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 04, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Penn Snaps Harvard 16-Game Streak To Lead Ivies Outright

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Following Penn’s impressive 63-43 triumph over Harvard Friday night in the Quakers’ Palestra that stopped cold the Crimson’s overall 16-game win streak, it was easy for the defending Ivy champs to be calm and act like this is nothing new, especially senior 6-3 center Sydney Stipanovich.

The reason is it’s not.

Stipanovich, along with senior Jackie Falconer, has yet to lose to Harvard (16-2, 4-1 Ivy) and for the most part Friday night’s game was no different than the very first time seven meetings ago the duo faced the Crimson, also in the Palestra, on Feb. 1, 2014, and delivered a 67-38 punishment that spurred Penn (11-4, 4-0) on the way to the program’s second Ivy title.

By the way, Kasey Chambers, who knocked down a pair of three-pointers, and had six points and dealt six assists, is also a senior but as a transfer from Monmouth did not play in all seven games.

Overall it was another wild night in the Ivies and we'll get to all that after speaking specifically to Penn’s win, which left the Quakers alone in first-place by a half-game and the only of the Ancient Eight yet to lose in league competition.

In Friday’s game, after Madeline Raster tipped the ball into the net near the end of the very first minute for a Harvard 2-0 lead, the Quakers’ Anna Ross put up five straight and Penn stayed ahead the rest of the way riding a tight defensive grip.

The Crimson were held 15 points below their 68.3 scoring average as Princess Aghayere’s layup made it a nine-point lead at 15-6 at the end of the first period while a Ross layup in the final seconds of the second period made it a stifling 24-12 advantage at the half.

A 22-13 third period saw Penn’s differential grow to 23 on Chambers’ triplet near the end of the period and Harvard was unable to mount any rally of significance the rest of the way.

“Defensively, we were terrific from start to finish,” smiled Penn coach Mike McLaughlin after seeing his team dismantle what had become the X factor in the Ivy race. “Defensively, in the first half, was as good as we’ve played – (Harvard) is really talented, they’re deep, they have athletes, we guarded the heck out of them, I couldn’t be any more proud of the way we defended them for 40 minutes tonight.”

This is the first of five weeks of the regular Friday-Saturday, back-to-back Ivy gauntlet plus the second meeting with Princeton on a Tuesday night that will determine the final standings of the regular season.

Dartmouth visits the Palestra at 7 Saturday night this weekend after being crushed at Princeton 85-55 while on the switch Harvard visits the Tigers at 6 in Jadwin Gym.

“The challenge is to come back at this with the same mental toughness 24 hours later against a good Dartmouth team,” McLaughlin said. “We have to come with the same approach and I trust our ladies, they understand.”

A Penn win over the Big Green would open some margin of error but also have the Quakers controlling their destiny the rest of the way to land the top seed in the new four-team Ivy Tourney for both men’s and women’s at the Palestra on NCAA selection weekend.

"We were just locked in,” McLaughlin continued to gush over his team’s performance. “We defended hard from end to end, we switched defenses up and were really effective every time we switched up, tremendous effort, tremendous.”

Stipanovich had eight points and seven rebounds but did not pick up any blocks so she is still six rejections away from establishing a new record for the Ivy League women.

Michelle Nwokedi and 14 points and nine rebounds as the duo inside continued to be disruptive to Harvard as Penn outscored the Crimson 32-12 on points in the paint. They also outscored Harvard 20-3 on points off turnovers..

But the big story was Ross, collecting a game-high 16 points, shooting 5-for-6 from the field, a near perfect 5-for-6 on the line, throwing down her only attempted trey, and gaining a steal.

"Oh, man, defensively is where a lot of people outside of coaches, see things a little differently,” McLaughlin gushed about Ross. “Her defensive presence, athleticism in and out, attention to detail, and then she made timely baskets the first half. We did not score the ball great the first half, she made key plays off dribble drives, she was as good as someone you could ever ask to be.”

Ross, who had nine of her points in the third period, said it didn’t take much to get up for one of the two key showdowns on Penn’s league schedule, though with everyone playing better, especially Columbia, there may have to be a few more on the docket.

“If you need motivation for a game like this, you’re crazy,” she said. “It’s the Ivy League, they are a great team who have won every single game since their first game. We had extra motivation playing for Lauren Whitlatch (one of Penn’s three-point shooting aces who was recently lost for the season with a knee injury). We’re going into every game playing as hard as we can.”

