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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Guru's AP WBB Database: Current Appearance Streaks

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Current Appearance Streaks of the Women’s Teams in This Week’s AP Poll – Feb. 27, 2017

 1-448  Weeks Connecticut across 23 seasons began Preseason 1993-94

2-303 Weeks Stanford across 16 seasons began Preseason 2001-02

3-257 Weeks Baylor across 13 seasons began January 5, 2004

4-191 Weeks Notre Dame across 10 seasons began Preseason 2007-08

5-133 Weeks Maryland across 6 seasons began Preseason 2010-11

6-90 Weeks South Carolina across 5 seasons began Dec. 10 2012

 7-53 Weeks Mississippi State across 3 seasons began Nov. 24, 2014

8-46 Weeks Florida State across 3 seasons began January 12 2015

9-38 Weeks Ohio State across 3 seasons began March 9 2015

Tie-11-35 Weeks Oklahoma across 2 seasons began Preseason 2015-16

Tie-11-35 Weeks Texas across 2 seasons began Preseason 2015-16

 12-32 weeks UCLA across 2 seasons began November 30 2015

Tie-13-27 Weeks Louisville across 2 seasons began January 11 2016

Tie-13-27 Weeks Miami across 2 seasons began January 11 2016

15-17 Weeks Washington across 1 season began Preseason 2016-17

16-13 Weeks Duke across 1 season began December 5 2016

17-10 Weeks Oregon State across 1 season began December 19 2016

18-9 Week DePaul across 1 season began January 2 2017

19-8 Week N.C. State began January 9 2017

20-5 Weeks Syracuse began January 30 2017

21-3 Week Drake began February 13 2017

Tie-22-2 Week Kentucky began February 20 2017

Tie-22-2 Week Missouri began February 20 2017

Tie-22-2 Week Temple began February 20 2017

25-1-Week Kansas State began February 27 2017

Recent Departed Streaks Last Two Years

 xx.. Tennessee 565 weeks. Began Feb. 17, 1985 after 10-wk drought and ran across 32 seasons ending on 2/15/16.

Xx . Duke 312 weeks. Began week 3 11/29/99 and runs across 17 seasons ending 1/11/2016.

xx. Texas A&M 134 weeks. Began 11/16/09 2nd week and runs across 7 seasons ending final poll 2015-16

xx. Kentucky 132 weeks. Began feb. 1 2010 and runs across 8 seasons ending jan 2, 2017.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Guru's Overniter: No Magic for Rider at Fairfield as MAAC Tourney Awaits

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – In some respects the weather of the last few days mirrored the outcomes Sunday for a bunch of the Guru’s local teams as many finished the regular season and got slotted into the coming conference tournaments that will decide fates in terms of landing either in the NCAA or WNIT or perhaps the eight-team WBI.

For several days it had been quite unseasonably warm with the temperatures reaching into the 70s before settling back to the winter chill that would not seem all that bad had not things been quite enjoyable for the month of February.

Exhibit A was right here at Fairfield’s Alumni Hall where Rider’s chance to be called co-champions of the regular season in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference came to a dead halt along with what had been an uplifting nine-game win streak at the hands of the Stags.

Trailing most of the game, the Broncs could not get anything going until late but Fairfield choked off the rally with a 53-49 victory on Senior Day for the home team.

The outcome gave Fairfield (16-13, 13-7 MAAC) a sweep of Rider (22-7, 16-4) joining regular season champion Quinnipiac as the two programs who registered 2-0 shutouts of what otherwise had been quite the glorious time with the Broncs sweeping everything else in the conference.

Quinnipiac applied the pressure on what Rider had to do Sunday by winning the Bobcats’ home game Saturday at Canisius. The Broncs, who have been missing star Robin Perkins in recent weeks due to an ankle injury, knew they were going to be the No. 2 seed in this weekend’s MAAC tourney in Albany, N.Y.

