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, March 02, 2018

The Guru Report: Scaife’s Game-Winner Keeps Rutgers Alive in Big 10 While Michigan Ejects Penn State

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

For the last two months, Rutgers redshirt senior Tyler Scaife and Scarlet Knights Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer have been two especially attached storylines which merged in the Big Ten tournament second-round Thursday afternoon at Bankers Life Field House, allowing the ninth-seed to live one more day for its biggest challenge all season.

After a booming start from November through mid-January Rutgers had been on the skids, especially in the previous two games in which the Scarlet Knights coughed up a nine-point lead in the last three minutes and fell at home on Senior Night to Iowa followed by the wrap up, which was a loss at Northwestern.

This one against eighth-seeded Purdue almost got away also with another nine-point lead at the start of the fourth and last quarter getting extinguished, but Scaife lifted Rutgers spirits with a shot in the final seconds to create a 62-60 victory and an advance against, gulp, top-seeded Ohio State, at noon Friday in the quarterfinals.

During the season, Rutgers was on an 11-game win streak and while a victory over the Boilermakers (18-13) was rather messy, the run stayed alive until the Purdue got revenge at home and then the downfall began spurred bly three blowouts, two to Maryland and one to Ohio State, while a win at home over Michigan plugged things temporarily in the toughest part of the schedule.

Scaife has been the one successful milestone tale after missing last season with a detected heart defect, in part a major cause of the woeful six-win total posted by Stringer’s group.

But Thursday brought season win No. 20 (20-11) and for Scaife besides the heroics that now gives Rutgers a 14-win turnaround, she finished with 19 points to run her career total to 2,220 points, allowing her to move into second place past WNBA All-Star Cappie Pondexter in Scarlet Knights history behind Sue Wicks, a retired WNBA All-Star who played for the New York Liberty.

For Stringer, including previous stops at Cheyney in suburban Philadelphia, and Iowa, her career total is now 997-401, placing her three wins from becoming the fourth coach this season and third in Division I to gain 1,000 wins.

But Ohio State is a major barrier moving forward because Rutgers dropped from a lock to the NCAA after being one of the top 16 teams in the first reveal by the NCAA tournament committee in January to a bubble.

The win over Purdue was helpful but beating Ohio State would end all worries, though if not in the NCAAs, the Scarlet Knights might get several home games in the Women’s NIT, should they accept the invite.

On Dec. 19, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell got their 1000th the same day while recently in Division II, Bentley coach Barb Stevens gained her 1,000th triumph.

The late legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was the first from the women’s side to cross the magic threshold while soon followed by current and long-running Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer.

In what would be a very magical moment, the quickess right now Stringer could get to 1,000 would be to win the Big Ten tourney.

Meanwhile, Purdue’s NCAA situation became shaky with the loss, wasting a 25-point performance from Dominique Oden.

“I was very excited and nervous,” Stringer said of the game. “I told (her players) you could have a heart attack watching that game, especially with us having that kind of lead.

“And we've done this before, so it was good that we were able pull it out.”

Praising Scaife, the Rutgers coach said, “She’s willing to be the victor or the villain (in terms of having the outcome ride on the shot). And if there’s anybody that I would rather have the ball, whose hands I would rather have it in, it would be Tyler. I’m not surprised.”

Said Scaife of the play and Rutgers’ situation, “I’m not afraid of the moment. My teammates believe in me and so does the coaching staff.

“It feels good but we still have a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, 11th-seeded Penn State was bounced by sixth-seeded Michigan 77-48 to either finish the Lady Lions’ season or halt it at 16-15, probably not good enough for NCAA at-large candidacy and an invite to the Women’s NIT will also be problematical.

Michigan (22-8) had been in the rankings from the outset until recently. Hailey Thome had 22 points and Katelynn Flaherty had 21. 

Lady Lions’ junior Teniya Page was a tale with two one-page chapters in their brief stay.

She had 12 points in this one but in Penn State’s opening round Wednesday, when the Lady Lions ousted Illinois 83-57, Page scored 38, the second most points in the conference tournament history.

“We were ready to play,” said Penn State coach Coquese Washington about the projected late start caused by the four overtimes before Indiana finally prevailed over Michigan State.

“Michigan is just a really good team and they played well.”

Indiana will play Maryland Friday at 6:30 p.m., followed by Michigan playing Nebraska at 8:55 p.m.

In assessing where her team is in terms of what’s needed to get back to finer days, Washington said, “The thing we have to work on is our consistency and that comes with experience.”

Looking Ahead - Friday Only

The Ivy League is back in action with seeds to be determined on the women’s side of the second annual tourney with four teams each on the men’s and women’s sides of the event to be held again at Penn’s Palestra.

Princeton, Penn, Harvard, and Yale have all qualified, it’s just a matter of finishing the regular season and determining the matchups.

Because Cornell’s campus is closed Friday due to weather conditions, Columbia will host Dartmouth Saturday and Harvard Sunday.

Penn Friday night will host Yale at 7 and Brown Saturday at 6 while Princeton reverses the hosting, greeting Brown in Jadwin Gym at 6:30 p.m. Friday night and Yale at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Here are some of the scenarios from the Ivy League in setting the top seed.

The four spots to #IvyMadness have been determined, but the Ivy League championship is still very much up for grabs, with the top four teams all in the running. 

Princeton (10-2) controls its own destiny and can claim the title with two wins this weekend, over Brown (3-9) and Yale (8-4). Penn (9-3) trails the Tigers by one game and needs to win both and see Princeton lose one, or go 1-1 and see the Tigers get swept. 

Harvard (8-4) and Yale can share the title if Princeton is swept, Penn loses at least one game and the Crimson and Bulldog win both games.

In the case of a four-way tie for the championship, Yale would get the top seed at the Ivy League Tournament thanks to its 4-2 record against the rest of the tied teams.

Princeton clinched its spot to #IvyMadness on Friday, followed by Harvard, Penn and Yale punching their tickets the next night. 

The Crimson swept a weekend of Penn and Princeton for the first time since 2013, while Yale defeated Columbia and Cornell at home. In the case of a tie with Dartmouth (6-6), Harvard and Yale own the tiebreaker thanks to their wins over Princeton.

Saint Joseph’s plays Fordham in an Atlantic Ten quarterfinal at 7 at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va., just short of a week having beaten the Rams in the Bronx at the buzzer to end the regular season.

The Hawks advanced beating VCU at home on Tuesday while the same night Fordham beat Rhode Island.

And that’s the roundup.