra period.

“We have to start the fight, be fighters, and put the gloves on at the beginning of the game,” Columbia’s Griffith said. “Defensively, we’re really focused and engaged. As soon as we can get both sides of the ball working for us, I think we’ll be a fun program to watch.”

Zimmerman, a contender for Ivy player of the year, had 28 points and 12 rebounds for Columbia while Destiny Nunley, another contender, had 20 points off 8-for-16 from the floor for the Crimson and Katie Benzan scored 12.

Ivy Standings

Team   W.L.     W.L.     G.B.

Penn 15-6 8-0 –
Harvard 19-3, 7-2 --  1.5
Princeton 12-9 6-2 – 2.0
Brown 14-8 5-4 – 3.5
Cornell 13-9 4-5 – 4.5
Columbia 12-10 2-7 – 6.5
Yale 11-11 2-7 – 6.5
Dartmouth 6-16 1-8 – 7.5

Tournament Also Rans

Team W-L. G.B.  G.L.
Cornell 4-5 1.0 5
Columbia 2-7 3.0 5
Yale 2-7 3.0. 5
Dartmouth 1-8 4.0 5