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, November 19, 2017

Guru’s Local Report: Drexel and Penn Key Winning Rallies

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — In nearly mirror situations several blocks and hours apart across Saturday afternoon Penn and Drexel dealt with slow starts and solid finishes to delight their respective home crowds with non-conference victories.

Drexel rallied in the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center to down Patriot League favorite Bucknell 63-54 before Penn hung another Ivy League championship banner in The Palestra with the entire 2016-17 contingent on hand and then also shook off a slow start to gain a 55-42 win over Lafayette.

A night earlier in a home 60 miles away from home, but being placed into the blog here, Villanova topped Lehigh 62-42 in Allentown’s impressive PPL Center while in two other local games on the Guru’s Saturday card, Penn State got past Providence 60-51 on the road while Rider got handled at home by Holy Cross 83-56.

First in looking at Drexel (2-1), which won its two home games following last Sunday’s season-opening loss at Penn State, the Dragons had trouble scoring in the first quarter and dropped into what became their largest deficit (nine points) against the Bison (2-2), which was coming off a home loss to Saint Joseph’s.

But just as in the La Salle game on Thursday, they gained control with a 16-9 effort to go up by two at the half and kept on pushing at the start of the third quarter to their largest lead of the game at 14 points.

Now its off to Melbourne, Fla., to play in three pre-determined games in the Paradise Jam from Thanksgiving through Saturday in an event normally held in the Virgin Islands but moved because of damage from last summer’s hurricanes.

Another segment of the women’s field will be played at George Washington University in the nation’s capital.

On Thanksgiving Drexel will play Virginia Tech, which will match Dragons coach Denise Dillon against Kenny Brooks, her former Colonial Athletic Association rival at James Madison. Defending Big 12 champion West Virginia follows on Friday and then Butler of the Big East on Saturday.

In Saturday’s game here Drexel relied on a strong defense to force Bucknell into 27 turnovers and the Dragons also picked up 11 offensive rebounds to gain a combined 34-22 in second chance and transitional points.

“I said to the girls, `It wasn’t pretty but we found a way,’” Dillon said afterwards. “I thought that the focus with this group — on defense and the effort and energy was there. There was not a time we let up, to give ourselves a chance, even when we came out really cold early, but they are realizing the importance of sticking together and doing whatever it takes on the defensive end.”

Aubree Brown had a team-high 13 points for Drexel and Sarah Woods also scored in double figures with 12 points but others produced balance such as Bailey Greenberg’s nine points, seven rebounds, two steals and an assist.

Foul trouble reduced minutes for Greenberg and freshman Hannah Nihill, who finished with seven points shooting 3-for-5. Eline Maesschalck provided eight points off the bench.

Bucknell’s Kyi English was unstoppable with 25 points shooting 9-for-12 and Kaitlyn Siagus had 11 points and nine rebounds.

Since arriving from the University of Chicago, coach Aaron Roussell has made the Bison program a force in his six seasons and he was on Delaware’s short list to fill the vacancy after longtime coach Tina Martin departed after last season.

“What they have done at Bucknell is impressive,” Dillon said. “They’re a disciplined team, I love their offense and execution and they play good team basketball. So we’re aware, it was a tough loss at their place last year and they finished off getting into the NCAA tournament and for us to beat them this early in the season is a real nice win for our team.”

Penn Rallies to Take Home Opener

The Quakers shook off Wednesday’s season opening loss at Binghamton by eventually shaking off a pesky Lafayette squad to keep the Leopards (0-3) winless and feel good heading into this weekend’s Junkanoo Jam, which is a tournament format and first up on Thanksgiving will be a game against Georgia Tech, which Sunday (today) will play Princeton at the Tigers’ Jadwin Gym.

The winner of Thursday’s game likely will play No. three Baylor, which was upset Saturday at UCLA. The Bears, who fell to the Bruins for UCLA’s first win over a top three team since 2008, will meet Missouri State in the Jam opener in Bimini in the Bahamas.

Michelle Nwokedi, the reigning Ivy player and defensive player of the year, had a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, blocked six shots and had two steals for the Quakers.

Lauren Whitlatch, who missed much of the latter part of last season with a knee injury, had eight points, freshman Eleah Parker had four points and six rebounds in 11 minutes in a game in which neither side could shoot 30 or more percent.

Anna Ptasinski had 15 points for Lafayette, which is under first year coach Kia Damon.

“I thought we were solid, steady, we rebounded them by eight in the fourth quarter, that group that was in the last part of the fourth quarter closed pretty well,” said coach Mike McLaughlin. “Anna (Ross) and Michelle showed who they were.”

