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.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Guru Report: Penn State Turns the Page on No. 25 Rutgers for Big Ten Upset in Wild Finish

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It was like old times in the Rutgers-Penn State game Thursday night in Happy Valley at State College, which did not end up as good times for Rutgers while Rider continued to show signs of making progress with its youthful roster in a matinee home game against Niagara in the annual school day promotion at Alumni Gym.

Nationally, in the game of note Tennessee coughed up a huge lead at Notre Dame allowing the Irish to believe all is not woe for the moment heading into the stretch drive of the regular season.

And the NCAA tournament committee trotted its first reveal projecting the top 16 teams in the Big Dance, which soon thereafter was already out of whack following said outcomes for Rutgers and Penn State.

Let’s Go to the info to digest since your Guru wasn’t at either place but did end up in the Western suburbs of Philadelphia at a hotel housing the Guru’s DePaul friends who are in town to battle nearby (from here) Villanova Friday night in a Big East showdown that the host Wildcats hope goes better than their Big Five showdown went with Penn Wednesday night.

Foul Mood Leads to Extra Foul Shots At The Finish as Penn State Edges Rutgers

Penn State went to a page from the past using a Page from the present and a 70-67 upset of No. 25 Rutgers.

That would be junior Teniya Page who nailed four of five free throw attempts with one second left aided by a technical foul on Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer (per the PSU email account) in a Big Ten game at the Lady Lions’ Bryce Jordan Center.

When Rutgers and Penn State were rivals in the Atlantic 10 many times games would come down to the final seconds though in those days former Immaculata teammates Theresa Grentz at Rutgers and Rene Portland at Penn State were then in charge of their respective teams’ direction.

Earlier in this month Coquese Washington directed her Penn State (12-8, 3-4) Big Ten) squad to a rally and near win at Rutgers (17-4, 5-2) in the first of the two conference battles.

This time the Lady Lions finished the job.

Down a point after Rutgers’ star Tyler Scaife put the Scarlet Knights in front with 38 seconds left in regulation, Page tried to regain the lead for the Lady Lions but her shot missed the mark.

However, Jaida Travascio-Green grabbed the offensive rebound and after the home team dribbled away most of the remaining final seconds, Page launched a three-ball with one tick left and the Scarlet Knights were hit with a foul.

On top of it perhaps Stringer began to re-live other nightmare endings in a long career that has much glory because she was assessed a technical.

So Page got to the line and made four of her five to produce the final score as well as a spectacular total of 34 points on her personal night’s work.

Travascio-Green aided by 3-of-5 triplets scored 15 points while Amari Carter had 10 points and five steals while De’Janae Boykin had 10 rebounds and Alisia Smith grabbed nine for her best in a Big Ten contest.

On the Rutgers side, statistically, Scaife, who recently became the third in program history to pass 2,000 points trailing Sue Wicks and Cappie Pondexter in front of her, had just 10 in this one while Khadaizha Sanders scored 14 and Stasha Carey double doubled with 10 points and 11 rebounds and a career high six steals.

Nigia Greene had nine points courtesy of her three 3-balls.

Rutgers had to do the rallying in this one, trailing 37-29 at halftime.

Scaife has 2,042 points in her career after the loss to PSU and needs 170 to eclipse Pondexter for second in program history.

The loss marks the second time in the last two weeks that Rutgers’ move into noteworthy national acclaim has been marred by reversals, a mixture of good news/bad news that has shown itself over the years in both the Grentz and Stringer eras.

A week ago the Scarlet Knights ended a long drought to land back in the Associated Press women’s poll at No. 21 and then on the next time out fell at Purdue to snap a long win streak.

They fell to No. 25 and stayed among the current elite only to lose to PSU, which came not long after the NCAA basketball committee displayed its first Top 16 projection for the NCAA tournament with Rutgers at 15th behind the 1-2-3-4 top of the bracket offering Connecticut, Mississippi State, Louisville, and Oregon.

It’s way early to put much stock in this one and two more are coming Thursday, Feb. 1 and Monday Feb. 19 before the complete real 64-team field and pairings are announced in mid-March on Selection Monday.

Meanwhile another aspect of the setback is things begin to get a little dicey regarding Stringer being able to become the sixth overall women’s coach and fourth this season to reach 1000 victories at home prior to the conference tourney, which would include her previous time at Cheyney and Iowa.

Her record is now 994-394 and if it were last year the focus might be that she is six closer to 400 losses.

When the win streak was in play, it was thought Stringer could easily get to 999 and have a lot of wiggle room considering what’s to come.
But to get that back it’s going to take beating some heavyweights in a few weeks.

The next game is Sunday when Nebraska, another team with a big seasonal turnaround, comes visiting at 6 p.m. with the game to air on BTN Plus.

The group winning 1,000 grew to five Wednesday when Bentley’s Barb Stevens joined the club, the first D-2 women’s coach to do so. Last month, North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell and UConn’s Geno Auriemma both got their 100th on Dec. 19. Prior to the duo, the late Tennessee legend Pat Summitt was the first to gain the number and current longtime Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer got her 1000th last season.

OK, now follow class the countdown for Stringer from a conservative approach.

 A win Sunday and a win at Indiana a week from Saturday takes it down to four.
But the next four are a nationally-ranked buzzsaw visiting Maryland, hosting Michigan, visiting Ohio State and hosting Maryland.