But within many things happening in the program this season that last occurred, some if ever, before the entire undergraduate student population was born, the chance to finish with a co-championship title to put a cap on it would have been quite nice.

“It was disappointing with our lack of aggressiveness in attacking the zone until late in the game,” said Rider coach Lynn Milligan who had been enjoying quite a 10th anniversary season in charge of the Broncs beginning with the opener in November when they upset nearby Princeton.

She is likely to be named the conference coach of the year by her peers when the postseason honors are announced.

“We settled for too many jump shots and did not get the ball inside enough,” said Milligan of going against the Stags, whose earlier victory had been by one point in overtime in Alumni Gymnasium on the Lawrenceville (N.J.) campus.

“Again, I thought we played solid defense against a good team that executes really well, but we didn’t score the ball well and that hurt us today.”

Stella Johnson did her part to help Rider’s cause as the freshman shot 8-for-12 from the field and scored a game-high 17 points to go along with nine rebounds, an assists, a block, and a pair of steals.

Julia Duggan scored 13 points with 11 of them coming in the fourth and final period. She also had 10 rebounds for a third straight double double. But take away the performance of the Rider duo here and the rest of the squad combined for a mediocre 6-for-35.

Kelsey Carey scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Fairfield while Kendra Landry scored 12 and Samantha Cooper had 11.

The Stags reached the widest differential for either team in the game at 10 in the final period before Rider launched a late surge that fell just short.

So it’s on to the MAAC, where it will be comforting enough to know that in the worst case scenario Rider would still be expected to land in the WNIT field on selection Monday but for now the plan is to go deep in the tourney and who knows, with the magic that has occurred, winning the conference tourney and landing an automatic NCAA berth is still in front until it’s not.

The path begins after enjoying a Thursday bye and then meeting the winner of No. 10 Manhattan vs. No. 7 Monmouth on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

If the Broncs advance, they get a bye Saturday and then on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. would see either Fairfield, which secured the third seed Sunday, No. 6 Marist or No. 11 Saint Peter’s in one of the semifinals.

If still alive, then likely Rider will be playing Quinnipiac for all the marbles Monday in the championship at 5 p.m. On ESPNU. The semifinal that would involve Rider will air on ESPN 3, and the opener on Friday will stream on MAAC.TV.

Drexel Stopped by Hofstra on Wild Sunday in the CAA

The Dragons went to Long Island and the Pride campus in Hempstead seeking Drexel’s first sweep of Hofstra since 2009 after having demolished the opposition in their previous meeting in Philadelphia.

It was not to be with the home team prevailing 58-53 at their Mack Sports Complex.

Sarah Curran scored 18 points for Drexel (20-8, 11-6 CAA) while Jessica Pellechio scored all 13 of hers in the second half to keep the Dragons in pursuit of Hofstra. Tereza Kracikova had a career-high seven points, which she previously achieved, and freshman Ana Ferariu also scored seven.

Ashunae Durant had a game-high 25 points for Hofstra (12-16, 5-12).

Drexel had already been locked into the third seed in the CAA tourney beginning a week from Wednesday at James Madison has the conference leaves the neutral site of Upper Marlboro, Md., it had been using and moves back to home courts. Drexel will host next year and Delaware the following season.

The Dragons stay on the road and finish Wednesday with one more chance to set a regular-season program record for wins at 21. However, they will visit William & Mary, which knocked James Madison out of a first-place tie Sunday and more about all that after we deal here with our other CAA local.

That would be Delaware, which had a winning day on the road beating Charleston 69-56 in South Carolina propelled by career day from Nicole Enabosi, who had 26 points, shooting 10-for-14 from the field, and 16 rebounds, one short of her personal best in that category.

Enabosi also had four assists and two steals for the Blue Hens (15-13, 9-8 CAA), which snapped a three-game losing streak.

Erika Brown added 13 points to the attack and tied a career high with nine rebounds while  Hannah Jardine scored 11.

Breanna Bolden scored 23 for the host Cougars (9-10, 6-11), while Courtney Gardner had 11 rebounds.

