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, January 07, 2018

The Guru Report: Princeton Takes Ivy Opener at Penn While Rutgers’ Streak Claims Penn State

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Getting felled by long-range snipers is what happens when Penn plays Villanova in the local Big Five round robin.

On Saturday afternoon, however, in the Ivy League opener that is usually part one of the Quakers’ two-game local affair with Princeton, three-pointers dropped from an unlikely source on the Tigers — junior Gabrielle Rush, who had connected on just 24 percent over Princeton’s previous 13 games.

Firing away from the outset, Rush made all four of her attempted treys in the first half,  enabling Princeton to hold a small cushion on the way to a 70-55 victory in Penn’s storied Palestra that snapped a five-game losing streak to the home team.

The last Princeton win in the series was 1,033 days ago, on March 10, 2015, when the Tigers went the entire season unbeaten, coming a year after Penn broke a previous Princeton monopoly by winning at Jadwin Gym on the final day of the Ivy season.
The run by the Quakers (6-5, 0-1 Ivy) produced the last two Ivy regular season titles, one of which last season led to taking the first conference postseason NCAA-qualifying tourney in which Penn topped Princeton (11-3, 1-0) in the championship.

In all the two schools are responsible for the last eight Ivy crowns. Penn was the media pick over the Tigers in the preseason to win this one also when the tourney returns to The Palestra again in March.

Rush finished one point below her career high with 17 points, shooting 6-for-9 overall from the field, and 5-for-7 from beyond the arc (the 5 tying a career mark).

So how did this get out of hand for the Quakers, who were still very much alive at halftime?

Well after Rush stole the show in the first half from Bella Alarie, Princeton’s more recent acquired vintage star, Alarie, the 2017 Ivy freshman of the year, with five points at the break, stole it back the rest of the way to finish with 18 points, 12 rebounds, eight blocks — one short of the school record — and three assists.

It was Alarie’s 15th double double.

Senior Leslie Robinson, a frontcourt mate of Alarie, had 15 points, five assists, and three steals. She is also the niece of former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle and her father is Craig Robinson, who recently has been an analysis for ESPN.

“These are two well-built teams,” said Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, a former Dartmouth star who guided the Tigers from the bottom of the league after her arrival as did Penn’s Mike McLaughlin do likewise with the Quakers later after his arrival from Division II powerhouse Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia.

“That’s what makes these battles so epic. It’s not just about Mike and Courtney. I give credit to our inside game. We handled it pretty good.”

The Tigers posts outscored the combo of senior Michelle Nwokedi and newcomer Eleah Parker 33-23 with individually Nwokedi scoring nine points and grabbing ten rebounds while Parker, who has already picked up three Ivy frosh of the week citations, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Nwokedi is the reigning Ivy player and defensive player of the year.

Anna Ross played all but one minute in the backcourt scoring 11 points and dealing seven assists.

“They moved the ball, played inside-out,” McLaughlin said of Princeton. “They recognized, saw some spots they could score on. They made some shots, some really difficult shots at the right time.

“Over 40 minutes they outplayed us. Give credit to them.”

In the past prior to last season, whoever lost this one was handed an immediate minimal margin of error the rest of the way with the regular season champion becoming the NCAA qualifier.

But last year the Ivies shed their reputation as the last holdout, launching a postseason men’s and women’s conference tourney together, but limiting the field in each to the top four teams.

“Every season is different,” Banghart said. “I don’t look at the past. This team is much better than last year’s team.”

Indeed in this one, Penn and Princeton will not wrap up the regular season slate against each other for the first time involving the women, with the second game to be played Feb. 13 at the Tigers’ Jadwin Gym at 6:30 p.m.

Three more weekends of the traditional Friday-Saturday back-to-back schedule will follow before the tourney field is set.

And with added depth to the Ancient Eight, there are worries for both the Quakers and Tigers beyond Harvard and besides each other such as Brown, which came into this weekend 11-1 overall and showed promise with a youthful roster a year ago.

