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 11, 2018

The Guru Report: Career-Night for Nwokedi as Penn Routs Harvard to Set Ivy 1st Place Showdown at Princeton

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — An hour or so before the showdown in Penn’s Palestra between Harvard and the Quakers Saturday night, some of the greats of the program’s past gathered to participate in the annual alumni game.

Soon thereafter senior Michelle Nwokedi, the reigning Ivy player and defensive player of the year, took the floor and gave one terrific audition for the next alumni game when the Texas will also be part of the storied Quakers past.

For now, however, she is very much part of the present and helped lead a first-half knockout of Harvard, scoring 27 points as the Quakers went to the break with a 45-21 lead.

The final was 69-49 and Nwokedi collected a career-high 30 points, the highest Penn individual total in five seasons, while she also had eight rebounds, two blocks, and a steal while going 4-for-6 on 3-point attempts in the first half and 8-for-10 overall from the field.

And so the stage is set for Tuesday’s bigger showdown at Princeton, which after decimating Harvard on Friday night levelled Dartmouth 82-63.

Penn (15-5, 6-1 Ivy) has won nine straight since losing here to Princeton (16-4, 6-1)  in the Ivy opener but the Quakers got help last weekend from Yale, which catching the Tigers on their first action at the end of the annual three-week break, pulled an upset.

When the weekend started, Harvard (13-8, 5-3)  arrived in the southern footprint of Ivy geography with a half-game lead in the win column in first place, averaging 80 points in their previous four games.

When they left to head back to Cambridge, Mass., by Boston, the league had returned to its usual 1-2 Penn-Princeton punch in women’s competition with the tie to be broken Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. in Jadwin Gym. And the Crimson had suffered their two lowest scoring totals of the season.

It was a balanced attack for Penn but Nwokedi was the only Quaker in double figures. Lauren Whitlatch had nine points, helped by 3-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.

Princess Aghayere had eight rebounds.

Katie Benzan was the only Crimson player in double figures with 14 points fueled by 4-of-9 three-balls.

Asked if she felt the flow, Nwokedi replied, “I felt it more so now,” and also noted she had been working with the coaches on the three since her offensive production had been off.

“Today, I said I am on so keep putting it up. It was a good day. On any given day it could be anyone of us, and today was my day.”

It says something of the night that Penn had that we are way down here on the recap and have yet to mention freshman sensation Eleah Parker, who had been battling the flu.

She blocked three shots and had six points and six rebounds.

Penn forced 22 turnovers and in the first half the scoring in transition totaled 20-2 vs. the Crimson.

“Defensively, we were good and got them unsettled,” said Penn coach Mike McLaughlin about Penn’s opening attack.

He revealed he recently met with the four seniors. “There’s a lot to do yet, I just want them to enjoy the ride.”

Princeton, meanwhile, routed Dartmouth (12-9, 4-4) as Abby Meyers scored 19 points and Carlie Littlefield scored 17. Bella Alarie had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and dealt four assists while blacking three shots.

Tuesday’s game will air on NBC Sports Network Philadelphia.

Because of the new Ivy tournament in its second season returning to the Palestra in Mid-March with the top four men’s and women’s teams, dynamics of the Penn-Princeton series has changed.

This game used to be at the end of the regular season and twice in recent seasons before the tournament the title was won last year by Penn, the Quakers  on the road earned the automatic bid in Jadwin to the NCAA tourney.

No matter who loses Tuesday, it won’t be the end of the world but if Penn wins, the Quakers get a season split and then if they continue their run all the way to the title game and fall short they would merit discussion in the NCAA at-large pool, especially with a win over Villanova that gave them a share of the Big 5 title with the Wildcats in the city.

“I want them to enjoy this tonight, they should,” McLaughlin said. “I want them to not fast forward. Monday, we come in and get ready for Princeton.

“They got us good here the first time, but we are better than we were then. That should help us.”

The league standings right now are Princeton (6-1), Penn (6-1), Harvard (5-3), Yale (5-3), Dartmouth (4-4), Brown (2-6), Cornell (2-6), Columbia (1-7).