Nwokedi said of her night, “Honestly, my teammates were getting me the ball, right wherever I needed it, and as a team we came out defensively and just were getting stops and that’s what we needed for our transition offense. No matter, our defense was always a presence.

“Our biggest thing in this game was defense and I think we did a phenomenal job.”

Harvard was held to 26 percent from the field, including 11.8 percent and 15.4 percent in the first two quarters which made it 4-for-30 for the half.

"Our roster played very young tonight,” said veteran Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith, whose Sydney Skinner was the only Crimson player to score in double figures.

Meanwhile, up at Princeton where Tigers coach Courtney Banghart picked up her 200th career victory, it was like recent times after a non-conference phase that consisted of struggles.

In the 85-55 win over the Big Green, the Tigers (8-9, 2-2) avoided slipping further back in the pack prior to Harvard’s visit Saturday night, helped by connecting on 12 three-pointers.

Banghart is just the fourth coach with 200 wins in the League.

Freshman Bella Alarie had 14 points, three treys and three blocks for the winners while Vanessa Smith had 11 points and made all five attempts from the field. Gabrielle Rush had 13 points.

Emily Slagle had a career-high 13 points for Dartmouth (6-12, 1-4), which has hit the basement in the standings tied with Yale. Kate Letkewicz had 12 points.

“Slagle played the way we expect our entire team to play,” said Dartmouth coach Belle Koclanes, a former Penn assistant who will make a pseudo homecoming visit to the Palestra Saturday night. “We will beat Princeton in the future., that’s what we are here to do.

“To earn an 18th championship, we need to find a way to beat Princeton and every Ivy League team in the conference. For us to do that, everyone of our players needs to play the way Emily Slagle did tonight.”

Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Columbia made things more difficult for host Yale, upsetting the Bulldogs 72-68 at the Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Conn.

Camille Zimmerman, who was honored on Tuesday with the national player of the week from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), had a game-high 26 points for the Lions (12-6, 2-3).

“It’s always good anytime you can come away with a win on the road,” said Columbia first year coach Megan Griffith, a native of suburban Philadelphia, who returned to her alma mater after a long stint as an assistant at Princeton. “We’re doing it in a very exciting fashion over the last two weeks, but it’s a positive sign.

“It shows we’re battle tested and ready to quickly turn around and get the next one. As long as we can keep this momentum, keep learning from our mistakes, and growing, we’ll be in good shape.”

Zimmerman reached 1,193 career points and joined teammate Tori Oliver as two current players among the top five all-time scorers at Columbia.

Devon Roeper had 11 points and nine rebounds while Pauline Koerner scored 10 points and dealt a game-high six assists.

Jen Berkowitz had 21 points for Yale (10-8, 1-4), which fell into a last-place tie with Dartmouth.

On the switch Saturday, Columbia heads to Brown where a win in Rhode Island would really make the Lions for now a factor in the race for the four spots in the new Ivy tournament.

The Bears, in the other Ivy game of the night, took down Cornell 72-67, as the Big Red suddenly finds themselves in a three-game slide heading to Yale Saturday night.

Justine Gaziano had 27 points for Brown (12-6, 3-2 Ivy) while Taylor Will scored 14. Mary Butler grabbed 11 rebounds and Janie White scored 10.

Nia Marshall scored 22 for Cornell (11-7, 2-3) and Megan Leduc had 10.

Ivy Standings

So here’s a quick look at the way things now but we will wait till the weekend is done to interpret the situation and look ahead to the next back-to-back coming up.

Team W L W L GB
Penn 11-6, 4-0 --
Harvard 16-2, 4-1, 0.5
Brown 12-6, 3-2, 1.5
Princeton 8-9, 2-2, 2.0
Cornell 11-7, 2-3, 2.5
Columbia 12-6, 2-3, 2.5
Dartmouth 6-12, 1-4, 3.5
Yale 10-8, 1-4, 3.5

Also-Ran Ivy Tournament Contenders (Ivy Records Only)

Team W L GB

Cornell 2-3 0.5
Columbia 2-3 0.5
Dartmouth 1-4 1.5
Yale 1-4 1.5

Drexel Upset While Delaware Wins in CAA

This was not the way Drexel was planning to go into the first of two annual local Colonial Athletic Association showdowns with Delaware Sunday at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del.