“I really thought everybody stepped up today,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “Everyone had been playing their hearts out and I thought they all did an outstanding job.

“it was nice to see us execute, knock down shots, attack the basket and get on the boards. We really did a good job of taking care of the ball and being patient. This is a big win for us. There are so many good teams in this league that it’s tough to get wins on the road.”

Delaware, which now will be either the fourth or fifth seed in the conference tourney, finishes up at home Wednesday in Newark in the Bob Carpenter Center, hosting Towson.

As for that big upset, speaking of road wins, William & Mary, which had started its overall season hot, won at defending champion and preseason favorite James Madison 62-53 in the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va.

The loss by the Dukes (21-7, 14-3 CAA) snapped a nine-game win streak and was the worst defeat in conference since Drexel won 50-34 on a neutral court in the 2013 CAA semifinals.

Marlena Tremba had 16 point and nine rebounds for Williams & Mary (18-10, 8-9), while Alexandra Masaquel scored 15, and Jenna Green scored 12.

JMU had not lost at home to the Tribe since Feb. 12, 1999 by a basket at 55-53.

In keeping with our weather theme at the outset, JMU went extremely cold from outside, failing to make a three-pointer (0-for-19) for the first time since Nov. 24, 2012.

The Dukes finish Wednesday hosting Charleston.

The loss was costly baring a switch that night since the upset dropped JMU into second place a game behind Elon, with which the Dukes shared the top spot in recent weeks but owned the top seed off a sweep of the Phoenix. The other two league losses were both to Towson.

JMU almost was able to avoid the consequences of the loss were it not for Shay Burnett, who scored on a contested layup with 3.6 seconds left on the road to give Elon a 67-65 win at Towson and outright possession of first with one game left on the schedule.

Elon (23-6, 15-2) trailed by as many as seven points in the second half, the most in that period in any CAA game the Phoenix then rallied to win.

The triumph gives Elon the most wins in conference competition since compiling 14 in the Southern Conference in 2012-13.

“I felt we did a good job staying in the game,” said Elon coach Charlotte Smith, the former North Carolina star whose three-point shot over Louisiana Tech gave the Tar Heels their only NCAA title. “Shay struggled a little bit, but she’s our go-to player so we had to get it in her hands.

“We drew up a play we executed to perfection. It’s a play we never ran this season but we felt like it was a great opportunity to isolate and force the switch and she did a good job of penetrating and getting to the hoop.”

Burnett had 13 points on the day with eight rebounds and six assists while Jennifer Rhodes had 18 points. Malaya Johnson scored 15 and Essence Baucom had 13 points.

Raven Bankston had 22 points for Towson (12-16, 5-12), while Sianni Martin scored 15.

Elon has 11 road wins, the most in its history as a Division I program.

On Wednesday the Phoenix finish their regular season hosting UNCW. A win gives them the top seed outright. If they lose and JMU wins, they will be co-champions but JMU will get the top seed.

As of now it means if Drexel gets to the CAA semifinals the Dragons are more likely to see James Madison instead of Elon and even though they got swept by both the thinking is Elon might be the lesser of the two evils but not by much in trying to get to the championship game.

Either way the Dragons would likely have to sweep both to win their second CAA title and first since 2009 otherwise it will likely mean they will land in the WNIT.

Villanova Falls to Marquette in Season-Ender

It became a lost weekend and not quite the way the Wildcats wanted to be heading to this coming weekend when they return to Milwaukee for the Big East tourney quarterfinals on Sunday.

Villanova, which fell Friday night in Chicago to No. 19 DePaul, spent Sunday in the same town as the conference tourney and fell to host Marquette 62-53, which will be the third seed.

Allazia Blockton had 16 points for the host Golden Eagles (22-7, 13-5), who also got 13 points and 10 rebounds from Danielle King, 12 points from Erika Davenport, 10 points from Natisha Hedman, 13 rebounds from McKayla Yentz, and 10 more from Amani Wilborn.