Saint Joseph’s Stuns Duquesne While La Salle Edged by Richmond in A-10

A 52.9 shooting percentage from the field helped the hot Hawks take down host Duquesne 69-50 on the road at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh in the Atlantic 10.

Alyssa Monaghan and Sarah Veilleux each scored 17 points as Saint Joseph’s (12-12, 7-5 Atlantic 10) avenged a loss to the second-place Dukes (20-5, 10-2) back home in Hagan Arena last month.

The win moved the visitors closer to gaining a home game for the A-10 opening round on campus sites later this month and kept them alive to be considered for an at-large berth in the WNIT. Teams have to be .500 or better.

Adashia Franklyn scored 11 points and blocked four shots while Amanda Fioravanti had 10 points.

Chassidy Omogrosso had 11 points for Duquesne.

Saint Joseph’s stays on the road to go to Davidson Wednesday at 7 p.m.

La Salle, meanwhile, fell to A-10 rival Richmond 60-57 at home at the Tom Gola Arena in TruMark Financial Center as the Spiders (10-15, 5-7 A-10) made a late 8-0  run midway through the fourth quarter.

Adreana Miller and Sofilia Ngwafang had 12 points each for the Explorers (8-17, 3-9). Amy Griffin and Shaquana Edwards each added 10 points and Griffin had four steals.

La Salle next goes to Fordham in the Bronx, N.Y. on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Temple Falls to UCF

It was too little too late with a 27-24 fourth quarter advantage but not enough to compensate for a slow start as Temple fell to UCF 64-57 in an American Athletic Conference game in McGonigle Hall.

The win gave the Knights (17-8, 9-3 AAC) a season sweep of the Owls (10-14, 2-9).

Temple coach Tonya Cardoza saw some improvement from the last time the two teams met but while the defense was there in the first half, the shooting was not as the Owls were 5-for-27 from the field for 18.5 percent.

Tanaya Atkinson had 17 points for the home team and had seven rebounds, 13 short of becoming the second player in the program’s history with 1,000 csreer rebounds.

Freshman Mia Davis had nine points and 12 rebounds.

Temple makes its first-ever trip to new conference member Wichita State on Wednesday. The Shockers got their first dose of top-ranked and undefeated UConn up in Hartford, Saturday, losing to the Huskies 124-43.

UConn next on Monday hosts No. 4 Louisville at its campus Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. It’s their last major test before the NCAA tourney.

Looking Ahead: Do Or Whatever for Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights host No. 10 Maryland, the Big Ten frontrunner, at noon Sunday in the final game of a four-game stretch that hasn’t gone all that well besides not really great going into it.

They bagged a big one last week getting No. 21 Michigan but they’ve been pummeled at really bigger ones like at Ohio State and at Maryland in the first meeting with the Terps.

After this ends, then Rutgers finishes out going to Wisconsin, hosting Iowa, and then going to Northwestern and then its the conference tournament.

Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer is five away from reaching 1,000 career wins, which, if she runs the table, means it would be their first action in the Big Ten tourney.

If they continue to get rocked, they will have dropped from a Top 16 status on the first NCAA committee reveal as well as a returning to the rankings to possibly be resorted to the WNIT.

But depending on what happens between now and selection night, that could bring home games for Stringer to get her milestone in front of her fan base.

Redshirt senior Tyler Scaife, whose WNBA stock skyrocketed this season, is 93 points from passing WNBA great Cappie Pondexter into second place on Rutgers’ all-time scoring list behind Sue Wicks, another WNBA great, now retired.

All three are the only players in program history with 2,000 career points.

In other games Sunday, Villanova hosts Seton Hall at 2 p.m. at Jake Nevin Field House on the Main Line trying to stay in the upper portion of the Big East.

Drexel, which is trying to hold on to second place in the Colonial Athletic Association and had an eight-game streak snapped at Elon Friday, continues on the road at UNCW at 2 p.m. while Delaware, fighting for third in the CAA, hosts Hofstra at 2 p.m. in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

Penn State, the other local in the Big Ten, is at Minnesota at 4 p.m.

Rider is trying to complete a weekend sweep at home hosting Iona and going for a sweep of the Gaels at 1 p.m. at Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J.

And that is the report.