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 25, 2017

Guru's Ivy Overniter: Penn and Princeton Punch Ivy Tickets But Logjam Below

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Considering they have been the 1-2 punch the past seven seasons in winning Ivy championships the old traditional way, perhaps it was appropriate with some outside help Friday night that defending champion Penn followed by second place Princeton were the first to grab two of the four available spots in the brand new league tournament which will be held in two weekends from now here at the Palestra.

The Ivy four-team men’s tourney will also be here right along side the women with four games on Saturday and then the championship doubleheader to send automatic qualifiers on the way to the NCAAs.

Penn, the unanimous preseason favorite in the league’s media poll, bounced back off last weekend’s upset loss at Yale to make a defensive stand and ride Michelle Nwokedi’s strong double double performance of 18 points, including the junior’s 1,000th, and 10 rebounds along with four blocks to a 47-34 win over Cornell.

“One of them was to get here,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said of the goals by his team for the season. “And now that we’re here we can look at what we want to do once we got here.

“But I’m really proud of them. They wanted to get here, they wanted to represent Penn here in the tournament.”

Of course finishing first in the standings and winning every game is still paramount even though the new playoff introduces a new rigor to the get to the NCAA tournament after the two-month weekend gauntlet of back-to-back games.

“We’re built the way we are,” McLaughlin said of finishing out the schedule. “We’re going to grind it out. Maybe if I have someone that needs a little more rest, I could look at that a little differently but right now we’ll see how it plays out.

“It doesn’t matter where we seed, I’m just trying to get this team to play a little better every time out. I thought we defended so good tonight and offensively we’re still a work in progress but that will take care of what you said (if the Quakers continue to get better).

“We want to win every time out. But that would be great at the end that we won this league. It’s one of the things we set out to do and with four games left, a long journey left, and a lot of basketball left.”

In the seed race alongside getting to the tourney, the win kept the Quakers (16-7, 9-1 Ivy) a game in front of Princeton, which ruined Columbia's Megan Griffith's pseudo-homecoming at Jadwin Gym with a 78-54 thumping of the Lions (13-11, 3-8), pushing them to the brink of elimination from the race.

Technically, Griffith’s real homecoming was when the native of King of Prussia left Princeton coach Courtney Banghart’s staff after last season to take the job in New York at her alma mater.

The win Friday night by Princeton (14-9, 8-2) completed a sweep of Columbia while Penn in its win did likewise to the Big Red (14-10, 5-6), which offset last weekend’s sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard to climb back into the Ivy tourney contention.

The help from elsewhere alluded to at the outset came from the other two games in a pair of upsets that had Yale ride last weekend’s momentum off the win over the Quakers to stun  visiting Harvard 57-52 in John J. Lee Ampitheater in New Haven, Conn., while last-place Dartmouth won at Brown 92-88 in overtime at the Pizzitola Sports Center  in Providence, R.I.

Thus Harvard (19-5, 7-4), which at one point after a season-opening loss had tied a program record with 16 straight wins, has since lost four of its last seven. The Crimson, who now visit Brown in a key game for both teams Saturday night, are still in good shape in terms of making the tournament but have now dropped three games behind Penn and two behind Princeton, in the race to finish first, which will still be acknowledged as the championship by the league.

Harvard, which hosts Princeton and Penn next weekend, remains two games ahead of Brown (14-10, 5-6) and Cornell, which are tied for fourth and the last tourney spot.

Thus the Big Red could have moved ahead of the Bears were it not for Penn here and Cornell still must deal with host Princeton Saturday night while Columbia will be here.

And Yale (13-11, 4-7), with the two improbable wins, stays alive within a game of Brown and Cornell, whom the Bulldogs visit next weekend along with Columbia before finishing hosting Brown, who beat Yale last month.

Of course all of this will have to be re-addressed after Saturday’s games.

As for what actually occurred on the floor beyond the ramifications and implications in the game here, Nwokedi had a hot hand with 16 of her 18 points in the first half where Penn put distance behind Cornell off a 17-8 second period that thrust the Quakers to an advantage of as much as 23 points in the third and they ended up holding a lead the entire game.

"Positionally, I knew where (Nwokedi) was supposed to be so I knew she was fundamentally solid,” McLaughlin said. “She willed herself at the end. She was really fatigued in the last five minutes but we had to get to the finish line.”

Nwokedi said last week’s loss did not hamper preparations for this weekend’s continuation of the race.

“We threw it out,” Nwokedi said. “We’ve been playing the best basketball at home. So coming home it was just like comforting and this huge crowd was great so we just fed off everyone and got the win.”

On making her 1,000th point, which occurred in the big second period, Nwokedi said, “I actually had no idea but it’s just an honor. I couldn’t have done it without any of my teammates. Being able to come out here and get the win and getting the tournament berth just makes it a little better.

“We knew everything was going to have to be 100 percent defensively because as you can see we didn’t score a lot. But we were able to set the tone defensively and were able to get the win because of it.”

Cornell was held to 23.5 percent shooting from the field.

 Nwokedi make a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers that gave her teammates a lift moving forward.

She was the only Penn player in double figures, though Kasey Chambers scored nine while Sydney Stipanovich had six points, eight rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists.

Though as of last Saturday at Yale she became the new all-time Ivy career leader in blocked shots, Stipanovich did not have any against Cornell.

Penn’s defense was such that Cornell’s Megan LeDuc was the only Big Red player to score in double figures and she and Kerri Moran shared team rebounding honors with seven, each.