Alex Louin and Jannah Tucker each scored 17 for Villanova (16-13, 11-7), which will be the fourth seed and host fifth-seeded Saint John’s, whom the Wildcats swept, in a quarterfinal at 9:30 p.m. EST at the Al McGuire Center.

At the top of the bracket, DePaul and Creighton each won Sunday to finish as co-champs of the Big East regular season but DePaul (24-6, 16-2 Big East) will be the top seed.

The Blue Demons beat visiting Georgetown 79-70 on Sunday as Jessica January, recently returned in Friday’s game with Villanova from a two-month absence to injury, had a triple double 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Georgetown finished at 17-11 overall and 9-9 in the conference.

If Villanova gets past the Red Storm, the Wildcats would likely see DePaul, the defending conference champs, in the semifinals.

There’s no shot at an at-large in the NCAAs and in trying to win the Big East, Villanova starts out in the tourney having been swept by both DePaul and Creighton, which is No. 5 in the coach’s poll, as well as Marquette during the season.

DePaul swept Creighton during the season. It’s the third out of the last four seasons – the total in the new Big East – that the Blue Demons have entered No. 1 while the No. 2 seed is the best ever for the Blue Jays.

Rutgers Loses and Penn State Wins in Big 10 Regular Season Wrap-Up

The misery continued at Rutgers on the final day before next weekend’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis as the Scarlet Knights fell to No. 12 and tourney top seed Ohio State 73-45 on Senior Day as the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

Shrita Parker had 26 points for Rutgers (6-23, 3-13), which finished with its worst record ever though hope exists for next year when a bunch of transfer become eligible.

Aliya Jeune was also in double figures with 10 points.

Kelsey Mitchell had 21 points for the Buckeyes (25-5, 15-1 Big Ten), who recently upset then-No. 2 Maryland in a conference showdown. Shayla Cooper had 12 points and Sierrs Calhoun scored 10.

Meanwhile Penn State at home in the Bryce Jordan Center upset No. 24 Michigan 76-75 off a late Amari Carter three-pointer and Kaliyah Mitchell’s foul shot with five seconds left in regulation.

Teniya Page had 19 point and six rebounds for the Lady Lions (18-9, 9-7 Big Ten), while Sierre Moore scored 11 points, Kindsey Spann scored 15, and Ashanti Thomas had 11 to tie a career-high.

Kysre Gondrezick had 25 points for the Wolverines (22-7, 11-5) and Katelynn Flaherty scored 20.

Heading into this weekend’s conference tourney, Rutgers is the 14th and last seed and will open against No. 11 Wisconsin at 4 p.m. Wednesday following the other opening day contest between No. 12 Illinois and No. 13 Nebraska.

The winner meets sixth-seeded Michigan State on Thursday night.

Penn State will be the 7th seed, get an opening day bye, and then in the full opening round will meet 10th-seeded Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Lady Lions are on Ohio State’s side of the bracket while Rutgers is on the Maryland side. The Scarlet Knight’s season will end with the next loss while Penn State likely could end up in the WNIT.

Atlantic 10 Finishes Opening Round

No local were involved, having both played Saturday, but in three other first round games Sunday, in a crosstown matchup in Richmond, Va., site of next weekend’s rest of the Atlantic 10 tourney, eighth-seed VCU beat ninth-seeded Richmond 72-64, while fifth-seeded Fordham at home in the Bronx, N.Y., beat 12th-seeded Davidson 62-54, and fourth-seeded Saint Louis, the preseason favorite in the conference coaches’ poll, won at home over 13th seeded Massachusetts 91-51.

In the game in Virginia, at home in the E.J. Wade Arena, VCU (16-14) used a 17-8 third period to go on to oust the Spiders (13-17) as Keira Robinson scored 16 points and Galaisha Goodhope scored 15.

Micala Parsons had 18 points for Richmond and Janelle Hubbard scored 16.

