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, February 19, 2017

Guru's Overniter: UConn Escapes Upset While Penn Felled, St. Joe's Wins

(Guru note: This report compiled from team, wire, website reports and the Guru on the scene in New Haven)

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

The Green Wave of Tulane nearly became the tsunami that took down Connecticut’s heralded win streak Saturday night less than a week after the Huskies reached the magic number of 100 straight beating then No. 6 South Carolina Monday night back home on campus in Storrs.

Down in New Orleans, it was a league rival, no less, out of the American Athletic Conference in which the UConn women have yet to lose, that suddenly threatened in the final minute to post one of the great upsets in any season before the Huskies held on for a 63-60 triumph that became consecutive number 101 in the NCAA streak that became a new record when they reached 91 several weeks ago.

The Huskies are 76-0 in all conference regular season and tournament games in the league that was configured out of a chunk of the former old Big East.

UConn against Tulane was without Kia Nurse because of a sore ankle suffered in the win against the Gamecocks and she’s likely not to play when Temple visits Wednesday night.

Despite her absence, the other notables on Geno Auriemma’s squad ultimately came through with Napheesa Collier scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, while Katie Lou Samnuelson did her own streak thing, scoring 15 straight in a second-half run before finishing with 17, and Gabby Williams had 14 rebounds.

With NBA All-Star activities going on elsewhere in the area, the UConn developed into the internet center of attention in a tight battle until the Huskies’ seasonal unbeaten marks were able to be updated to 26 overall and 13-0 in the American.

Tulane (16-11, 7-7) got 19 points from Kolby Morgan, while Leslie Vorpahl had 16 points, and Tene Thompson scored 14.

While Tulane among the mortals in the American is considered one of the better ones in the group, consider that Temple beat the Green Wave 86-71 at home last month and 76-50 two weeks ago in New Orleans.

“We played everybody and everybody gave us something, Green Wave coach Lisa Stockton said. “This team was focused and didn’t let anything get them down and they kept battling.”

Tulane got within a basket several times late in the game but couldn’t contain the Huskies but with four seconds left, the Green Wave got possession only for Thompson’s attempted trey to force overtime not go down.

They became the third team in the streak, all this season, to lose within 10 points joining Florida State, who fell at home 78-76 in the season opener and Maryland, whio lost at home 87-81 on Dec. 29.

"What happened today is the wrong team won," Auriemma said. "We had them down 17 and our guys are used to the other team maybe missing shots or struggling and this team decided to fight back. We had no business winning that game.”

Meanwhile, the conference appears to have backloaded its schedule leading up to next month’s tournament continuing at the Mohegan Sun, home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun, near New London, Connecticut.

Temple, in second place and which earned a No. 25 ranking last week in the USA Today Coaches Poll, is at Associated Press Poll No. 22 South Florida on Sunday trying to even the season series before visiting Connecticut on Wednesday night.

Tulane hosts USF Wednesday and UConn visits USF next Monday night.

Lobo, McGraw, Mulkey and Wayland Baptist Team Part of Naismith Hall of Fame Finalists

Besides being able to get out of New Orleans with another win, Auriemma got some good news earlier in the day when former Huskies star Rebecca Lobo was named one of the four women’s subcommittee nominees among the finalists for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Inductees will be announced at the men’s final four in Phoenix, though considering who’s in the mix, some exploring is going as to whether if any of the women’s nominees reach induction, the announcement be made in Dallas as the women’s final four.

Lobo, who has been an ESPN analyst, was the mainstay of the original group of UConn players who were part of their first NCAA title in 1995. The All-American has ok’d being switched to contributor status as a way to have more weight with the honors committee considering her impact on the game off the court as well as on.

Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw, a former St. Joseph’s star, was a finalists last year and thee was much surprise she didn’t past muster with former WNBA, collegiate and Olympic star Sheryl Swoopes.

Kim Mulkey was actually on the list separately as a former star at Louisiana Tech and in the Olympics besides being a coach of Baylor’s national powerhouse for which she was submitted.

Both Notre Dame and Baylor are contenders to reach the Women’s Final Four in Dallas, while Lobo will be doing broadcasting duties for ESPN.