The Dragons fell out of a third-place tie with their nearby rival Friday night by being stunned at Charleston 79-75, which has become a Bermuda Triangle addition to the conference with Drexel (15-6, 6-4) now having lost three of the last four playing in South Carolina.

Delaware, meanwhile, won its sixth straight, beating UNCW 57-40 at home as Erika Brown  scored 13 points for the Blue Hens (13-8, 7-3).

It was a game of scoring runs and Drexel’s staunch defense collapsed in the fourth quarter in which the Dragons allowed a season high 29 points following a three-point advantage at the end of three.

Drexel had a season-high 13 three-pointers, which went to waste. Seven came from Jessica Pellechio, who had a game-high 21 points, while Sarah Curran scored 20 and Meghan Creighton scored 14.

It’s the first time in three seasons the Dragons lost a game scoring at least 70 points dating to a 78-73 defeat in double overtime at Northeastern in Boston.

Drexel had an eight-point lead in the first quarter before going cold, missing 9 of 10 shots and allowed Charleston (7-14, 4-6) to go on a 14-0 run and take an 18-12 lead.

The Dragons, however, in the next period, closed the half with a 14-2 run forcing six turnovers in the final five minutes and regaining the advantage 34-30.

But Charleston fired out of the break with a 12-3 spurt. Drexel got close at the finish on Curran’s trey to trail 77-75 with 19 seconds left but could not regain the advantage.

Meghan Creighton played all 40 minutes and tied former star Narissa Suber in total minutes played for a career at Drexel at 4,314.

Back down at Delaware, besides Brown’s performance, Nicole Enabosi had 12 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and a pair of blocked shots and a pair of steals.

UNCW (8-13, 3-7) was held to 10 points in the first half.

“I feel like this team is really beginning to grasp and understand what we’re trying to do on the defensive end,” veteran Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “We’ve done a much better job executing on the offensive end and knowing when we have something and when we don’t.

“As long as we continue to communicate like we have been doing, we’ll be in good shape.”

Meanwhile front-running Elon and preseason-favorite James Madison maintained their 1-2 spots in the standings two and one games, respectively, ahead of Delaware.

Elon after being close for a while with a meager two-point lead at the half easily handled visiting Towson 83-55 at home in North Carolina in Alumni Gym by shooting 9-of-13 three-pointers the rest of the way.

“I’m so glad we came out focused and ready to handle business,” Elon coach Charlotte Smith said.

Shay Burnett had 15 points for the Phoenix (17-5, 9-1 CAA) while Towson fell to 4-6 in the conference and 11-10 overall.

James Madison, which won at Elon several weeks ago and then fell back two days later losing at home to Towson, came up with a 61-50 road win at Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y., as Precious Hall became the third player in program history to score 2,000 points for the Dukes (15-6, 8-2 CAA).

Hall had 20 points on the night reach 2,004 on the career achievement while Logan Reynolds had a careeer high 11 points. Kamiah Smalls, the freshman from Neumann-Goretti in Philadelphia, had a game-high 13 rebounds.

The other two top career scorers for JMU were Tamera Young at 2,121 and Dawn Evans at 2,667. Hall is the eighth player in CAA history to reach the milestone, the previous one being Shante Evans at Hofstra, which fell to 8-12 overall and 1-8 in the league after Friday’s loss.

Villanova Falls Short of Creighton

The Blue Jays made it a sweep in the Big East season series with the Wildcats, winning a low-scoring clash 47-44 at the Pavilion on the Main Line.

Neither team scored over a 2:36 stretch in the final minutes before it became wild at the close.

Only 30 seconds remained and Creighton (16-6, 10-2 Big East), which remained a game-behind DePaul, held a 47-39 lead before Adrianna Hahn hit a trey for the Wildcats (11-11, 6-5) to come within five at 47-42 with 18 seconds left in regulation.

Villanova quickly fouled Lauren Works, who missed both shots for the Blue Jays and then Alex Louin was fouled driving to the basket and hit both to make it 47-44 with eight seconds left.

The Wildcats then came up with a turnover to have a shot to tie the game after Jordan Dillard’s steal. She passed the ball to Kelly Jekot, who then got the ball to Jannah Tucker, but her attempted trey misfired as time expired.