Next weekend, in scheduling adjustments that began last season caused by the addition of the tourney, Penn and Princeton will be playing doubleheaders with the men’s teams against Cornell and Columbia.

The Penn women will host Cornell at 5:30 p.m. on Friday night and Columbia at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday while Princeton will host Columbia at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and Cornell at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Princeton then takes its annual long exams break until Feb. 2. Over the same span Penn will finish up its Big Five schedule  visiting Villanova on Jan. 17 and Temple Jan. 24 both games at 7 p.m. before hosting DIII-Gwynedd Mercy 1 p.m. on Jan. 28.

 Rutgers Stops Penn State for 11th Straight

The Scarlet Knights’ winning ways continue and in instances such as Saturday’s 70-65 Big Ten triumph over Penn State at home in the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J., once again Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s team is showing how different life is from a year ago in the ability to hang on to something they often easily let get away in winning only six games overall in 2016-17.

In this one Rutgers (16-2, 4-0 Big Ten) was endangered of being swept under by a late rally from the Lady Lions (10-7, 1-3), who are themselves trying to return to the glory days of the past.

But an array of foul shots prevented Penn State from causing ultimate damage as the win streak moved up to 11 straight.

The 4-0 start in the conference is the best since Rutgers joined the Big Ten  after leaving the old Big East.

This past week the Knights jumped back into the coaches’ poll at No. 25 and are likely to end the long drought Monday by returning to the Associated Press (media) poll for the first time in several seasons.

With the victory, the two Rutgers stories within the big story were maintained.

In one of them, Tyler Scaife, who missed last season with a heart defect, shut the door at the finish and tied a career high with 29 points leaving the third all-time scorer in Rutgers history two points short of following Sue Wicks and Cappie Pondexter into the 2,000-point career plateau.

Scaife is just 227 points away from passing Pondexter into second place on the Rutgers career scoring list.

Stringer, meanwhile, is now at 993-390 in terms of her career win and loss totals, just seven triumphs away from becoming the fifth women’s coach to gain 1,000. Her combine record also includes wins at Cheyney and Iowa.

Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell reached the total of 1,000 wins on Dec. 19 in 2017 several weeks ago while the late Pat Summitt out of Tennessee was the first women’s coach to gain 1,000 and Stanford’s Tara Vanderveer was second to reach the total.

The 16-2 season start is the best since a 17-2 launch in 2007-08 and at 11-0 at home Rutgers is in the best win streak at home since a 20-game run from Nov.16, 2007 until Dec .29, 2008.

Other performers from the home team providing noteworthy numbers against Penn State were Nigia Greene with 16 points, Stasha Carey with with nine points and 10 rebounds while Ciani Cryor dealt seven assists.

Penn State’s Teniya Page scored a game-high 24 points while Amari Carter scored 18, Jaida Travascio-Greene scored 11 and De’Janae Boykin grabbed 11 rebound.

Rutgers next travels to Purdue Wednesday in West Lafayette, Ind., seeking to complete a sweep of the Boilermakers while Penn State on Wednesday hosts Minnesota.

La Salle Routed by Richmond

The Explorers got handled across the first two quarters to a 42-17 halftime deficit and couldn’t recover much the rest of the way as La Salle dropped a 77-51 outcome in the Atlantic 10 to Richmond in Virginia at the Robbins Center.

Adreanna Miller scored a season-high 24 points for the Explorers (5-10, 0-3 Atlantic 10), who are still winless in the conference. Amy Griffin scored 11 but no one else was able to score in double figures but Shalina Miller grabbed 10 rebounds.

Richmond (7-9, 2-1) got 25 points from Micaela Parson while reserve Jaide Hinds-Clarke scored 13 points in 16 minutes of action. Kailyn Fee got all 11 of her points in Richmond’s explosive first half.

The Spider defense forced 23 La Salle turnovers to minimize the Explorers’ 50-42 rebounding advantage for the game.

La Salle next makes one last out of conference stop, visiting Harvard of the Ivy League at noon on Wednesday.

And that is the report.




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