The Wayland Baptist Team that was a finalist a year ago and actually as an AAU competitor won more in a row than UConn was re-submitted again. Last year was the first the women’s subcommittee was allowed to increase entries from two to four, in part, to recognize the growing list of WNBA stars becoming eligible in retirement.

The Ivy Race Takes a Turn

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Well, in the previous Ivy-only post the discussion of suspense that was avoided when Penn began the weekend escaping up at Brown in Providence, R.I., has been injected after what happened here at Yale and over at Cornell.

The defending champion Quakers, still holding first, were upset by Yale 61-48 at the Bulldogs’ John J. Lee Ampitheater while Cornell took down visiting Harvard 57-52 in Ithaca, N.Y.,  snapping a 18-game losing streak to the Crimson, and Princeton won it’s seventh straight in the league, winning at Brown 81-75 to avenge last month’s loss to the Bears in Jadwin Gym that put the Tigers starting out at 0-2 in league play.

In the other game that had little impact, Columbia made it a season sweep of Dartmouth, winning 69-48 at Levien Gym at home in New York after taking the first game in New Hampshire in historic four overtimes.

The outcomes would have a different feel in the former setup where the season champion becomes the NCAA automatic qualifier.

But with the new four-team tourneys for men and women at The Palestra next month on Penn’s campus, the upper teams are still in good shape though the seed race narrowed.

The Quakers (15-7, 8-1 Ivy), becoming the last of the league unbeatens to fall and having an overall 12-game Ivy win streak snapped, are still on top, but Princeton (13-9, 7-2) moved past Harvard (19-4, 7-3) into third place.

Had Penn won, the Quakers would have virtually wrapped up a berth and would be three games ahead of the third-place Crimson and two ahead of the Tigers.

Cornell (14-9, 5-5) with the win got new life moving into a tie with Brown (14-9, 5-5).

As the Ivy schedule closes out Penn must still play Princeton, Harvard and Cornell among its last five while likewise Princeton playing Penn and the other two in the same set.

As for the game here, Yale (12-11, 3-7), which many thought might be one of the tourney contenders, opened a seven-point lead in the first period before the Quakers got to within two at 12-10 after the first 10 minutes elapsed.

The two teams played even into halftime at 30-30. Then Yale built a seven point lead in the third and were never overtaken the rest of the way though Penn was contending until the final minutes.

There were five ties and 14 lead changes in the contest.

In many ways, Penn looked more like the team that struggled early in the season. Princess Aghayere, who had become a factor, was held to two points off the bench.

Sydney Stipanovich provided the one bright note for the visitors, with her one block she became the all time career leader in Ivy history with 306 while she scored 12 points and had six rebounds. Michelle Nwokedi had another double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Quakers committed 19 turnovers which Yale used to outscore them 18-9 in points off transition.

Jen Berkowitz had 26 points for Yale while Mary Ann Santucci scored 15.

I’m proud of the kids and the way they played tonight,” said Yale coach Allison Guth. “Hopefully, this is the game that turns the corner. Mike (McLaughlin) has done a great job and they’re going to go a long way.”

Last week when the Penn coach was discussing the new tourney when the Quakers were at Columbia and the toughness of the league, it sounded like sooner or later he felt his team might take a hit.

So if it was to be, for the moment, it wasn’t such a terrible thing for it to happen Saturday night.

Meanwhile at Brown, the Tigers of Princeton completed another weekend sweep with the 81-75 win at the Pizzitola Sports Center.

Leslie Robinson scored 17 points, while freshman Bella Alarie had 12 points and 10 rebounds to go with three blocks and two steals. Gabrielle Rush had 15 points, fueled by four three pointers coming off the bench while Taylor Brown had 14 points.

Justine Gaziano had 24 points for Brown and Shayna Mehta scored 21.

Princeton grabbed 13 steals.

The Tigers on Friday host Columbia while Penn hosts Cornell and then the two visitors switch sites on Saturday.

Princeton has swept 43 of the last 47 Ivy two-game weekends.

Cornell got new life and endangered Harvard’s fight for a good seed with the win by the Big Red in Newman Arena.

Samantha Widmann had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Cornell in gaining her first double double. Nicholle Aston had 13 points, of which 10 came in the first half, while Nia Marshall scored 11 and Megan LeDuc scored 10.

Katie Benzan had 16 points for Harvard and Madeline Raster scored 13 while Destiny Nunley scored 12.