VCU in a Friday quarterfinal game at the Richmond Coliseum will meet top-seeded Dayton, which had a bye.

In Fordham’s win, G’mrice Davis scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Rams (21-10), who will meet fourth-seeded St. Louis in one of the other quarterfinals.

Mackenzie Latt had 15 points for Davidson (6-23).

In Saint Louis’s win over UMass, Jackie Kemph had a game-high 20 points for the Billikens (23-7), who had seven players shoot 50 percent or better. Maggie Mulligan had 16 points for Massachusetts (9-21).

On Saturday, seventh-seeded Duquesne advanced to meet second-seeded George Washington, which had the other bye. And locally, sixth-seeded La Salle and third-seeded Saint Joseph’s won to face each other in a pseudo Big 5 meeting in Virginia after the Hawks had swept La Salle in their two regular season meetings.

In the semifinals on Saturday, the VCU-Dayton winner will meet the Fordham-St. Louis winner while the George Washington-Duquesne winner will meet the Saint Joseph’s-La Salle winner.

And that’s the wrap.



Mike Siroky's SEC Tourney: The League Battle Royal Defined

By Mike Siroky

Everyone gets a do-over.

You can look at the Southeastern Conference tournament schedule and make an argument that any one of the top four, in descending order, could win the automatic bid and the secured NCAA entry.

Here are the 2017 seeds:

South Carolina 14-2 (1), Mississippi State 13-3 (2); Missouri 11-5 (3); Kentucky 11-5 (4); Tennessee 10-6 (5); A&M 9-7 (6); LSU  8-8 (7); Auburn 7-9 (8).

Missouri wins its tiebreaker by beating Kentucky at home. Auburn wins its tiebreaker by beating Georgia at home.

The rest: Georgia 7-9 (9); Alabama 5-11 (10); Ole Miss 5-11 (11); Florida 5-11 (12); Vanderbilt 4-12 (13); Arkansas 13-16 (14).

All the top seven are in, of course; the semifinalists could even be Sweet 16 qualifier hosts.

Auburn would win the league legend invitation with a losing league record. Tennessee got in at 8-8 last season.

If anyone but the co-champs of the regular season wins this next thing, the heads of the NCAA Selection Committee will explode as they have teased us that two of them might be top seeds.

That will never happen because you’d have to put a non Top Four team over another conference’s champion for the second No. 1.

 A No. 2 still stays home for two games against inferior teams and would be seeded to play the No. 1 anyway.

 Being a No. 1 just helps in recruiting and the top two really don’t need that.

It is unlikely an SEC No. 2 would be in the UConn bracket and that is all you want to avoid. The SEC No. 2 would be the best of that seeding line.

The rest just don’t matter, because they will be in – the second goal of the regular season -- and given an eventual opportunity to do what Tennessee did last season and pull an upset by winning a couple.

After this, it only takes five to win it all.

 Someone will do it and that coach also gets an entry into the Women’s College basketball Hall of Fame, because all NCAA champion coaches do.

Of course, four conference lead coaches are already there and one is even in the real Basketball Hall of Fame.

The matchups
14-15 Vanderbilt vs. 17-12 Alabama
14-15 Florida vs. 13-16 Arkansas
The teams with winning records are headed for the NIT. Vanderbilt needs to win two.
15-14 Georgia vs. 17-13 Auburn
19-10 Tennessee vs. Game 1 winner
19-10 LSU vs. 17-12 Ole Miss.
19-10 A&M vs. Game 2 winner
Quarterfinal Friday
The Top 4 kick in against previous winners.

Two teams in the Southeastern Conference with losing overall records – Arkansas and Florida – have coaches who should be candidates for replacement if only those schools cared about women’s basketball.

 It’s great one will eliminate the other in the first night.

The ’Gators basically forfeited creditability and a winning season by driving off their best player in an ego battle with the current coach. The player will resurface with a footprint on the international stage.