Hahn had 15 points for Villanova and Louin grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Wildcats stay home to host Creighton on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, No. 17 DePaul held off St. John’s 54-51 at home in Chicago at McGrath-Phillips Arena to stay a game in front of Creighton as Brooke Schulte scored 24 points, including 13 in the third period. She also had 10 rebounds for the Blue Demons (19-5, 11-1 Big East), who got their 13th win in their last 14th game.

Jacqui Grant pulled down 10 rebounds.

Jade Walker had 13 points for St. John’s (15-8, 7-5), and Imani Littleton had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

VanDerveer’s 1000th Win Highlights Pac-12 Action

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer became the second women, joining the late and legendary Tennessee’s Pat Summit, and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski on the men’s side as the third Division I coach in the NCAA to reach 1,000 victories after the No. 8 Cardinal prevailed over visiting USC 58-42 in a Pac-12 Game at home in Maples Pavilion near Palo Alto, Calif.

We'll do more later on the weekend on Tara, a longtime friend of the Guru in the sport, but at the moment, he is rushing through the final part of the overniter to get on to the next day and Saturday’s action.

“I’m going to get a copy of all the emails and text messages and sit in my rocker and say `Wow,’” VanDerveer said of a distant future after the game had been secured.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful journey for me,” said VanDerveer, who steered the USA Olympic squad to a landmark gold medal at the Atlanta Games in 1996 that ushered in women’s pro basketball in America as a result of the win.

VanDerveer is now 1,000-228.

“Our team won’t believe this but I am really speechless,” VanDerveer said letting the emotion of the moment flow as the celebration got under way.

This is her 38th season in coaching and 31st at Stanford.

Additionally, VanDerveer is third overall behind Summit and former Georgia coach Andy Landers in terms of total appearances in the AP women’s poll with her teams. She is also No. 1 on the active list at 517, ahead of UConn’s Geno Auriemma, who is at 477.

She also won titles in the NCAA in 1990 and 1992 and was the last person to beat Auriemma’s Huskies prior to their ongoing record win streak that is now at 96.

In Friday’s game, Karlie Samuelson had 21 points and Erica McCall scored 18 in the seventh straight win for the Cardinal (20-3, 10-1 Pac-12).

The Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir was previously at Delaware.

USC fell to 12-10 and 3-8 in the conference.

In other games, which include a bunch of ranked teams out of the Pac-12, Washington, which lost a tough one at home last Sunday to Stanford, bounced back with an easy 82-53 win at Utah (14-8, 3-8 Pac-12) as Kelsey Plum, the nation’s leading scorer, collected 24 points and dealt eight assists for the Huskies (21-3, 9-2).

Chantel Osahor, the nation’s leading rebounder, had 19 points and 20 rebounds for Washington.

In an upset, California snapped out of a two-game losing streak to beat No. 13 UCLA 80-77 at home in the Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif.

Mi’Cole had a career high 18 points for the Golden Bears (16-7, 4-7 Pac-12) while Courtney Range had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Kristine Anigwe’s three-point play near the finish helped secure the upset.

Jordan Canada had 26 points for the Bruins (17-5, 8-3), who go to Stanford on Sunday.

In a game between two ranked teams in the conference, No. 11 Oregon State won on the road 54-45 at No. 23 Arizona State in Tempe.

Marie Gulich had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Sydney Wiese enjoyed her home state visit, scoring 16 points for Oregon State (21-2, 10-1 Pac-12), which is sharing first place with Stanford.

The Beavers have won six straight.

Quinn Dornstrauder had 17 points for the Sun Devils (14-8, 5-6), who have not fared well recently running for the gauntlet of ranked teams in the conference. They have lost four straight and five of their last six.

Looking Ahead

On Saturday, a big one at 1 p.m. at La Salle, where the Explorers will host George Washington at Tom Gola Arena, locked in a three-way tie with the visiting Colonials and Saint Joseph’s for third place in the Atlantic 10.

Rider, now tied for first, will be hosting Siena at home at Alumni Gymnasium at 2 p.m. In Lawrenceville, N.J., trying to keep pace with Quinnipiac, who has lost two straight.

As mentioned at the top, Princeton hosts Harvard at 6 p.m. And Penn hosts Dartmouth at 7 as part of the second day of the back-to-back weekends in the Ivy League.

Boston is at Lafayette and American is at Lehigh, both games at 2 p.m.in the Patriot League.

And that is a wrap.



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