Guru's Ivy Overniter: Penn Clinches Ivy Title Tie
By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru
The first piece of weekend business is in the books and all is well for Penn with the magic number reduced to one to a second straight outright Ivy title, though unlike the past, this one will not automatically flip the lever slotting the Quakers into the 64-team NCAA field.
Penn’s regular season magic number countdown nearly hit zero but Princeton, which trails by two games, stayed barely alive in the seed race, beating host Harvard 63-58 in overtime.
With a new four-team Ivy tourney installed for men and women to be held together at Penn’s Palestra next weekend, significant lifting remains.
And while the top is being determined, we are down to a showdown Saturday night between Cornell and Brown for the final spot in the field, though as the Guru reviews the tiebreakers still in play from the long list the Ivy sent earlier in the week, it seems that Cornell might have clinched that fourth spot even before the Bears step onto the Newman Arena home of the Big Red in Ithaca, N.Y.
But first let’s go to Penn’s accomplishment of clinching a tie for the title courtesy of a 60-47 win at Dartmouth Friday night in Hanover, N.H.
The outcome gives the Quakers (18-7, 11-1 Ivy) a first-ever back-to-back hands on the Ivy jewelry though at this hour should Penn fall at Harvard Saturday night in Cambridge, Mass., and at home Tuesday night to Princeton at The Palestra then Penn and the Tigers would tie for first.
The triumph over the Big Green (7-19, 2-11) also enhanced the Mike McLaughlin era as the Quakers’ coach became the all-time wins leader of the Penn program with 129, one more than Lois Ashley, who took 12 seasons to get to 128 while the former longtime Division II Holy Family women’s mentor made it to his number in just eight.
And don’t forget that includes just a two-win baptism his first season owning a set of keys to The Palestra.
If Penn wraps things up in the next two games McLaughlin would likely be named coach of the year in the Ivies again and add to a list of local women’s mentors who have already gained that distinction with their teams in other leagues.
On Friday, Temple’s Tonya Cardoza shared the American Athletic Conference coach of the year with UConn legend Geno Auriemma while just before the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference got under way in Albany, N.Y., Rider’s Lynn Milligan earned the distinction for leading her Broncs to a second place finish and historic season in the program’s history.
Earlier, La Salle’s Jeff Williams picked up a similar award from the Atlantic 10 for leading the Explorers to a sixth-place finish after being predicted 12th.
Once again Michelle Nwokedi delivered thunder for the visitors, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds while blocking seven shots and while her Penn teammate Sydney Stipanovich had 10 points.
Dartmouth’s leading scorer was Olivia Smith with 18 points.
The Quakers ruled the backboards with a 44-31 advantage and Penn won the points in the paint battle 28-16.
In two of the last three seasons in the old format, the race came down to Penn and Princeton on the final day of the schedule with the Quakers in 2014 and a year ago topping the Tigers in Jadwin Gym on the road.
A Penn win Saturday night will make Tuesday’s Tigers visit to the Quakers moot with the contest being a tuneup for each team heading into the historic tournament weekend for the league.
Meanwhile, Princeton (15-10, 9-3 Ivy) stayed two games behind, depriving Penn the privilege of an outright clinch party Friday night by beating Harvard 63-58 in overtime after a regulation 20-point lead was leveled to zero in regulation play.
The Tigers clinched second, though that just means if the standings hold, they and Harvard would meet again in the semifinals next Saturday.
Freshman Bella Alarie had another outstanding performance for the Tigers, scoring a team-high 16 points, adding nine rebounds, dishing three assists and grabbing two steals.
Leslie Robinson had 12 points, six rebounds, and five assists for the Tigers while Vanessa Smith scored 10 points. Sydney Jordan matched a career high with eight rebounds.
Madeline Raster scored 16 points for the Crimson (20-6, 8-5), who will now try to be a spoiler to Penn when the Quakers visit at 6 p.m. Saturday night.
Princeton moves on to Dartmouth Saturday night for a 6 p.m. tip off.
Meanwhile, as the battle for top spot came down the stretch so did the race for fourth and the last tournament spot.
Cornell (16-10, 7-6 Ivy) went into the night with the upper hand by a game over Yale and Brown.
The Big Red needed a sweep of both to take fourth outright and the first part was achieved with a defensive stand leading to a 59-49 home win over Yale, eliminating the Bulldogs, while Brown stayed alive a game behind beating Columbia.
“We played tremendous defense,” said Cornell coach Dayna Smith, a former Penn assistant under Kelly Greenberg. “We worked hard to make (Yale) take poor shots, and I think we buckled down on their top scores.
Nicholle Aston and Nia Marshall each scored 15 points for Cornell while Marshall’s total enabled her to become the first Big Red women’s star to score 400 points in a season three different times.
Keri Moran also scored in double figures with 12 points and she also grabbed nine rebounds.
Lena Munzer scored 11 for Yale (14-12, 5-8) but Jen Berkowitz was held to three points, which is 11 below her season average.
Brown, which visits Cornell Saturday night for a 5 p.m. tip, stayed in the hunt beating host Columbia 76-59 in Levien Gymnasium in New York City on the Upper West Side.
The Bears are a game behind Cornell heading into the showdown in Ithaca, though one of the tiebreakers suggested that if Brown wins, Cornell will still gain the fourth spot because after tossing out the 1-1 against each other this season a Cornell win over Harvard as opposed to Brown going 0-2 against the Crimson would put the break into Cornell hands.
Both teams went 0-2 against Penn and 1-1 against Princeton, leading to Harvard being the determining team to determine the fourth place spot.
Janie White had a career-high 18 points for Brown (15-11, 6-7 Ivy), while Shayna Mehta had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Camille Zimmerman, the league's leading scorer for Columbia (13-13, 3-10) and the Ivies, had 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Team. W. L. W. L. G.B. GR
*Penn 18-7 11-1. -- 2
*Pctn. 15-10. 9-3. 2.0 2
*Hrvd. 20-6 8-5 3.5 1
Crnll 16-10 7-6 4.5 1
Brwn 15-11 6-7 5.5 1
x-Yale 14-12 5-8 6.5 1
x-Colm 13-13 3-10 8.5 1
x-Dtmth 7-19 2-11 9.5 1
(Ivy Records Only)
Team W-L G.B. GR
Crnell 7-6 – 1
Brwn 6-7 1.0 1
Saturday, March 4
Penn at Harvard, 6 p.m.
Princeton at Dartmouth, 6 p.m.
Brown at Cornell, 5 p.m.
Yale at Columbia, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, March 7
Princeton at Penn, 7 p.m.
Remaining Ivy Women’s Tiebreakers
Penn controls its destiny to win the title; if Quakers win both games this weekend, they clinch.
If Penn goes 1-1, and Princeton goes 2-0, then Quakers would be 11-2 and Tigers would be 10-3, and the top seed would come down to the last game of the season. If Princeton wins that game to make both teams 11-3, we would have to wait to see which team Penn beats this weekend to determine the tiebreaker (since it could come down to record vs. Harvard).
If Penn goes 1-1, and Princeton goes 1-1, then Quakers would be 11-2 and Tigers would be 9-4, giving the outright title to Penn.