Though Cornell got a life out of the weekend, the Big Red now go head-on into Penn and Princeton while Harvard will have Brown in its weekend mix next time around.

The Crimson in the Cornell series were held to their lowest point total since 1982-83.

 The Big Red senior class has 57 triumphs, winningest in program history.

In the Columbia win, the Lions shot a season-high 53 percent while Camille Zimmerman had 20 points and Tori Oliver scored 11.

With the Lions starting next weekend at Princeton, it will be Columbia first-year coach Megan Griffith’s first return to the Tigers campus since returning to her alma mater in New York after a long stint as an assistant on Courtney Banghart’s staff.

Saint Joseph’s Keeps Streaking

The Hawks won their third straight beating Davidson 69-54 at home in Hagan Arena on senior day to gain a key Atlantic 10 victory and clinch fourth place for the tournament, which begins next weekend.

Alyssa Monaghan had 21 points, matching her career for Saint Joseph’s (14-13, 11-4 Atlantic 10) while Adashia Franklyn had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and blocked three shots; Amanda Fioravanti, one of the outgoing seniors along with Jaryn Garner, Mackenzie Rule, and Jazmin Horne, had 10 points while Chelsea Woods scored 11.

Justine Lyon had 23 for Davidson (6-21, 4-11).

The Hawks stay at home to finish up Tuesday night hosting George Mason at 7 p.m. and will be hosting a first-round Atlantic 10 game Saturday or Sunday.

Rutgers Takes Another Loss

The Scarlet Knights fell 53-41 in a Big Ten game at Wisconsin in Madison at the Kohl Center as Avyanna Young scored 14 points and Cayla McMorris had 10 for the winning Badgers (7-20, 2-12).

Shrita Parker had 16 points for Rutgers (6-21, 3-11) and Victoria Harris scored 11.

Rutgers next heads Northwestern Thursday before hosting Ohio State Sunday in the regular season finale.

Texas Upset

In the other national game of note, the No. 8 Longhorns got caught in a trap game of sorts, losing on the road to No. 19 Oklahoma 74-73 in a Big 12 game in Norman with a wild finish.

Peyton Little hit a three-pointer from the corner with two seconds left and Nancy Mulkey, no relation to Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, hit a free throw for the deciding point.

The Longhorns had won 19 straight and now must host No. 4 Baylor Monday night in a tie for the conference lead rather than a game ahead.

Little had 15 points for the Sooners (21-6, 12-3 Big 12) while Vionise Pierre-Louis had 21 points. Gabbi Ortiz scored 14 points and Gioya Carter scored 10.

Texas hit a three at the buzzer for the final points.

Mulkey stole the ball and was fouled.  

Brooke McCarty had 16 points for Texas (21-5, 14-1)  in a game that had 16 lead changes.

Looking Ahead

Repeating from the previous post, the big game among the locals has Temple, as mentioned, at No. 22 South Florida trying to build a two-game lead for second in the American rather than settling for a tie.

Drexel hosts Delaware, two games ahead of the Blue Hens in third place in the Colonial Athletic Association. The game at the Daskalakis Athletic Center is at 3 p.m.

Villanova hosts Butler on senior day at 2 p.m. In a key Big East game for the Wildcats.

La Salle, in sixth place in the Atlantic 10, visits Massachusetts needing to win ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Fordham in the home and season finale.

A bunch of ranked teams within conferences play.

In the Atlantic Coast, No. 14 Louisville hosts North Carolina, while No. 13 Duke hosts No. 16 Miami, No. 15 North Carolina State hosts Wake Forest, and No. 21 Syracuse hosts No. 7 Notre Dame.

In the Big East, a key game in which No. 17 DePaul, the conference leader, visits Marquette.

In the Pac-12, No. 18 UCLA hosts Washington State, No. 11 Oregon State visits Utah, No. 9 Washington visits Southern Cal, and No. 10 Stanford hosts Cal in the Bay Area war, part two for this week.

Other national games of note, have No, 20 Michigan hosting Michigan State in the Big 10, No. 25 Drake visiting Loyola of Illinois in the Missouri Valley, while in the Southeastern Conference, No. 3 Mississippi State visits No. 23 Texas A&M, and No. 6 South Carolina visits Missouri.