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.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Guru’s Ivy Report: Princeton and Penn Heading for a 1-2 or 1-1 Finish But Tigers Have Top Tourney Seed

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Penn and Princeton continued their drive Friday night to remain the two best teams in the Ivy League with victories on the final back-to-back weekend of regular season play heading to next weekend’s second annual four-teams each men’s and women’s tourney here at the Quakers’ Palestra.

The four women’s qualifiers — Princeton, Penn, Harvard and Yale — were already in the field prior to Friday night but the seeds setting the matchups still had to be determined.

Princeton, like Penn, at home this weekend, easily handled Brown 79-44 at Jadwin Gym in central New Jersey to clinch a tie for the title and also the number one seed since the Tigers swept the Quakers in their two games.

Penn in a game that swung from competitive to not several times eventually finished strong for a 64-52 victory.

Harvard’s involvement was temporarily held up due to Cornell being shut down Friday due to weather in upstate New York so the Crimson will meet the Big Red in Ithaca on Saturday before moving on to Columbia in New York City Sunday afternoon.

Princeton (21-5, 11-2 Ivy) can win the regular season outright by beating Yale in their game Saturday at 5 p.m. while Penn (19-7, 10-3) can claim at least the two seed by beating Brown in a game here at 6 p.m. that also celebrates senior night.

The worst Penn can finish is third so the projection is still for the same semifinal next weekend though Yale (15-11, 8-5) with an upset of Princeton combined with two Harvard losses could lift the Bulldogs to the third seed.

The two seed carries an automatic qualifier to the Women’s NIT if that team doesn’t land in the NCAA field though Penn likely could receive an at-large bid if the Quakers don’t capture the Ivy’s automatic NCAA bid for the third straight season and fourth in the previous five.

OK, with all that aside, let’s talk about the action on the court Friday starting here where Penn broke away to 17-point leads at 19-2 and 22-5 before finishing the first quarter at 22-8.

But the Bulldogs wouldn’t quit and rallied with a 21-9 run to get to the break trailing by a mere bucket 31-29.

Penn, however, regrouped and methodically pushed its way to a 10-point 45-35 point margin, two less than the Quakers’ largest lead of the quarter.

In the final stanza, after a brief rally got Yale to within five twice, the second at 49-44 with 5:34 left in the game, the Quakers pulled away and upped the differential to as many as 14 points before settling with the 64-52 final.

“We made a couple of shots early, we defended them well, we got up and down the court, I thought we had a terrific first quarter,” said Penn coach Mike McLaughlin.

“In the second quarter they controlled us. And they outplayed us and I didn’t feel great at the half. But I felt we grinded it out in the third quarter and we rebounded the ball.

“We didn’t really adjust a lot at the half. I thought our ball movement slowed down a little bit in the second quarter.”

Michelle Nwokedi, one of four seniors who will be saluted Saturday along with Anna Ross, the all-time assists leader in Quakers history; Lauren Whitlatch and reserve Beth Brzozowski, had a double double with 15 points and 16 rebounds.

She also had four assists, three blocks, and two steals and became the sixth player in Ivy history to have 1,000 plus points and rebounds.

One of the other five is also a Quaker - Penn’s all-timer Diana Caramanico.

Nwokedi’s frontcourt teammate, freshman Eleah Parker, also double doubled with 14 points and 14 rebounds while getting an assist and blocking three shots.

The frontcourt combo produced 29 points, 30 rebounds, and six blocked shots.

Ross also scored in double figures, collecting 10 points, while reserve Phoebe Sherba had nine points off the bench.

Roxy Barahman was the only Yale player in double figures, scoring 14 points.

Penn’s work on the offensive glass was telling, 23-8 leading to a huge 21-6 advantage on second-chance points.

Nwokedi, the reigning Ivy player of the year and defensive player of the year, had seven rebounds off the offensive end.

Meanwhile, at Princeton, which got ambushed last weekend at Harvard, as did Penn but by a much lesser score, the Tigers cruised over Brown (15-11, 3-10), which has been a major surprised in the League on the down side considering the Bears with a young squad were one of the teams in the first Ivy event a year ago and picked to return.

Leslie Robinson, a niece of former President Barack Obama and Michelle, had a triple double with 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists, the first triple double in Tigers history besides being just the 30th in Division I all season.

She also had four steals while the rebounds and assists equalled career marks.

Abby Meyers had 18 points off 7-for-11 shooting from the field in 14 minutes of of play.

Shayna Mehta was the lone Brown player in double figures, scoring 18 points.

With a finish on top Saturday night, Princeton coach Courtney Brown, a former Dartmouth star, would gain the Tigers sixth Ivy regular season crown in her 11 seasons, all leading to NCAA tourney appearances besides a seventh several years ago when the Tigers became the first Ivy team to earn an at-large bid.

The Princeton seniors who will be honored on their night Saturday are Kenya Holland, Tia Weledji, and Robinson.

And that’s the Ivy report.


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