After Columbia visits Saturday night for the 7 p.m. tip, Penn visits Dartmouth and Harvard next Friday and Saturday and then finishes up hosting Princeton Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m.

Several times in recent years the final Princeton game was needed to win for the Quakers to claim the top spot in the standings so next weekend will tell if that’s still in play.

Princeton 78, Columbia 54 – As the Tigers continue to build momentum toward a big conclusion, Courtney Banghart’s bunch  had four players in double figures for the fourth straight game.

Vanessa Smith and freshman Bella Alarie each scored 15 points while Leslie Robinson and Taylor Brown each scored 11.

Camille Zimmerman had a game-high 27 points and became Columbia’s all time leading scorer for a single season, eclipsing the the 521 scored by Judie Lomax in the 2009-10 season.

Saturday night’s game hosting Cornell tips off at 6 p.m.

Yale 57, Harvard 52 – The Bulldogs avoided elimination and got back in the race for one of the two remaining spots in the Ivy tournament by upsetting the Crimson as Jen Berkowitz matched her career high for the second straight game with 26 points, repeating her performance last Saturday against visiting Penn.

In the closing frame, Yale led 54-52 with 16 seconds left when Mary Ann Santucci missed a free throw for the Bulldogs but Berkowitz kept the ball alive and Elizabeth Haley got the offensive rebound.

She was quickly fouled but made just one of two attempts for a three-point Bulldogs lead.

Harvard freshman Katie Benzan then got in position to launch a three that could force the game in overtime but Yale’s Lena Munzer blocked the attempt with five seconds left in regulation.

She was fouled and went to the line and sank both shots to give Yale the win.

“It was a total team effort and I was so proud of how our team fought,” said Yale coach Allison Guth. “We played with poise through Harvard’s second half runs.

Yale trailed by five midway through the fourth period but rallied with a 7-0 run for the lead.

The home team forced Harvard into 20 turnovers.

Benzan had a team-high 14 points for the Crimson.

Yale hosts Dartmouth Saturday at 7:30 p.m. while Harvard heads to Brown for a 4 p.m. game.

Dartmouth 92, Brown 88, overtime – The Bears lost a chance to move into sole possession of fourth place and now are locked in a tie with Cornell and Yale is one game behind.

Shayna Mehta led four other Brown players scoring in double figures, with 20 points.

The Bears scored six of the last seven points in regulation to force the game into an extra period and avoid an upset which seemed possible when they went ahead 84-80 with just under three minutes left in the extra session.

But Dartmouth then surged with a 12-4 run to gain the upset.

Behind Mehta’s scoring, Brown’s Erica Steeves had 19 points and seven rebounds while freshman Justine Gaziano scored 17, Taylor Will had 15 points, and Mary Butler scored 10.

Dartmouth’s Andi Norman had 22 points and nine rebounds, Kate Letkewicz scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Oliva Smith had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

The Big Green shot 54.1 percent from the field in the extra period, made all 3-point attempts, and connected on 8 of 10 foul shot attempts.

The two teams split the season series and now Dartmouth moves on to try and stop Yale’s budding resurgence.

Ivy Madness

The shootaround schedule for Friday on the eve of the tournament has been set with the top seed, at this hour, Penn, going from 9:10 a.m. till 9:50 followed by the opposing No. 4 seed between 10:10 a.m. And 10:50.

The entire men’s participants follow with the No. 1 seed beginning 11:10, the No. 4 seed at 12:10, the No. 2 seed at 1:10, and the No. 3 seed at 2:10.

Then then women’s seeds conclude with the two seed between 3:10 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. followed by the three seed between 4:10 and 4:50.

The entire day is open to the public.

On Saturday the women’s 1-4 semifinals will tip at 11 a.m. on ESPN3 and the women’s 2-3 semifinal will tip at 6:30 p.m. On ESPN3. On Sunday’ the women’s championship will tip at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

In terms of the preseason poll, the media got the first three picks right as of now, Penn, Princeton, and Harvard, and then went with Cornell, which is almost right, tied for fourth.

Dartmouth, in last, was picked fifth; Yale in sixth was picked six, Brown in a fourth place tie was picked seventh, and Columbia, in seventh, was picked eighth.


Team. W. L. W.  L. G.B.  GR
*Penn 16-7  9-1. --  4
*Pctn. 14-9. 8-2. 1.0 4
Hrvd. 19-5  7-4  3.0 3
Crnll 14-10 5-6  4.5 3
Brwn 14-10 5-6 4.5 3
Yale 13-11 4-7 5.5 3
Colm 13-11 3-8 6.5 3
Dtmth 7-17 2-9 7.5 3
*Clinched Berth

Also Rans

(Ivy Records Only)

Team W-L G.B. GR

Crnell 5-6 – 3
Brwn 5-6 – 3
Yale 4-7 1.0 3
Clm 3-8 2.0 3
Dtm 2-9 3.0 3

Remaining Schedule

Saturday, Feb. 25

Columbia at *Penn, 7 p.m.
Cornell at *Princeton, 6 p.m.
Harvard at Brown, 4 p.m
Dartmouth at Yale, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Mar. 3

Penn at Dartmouth, 7 p.m.
Princeton at Harvard, 7 p.m.
Yale at Cornell, 6 p.m.
Brown at Columbia, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Mar. 4

Penn at Harvard, 6 p.m.
Princeton at Dartmouth, 6 p.m.
Yale at Columbia, 6 p.m.
Brown at Cornell, 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Mar. 7

Princeton at Penn, 7 p.m.




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