Penn outscored Lafayette, 28-10 in the paint, 16-2 in transition, 14-7 in second chance points, and 18-7 off the bench.

“We have a chance to grow, we still have work to do,” he said but praised the development of post play.

McLaughlin went deep, noting, “they were all deserving and they all played key roles.”

Germantown Academy grad Kendall Grasela, a sophomore, played the entire fourth quarter.

“We were all nervous, defending our home court, a lot of emotion with the banner going up, but we finally settled down and played the Penn way and we were able to execute,” Nwokedi said. “We were able to get stops and that led to offense.”

Villanova Rides Gedaka Perfection to Win Over Lehigh

It was not the greatest shooting night for Villanova on Friday up in Allentown but Mary Gedaka took care of business with a 6-for-6 effort from the field for 13 points, a total which was matched by Wildcats teammate Adriana Hahn.

Defensively, the Mountain Hawks (1-2) were held to 23 percent from the field but Cameryn Benz shot 50 percent at 5-for-10 getting 14 points for a career high.

Villanova again did its trademark skill of taking care of the basketball, committing just seven turnovers, a total doubled by Lehigh with 14 miscues. 

Kelly Jekot had nine points.

Megan Quinn struggled from the field, but keyed the defense with seven rebounds, which Hahn also grabbed.

“We had open shots, we just weren’t connecting,” said Quinn.

The Wildcats (2-0) will host nationally ranked Duke Sunday at 1 p.m. in Jake Nevin Fieldhouse in their home opener. Assistant coach Laura Kurz started her playing career with the Blue Devils before transferring back home to compete with Villanova.

Friday was also a reunion since Kurz began her coaching career under Sue Troyan at Lehigh before coming to her alma mater on the Main Line the last three seasons.

As the way things went from Lehigh’s side this time around against Villanova, Troyan said, “Honestly, I thought it was one of our worst shooting performances in a long time.

“It’s going to be hard to win games when three of our top scorers are a combined 3-for-30 at one point. For us to be successful they’re going to have to be better than that.”

Hahn broke the ice with a trademark 3-pointer after both teams went 0-for-5 from the field at the outset.

“We came out in the second half and could not get a bucket, they began to get some momentum, and that affected our defensive intensity,” Troyan said.

Lehigh next visits Cornell on Monday.

Penn State’s First Road Win Keeps Lady Lions Unbeaten

In the two other games on the Saturday slate and overall since the Guru’s last report, Penn State remained unbeaten while Rider has yet to win, losing all three games — Bucknell, Navy, Holy Cross – to Patriot teams, while Tuesday’s visit to Lafayette is also a game against a Patriot member.

The Lady Lions (4-0) struggled from the field in beating the Friars (1-2) of the Big East at Alumni Hall in Rhode Island.

Penn State’s opening win streak is the team’s best since a 5-0 start five years ago.

Sophomore Amari Carter had a career-high 23 points while Siyeh Frazier scored 10 points.

Jovana Nogic had 16 points for Providence.

Penn State next goes to Las Vegas on the weekend to play Louisiana Tech on Friday and Kansas State on Saturday.

In the Rider game on Saturday afternoon, the Crusaders (2-1), who lost to Broncs’ MAAC rival Marist at midweek, completed 9-of-15 shots at the outset to power their way to a win at Alumni Gymnasium.

Kamila Hoskova had 15 points for Rider, predominantly gained with an 11-for-12 effort shooting free throws, while sophomore Stella Johnson and freshman Jaiden Morris each scored 11 points.

Infiniti Thomas-Waheed had a game-high 22 points for Holy Cross.

“We are a work in progress and that’s pretty obvious,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. “We are a young team trying to find our identity. We haven’t found it yet, but we will.”

Looking Ahead

Other than games already mentioned in the recaps coming up Sunday, Temple makes its first road trip of the season as the Owls (2-1) visit Iona, while Saint Joseph’s (2-0) will get a test at CAA favorite James Madison, which actually plays Villanova Friday in the first round of Vermont’s tournament.

Delaware (2-1) will host Boston U., and Rutgers (3-0) will try to reduce the countdown by one more to 1,000 wins for coach C. Vivian Stringer when the Scarlet Knights hosts Wake Forest.

Nationally, Connecticut hosts Maryland while Oregon State hosts Notre Dame and in the preseason WNIT title game, Oregon visits Louisville.

And that’s the report but we will be back before sunrise Monday with all of Sunday’s action.


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