Arkansas has ended another dismal season with an affordable coach with no prior coaching experience they hired for the toughest league in America.

 He is now leading his own recruits and it shows. He also lost his best recruit ever who, disillusioned in her home state, defected to league rival and top program Mississippi State at mid-season.

Both pay scales are in the middle of the league lineups, ahead of coaches with winning records.

Running off players and being paid while not winning usually sends shudders through proud athletic departments.

The always-pandering SEC and ESPN network broadcasters doomed both with the faintest of cheerleading praise: “This team never quits!”

So the answer for a losing season must be terrible coaching. They led us to that.

These programs are only spotlighted because fans around the country always want to know what programs in the SEC might offer a young coach a try.

Arkansas clearly doesn’t care, but Florida has provided institutional support in the past.

 The coaches at Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia will all be in the NIT. They all are two players shy of being competitive but still pull upsets in the regular season and basically decided the pecking order after the top four teams.

The ’Dawgs’ 15-14 overall is unimpressive. If they falter here, they become the team of a coaching opportunity next season as this is almost the end of former coach Andy Landers’ recruits.

Vanderbilt has rebuilt as well as can be expected in Year 1.

Ole Miss has a coach on deck with the brains – and now the experience – to lead a competitive team within or without the SEC.

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: The Grind Ends

By Mike Siroky

There are no gimmes in the Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball.

No. 3 Mississippi State fell into a tie with one game to go, due to an overtime loss at Kentucky.

The Bulldogs blew the fourth quarter by one point and were lucky at that to tie the game.

Kentucky won in  overtime.

Mississippi State then dropped the season finale at home to Tennessee, to not win the title.

It renewed the trend that you have to win all your home games for a chance at the title.

The raw truth is State had its first-ever undisputed regular season title in its own hands and dropped the ball.

Whoever wins the conference tournament gets the automatic bid and a No. 1 seed. The Selection Committee will have to decide if a conference No. 2 in the tournament can surpass another conference’s champion.

The chances are they will not.

South Carolina sailed through its two games, one loss at home and one on the road in conference.

State has two road losses, the other at SC.

We have a separate posting on the league tournament and will file daily reports, starting Wednesday night.

The Associated Press rebalanced the nation by rating four SEC teams for the official national poll in the last week of the regular season.

 This allows the NCAA Selection Committee to make half of its SEC entrants considered as hosts for the Sweet 16 qualifiers should anyone ahead of them stumble.

Missouri’s stunner over South Carolina pushed them in at 24. They were on a three-win run with two this week, giving them that special 5-0 close the NCAA covets.

Kentucky snuck back in at 22, pulled the upset at home against Mississippi State and achieved a 20th win, giving the league four at that moment.

They had a four-game win streak by beating the also-rans and never ranked. The Gamecocks only sagged one place despite two losses in a week.

Perhaps the SEC should have had four ranked teams all along, based on the strength of the conference. In past seasons, it did. So this is more of a correction than an anomaly.

No. 3 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs maintained all its program highs, 53 straight weeks in the AP poll, the seventh-longest active streak in the nation.

The payoff if they fail to win the league tournament will be a program-best NCAA seed at home as one of the No. 2s and not in South Carolina’s bracket.

Their first failed assignment was Senior Night at No. 22 Kentucky.

They could not do it against a worn-out Kats team that can only go six deep. A disputed late call helped the home team.

UK’s seniors are Makayla Epps – who stuck it out when six others left the program during her time there – and Evelyn Akhator, a junior-college product. Each are worthy of an all-conference team.

UK has now won 11 straight in the series. Kentucky won at least a tie for third place and the coveted double-bye, no matter what happened in the season finale.

The Bulldogs started 11-2 and were outscored after that. They were hitting 80 percent, UK 16 percent. The home team closed the gap at the quarter close, 19-18, State led by Victoria Vivians with 10 and Morgan William with five. UK spread its scoring among five players.

The Bulldogs maintained the one-point edge at the half.