Get swept and four will still be needed with the remainder of the regular season schedule to be visiting Wisconsin, hosting nationally-ranked Iowa, and visiting Northwestern.
So these two upcoming must be won and that would allow the first opportunity to occur at the Iowa game in Piscataway, N.J. while an earlier first opportunity involves taking down one or two of the power games soon to occur.

Meanwhile, as Rutgers hosts Nebraska on Sunday, Penn State is off until Tuesday when the Lady Lions will host Illinois at 7 on BTN2go.com

Rider Drops Niagara

In recent weeks Rider’s youthful squad has started to come together and on Thursday the Broncs made good on Monday’s competitive loss at Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference sensation Quinnipiac by downing Niagara 65-58.

It’s the fourth win in the last five games for Rider (7-11, 4-3 MAAC) while the Broncs’ snapped a three-game win streak by the Purple Eagles (7-11, 4-3).

Junior Lexi Posset had a game-high 24 points for the home team helped by nailing 11-of-12 free throw attempts. Stella Johnson had 11 points and Kamila Hoskova scored 10.

“I’m glad the game was home,” Rider coach Lynn Milligan said crediting her team for “gutting out a really tough win. I don’t think we had our best stuff but what we had was enough.

“We did a good job defensively taking away their strong post players.”

Noted Posset, “Having a crowd here for a Kid’s Day game brings a lot of energy, especially it being an 11 a.m. tip. They bring the energy and we feed off of it.”

Rider next travels Sunday to Marist for a 2 p.m. tip at McCann Arena in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., outside Manhattan, that will complete the season’s series after the Red Foxes beat the Broncs 80-69 on Dec. 30 down in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Nationally Notable: Launching the largest comeback in Notre Dame history the No. 5 Irish erased a 23-point deficit at home in Purcell Pavillion in South Bend, Ind., to down No. 6 Tennessee 84-70.

The total swing by the Irish (17-2) in the non-conference game was 37 points,gaining a revenge on the Lady Vols (16-2) for a setback last season.

After a 15-0 start as Tennessee hit a more challenging part of the Southeastern Conference slate, the Vols have now lost two of their last three losing at Texas A&M in overtime, winning a the defending NCAA champion South Carolina, who are currently without All-American A’ja Wilson, considered to be the top player in the country, and now the loss to Notre Dame, which has its own injury woes.

Next Tennessee will host an SEC game Sunday at 3 p.m. against No. 3 Mississippi State, one of three remaining unbeaten teams in the country along with No. 1 Connecticut and No. 2 Louisville.

The Notre Dame rally also tied for the largest successful rally from down deep by any Division I women’s team the last five seasons.

“That was really an unbelievable win,” said Hall of Fame coach and Saint Joseph’s grad Muffet McGraw. “I’m so proud of this team right now because of their fight.”

McGraw was looking for something to hang the Itish’s hats on after the blowout loss last week at Louisville in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown.

“The difference in tonight’s game was our second-half defense.”

Arike Ogunbowale had a game-high 2u7 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Marina Mabrey scored 20 while Jackie Young scored 18.
Notre Dame will stay home to host Clemson in an ACC game Sunday.

Meme Jackson had 18 for Tennessee, who were outscored 34-10 in the fourth quarter.

Jaime Nared had 14 points while Mercedes Russell, Rennia Davis, and Evina Westbrook each scored 12.

Looking Ahead: UConn is Coming Sunday to Temple

Three local teams are in action Friday night headed by a key Big East game with Villanova hosting DePaul at 7 at Jake Nevin Field House. Both teams were ranked this season.

DePaul, which will host the Big East tourney in March at their new Wintrust Arena, is in second place with a loss behind Marquette while the Wildcats are in a virtual three-way tie for third with three conference losses.

Marquette will visit Villanova on Sunday.

The Wildcats are coming into the game off Wednesday’s tough home loss in the Big Five to Penn.

Drexel and Delaware, which are tied for second in the Colonial Athletic Association, are on the road with Drexel visiting Northeastern and Delaware visiting UNCW at 7 p.m.

Both stay on the road Sunday with Drexel heading to Hofstra and Delaware off to defending CAA tourney champion Elon.

On Saturday, La Salle is at Rhode Island in an Atlantic 10 game at 11 a.m. on CBSSN and in the Patriot League Army is at Lehigh.

Elsewhere on Sunday, top-ranked and unbeaten Connecticut makes its annual visit as the Huskies come to McGonigle Hall to play Temple in the American Athletic Association at 1 p.m. on ESPN2.

The host Owls have lost three straight while the Huskies in a homecoming visit for coach Geno Auriemma are arriving off Thursday’s lackluster win at home over Tulsa.

Afterward, Auriemma criticized his team saying that “the only reason we won is we had more All-Americans than they did.”

In the old days in didn’t take an array of talent for Auriemma to say the same thing but pointing to just one player for UConn’s ability to dominate — Diana Taurasi, who is now the all-time scorer in the WNBA.

The only other Sunday game not mentioned locally in this report is Saint Joseph’s will make an Atlantic 10 visit to Saint Louis in a matchup of teams near the top of the conference standing.

On Monday in a national team of note in the Big Ten circuit Ohio State visits Maryland at 7 p.m.

And that is the report.