Vivians hit a 3 inside of a minute to reduce a four-point deficit. Each side hit free throws.

William hit a jumper with 11 seconds left to tie it in regulation. McCowan had a block and defensive rebound to preserve it with four seconds left after Akhator blew a layup.

But here came the overtime. Epps fed Akhator for a jumper. William scored and then the shortest player in the game got a rebound.

Akhator had another layup, then fouled Vivians, who hit two.

A minute later, same foul and same foul shooter and same result. State was ahead with 86 seconds left.
McCowan had another block but Akhator had another layup, assisted by Epps. The seniors did not want to lose their last home game.

With 13 seconds left, Epps got the rebound – her second of the game -- off a long miss and tipped it back up and in for the final basket.

There was a controversial State turnover.

 The player said she was running a standard play “and I must have tripped over something.”

Coach Vic Schaefer said he wasn’t sure there was a transgression but accepted the official call.

A missed UK free throw, a deadball rebound and a meaningless free throw ended it and State’s dream of an unshared title.

 The surprisingly low 5,244 in attendance approved.

 UK coach Matthew Mitchell claimed the next day there were at least 7,000 in the home gym.

But this win earned them the fourth-place final and the coveted double-bye. They were beaten at Missouri very early and that broke the tie for third.

Akhator scored 27 with 16 rebounds, 10 defensive. Epps scored 22.

Okorie only had six; backup center Teaira McCowan was even less-impactful, with five, though she did have 10 rebounds, eight defensive.

 Vivians scored 27, Morgan William 20, though the point guard fouled out in overtime.

 Had State scored one more point in regulation it would have hit its league-leading average and won.

State had 22 turnovers, Kentucky nine. State outshot them from the field, the line and had more assists and rebounds . . . and still lost.

Mitchell said, “Yeah, I think our team has done a great job all year of sort of bouncing back and they do not show any signs of physical letdown.

“I don’t think that we have been shooting the ball great from the 3. We continue to get together and talk about our team – all of us here – and one thing I would remind you all of is that if we can ever put a night together where we really shot the ball . . . we have had some nights where we have shot 50 or 55 percent.”

He had Epps facilitate in the opening and then concentrate on scoring at the end, “You are playing a very good team. They are highly ranked and talented. They had only been beat once before and everybody knows that going into the game.

“Then you are dealing with the emotion of people cheering for you and you see what the place means to her, she kisses the floor before the tip, which I love and think is fantastic.

“I don’t know how much of (the start) it was trying to get settled down from that. But, at halftime, I think she knew what needed to happen because you saw her come out on the attack right away in the UIKeyInputDownArrowsecond half.

“I don’t know if there is ever a plan for her to ease into the game, but I think (it)  was a big moment for her and I think it is hard to process all that. I think she did a good job of really locking in when we needed her and she was good.”

“With only one realistic substitute, the obvious focus has to be on limiting fouls.
“That is a hard game,” Mitchell said. “I just think early on there were a few things we knew we had to do. We had to take care of the ball and we just don’t have the luxury where you can check out mentally and get careless fouls. I just think they know that.

“Early in the year, we really called the scrimmages in a realistic fashion to imprint it in their mind. And again, we had a 3.5 team GPA in the fall. There are some smart cookies out there.

“We are not dealing with people who cannot process information, although we do have some mental errors at times.

“Overall we are a pretty intelligent group of people, but Evelyn is a year older and more experienced.  She used to really take some bad fouls. Alyssa Rice has just worked so hard. She fouled out, she didn’t score a point, but she was big for us in that victory with her defensive presence and defensive intelligence. I think we all knew that going in and we have done a good job with it.”

As for his Senior Night, “It was among the best. You love all these players and you love all the seniors and each one of them is unique, but from what those two were facing last April and May, I don’t know how it gets much better than last night for them. They will always have that. I am happy for them that they do.”

Schaefer said, “I really want to compliment Kentucky and their kids. They really played an outstanding ball game and this should be about them. They certainly played harder than us tonight and I have to wear that as the coach. I obviously didn’t have my kids ready to play. We turned the ball over 22 times and again, I’ll give Kentucky credit for that, and we only forced nine so I’ll also give them credit for that.

“They really took care of the ball and that may have been the fewest turnovers we forced all year. And of course, Evelyn and Makayla both were sensational tonight. Epps has now beaten me twice on the same play. Two years ago she beat us with the same play – offensive rebound and a stick back.

“She owns me. She’s singlehandedly beat me both times here.

“Here, she’s been special. I’ll take some solace in knowing that she’s done it to a bunch of people. She’s a heck of a player and she’s just got a real presence about her. So, you have to give Kentucky credit. They went to her quite a bit. The play that beats us is her hustle play on the rebound.

“So it’s disappointing, but at the same time you really have to take your hat off to those kids. They really willed themselves to victory and really played really hard. I thought their kids really played hard.

“I thought that first half we had a lot of issues with the point guard position. I thought Morgan played very well in the second half and we ironed some of that out, but during the first half we really struggled offensively and defensively.

“Even though the book only said they had two fast break points, I felt like I was looking at a completely different game ’cause I thought they had 10 to 12 fast break points.

“It was obviously a great basketball game, but I didn’t have my kids ready. I’ll take responsibility for that. I don’t like getting outplayed or outhustled, but we did tonight and that’s my responsibility.

“Those kids played extremely hard. They’ve always done that. It didn’t matter that it was Senior Night because I think if it had been any other night, they would’ve done the same thing.”

On what accounted for their 22 turnovers: “We just tried to do too much with the ball. We had people trying to do things that they didn’t need to do. Again, it was my fault for putting them in those positions.

“It’s my job as a coach to put them in positions where they can be successful. We can’t turn the ball over like that. We have to take better care of the ball, but that’s how Kentucky is. They’re really handsy, they steal and they do a really good job at it, so you have to take extra care of the ball. We just didn’t do that tonight.

“I’ve got to do a better job of making sure our kids understand that. We go over one down everyday and the way we guarded it tonight, it looked like Ned in the third grade. We didn’t guard it hardly at all. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and I was literally going insane on a couple things that we kept doing over and over again.
“Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of coaching my kids tonight, but this should be about Kentucky. They did a tremendous job tonight and those kids played extremely well and hard and you have to take your hat off to them.”

 He praised Akhator’s endgame.

“I don’t think anything changed, we just didn’t have an explosive player to turn and run. We would turn and walk and then our help side was really nowhere to be found. She’s not an assist player, we talked about that, and she’s got like seven or nine assists in 14 games.

 “When she puts her head down, she’s going. So if you’re in help you have to get there or get run over. We’re pretty good at taking charge, but we didn’t turn to run and stay with her and that kid just attacked us off the bounce all second half.”

They closed against the best of the also-rans, Tennessee.

For State’s own StarkVegas Senior Celebration, they said farewell to Dominique Dillingham, Breanna Richardson, Katera Chapel and Okorie. This foursome has made the national imprint.

 Okorie and Richardson have started every game, Dillingham missed six games due to health reasons. All have had their moments, the most recent by Chapel, whose 3 late kept Texas A&M at bay, She had two previous 3s all season. It was her only shot of the game.

Against Tennessee, State once again began without traction, hitting 2-of-8 to start. Jamie Nared scored nine for UT and the Lady Vols led at the quarter break, 18-8. Yikes.

Tennessee thus offered another challenge: No good SEC team has had a single-digit quarter and win this season. Still haven’t

In the second, it grew to 36-20. Nared had a dozen and Jordan Reynolds 10. The State offensive average had been a league-leading 76.3.

Tennessee’s most potent players, Diamond DeShields and Mercedes Russell, had yet to really  participate, though Russell had seven rebounds.

It never got better for the home team.

All Schaefer could do was put his seniors back in to be removed with a standing ovation.

But the scoreboard showed the awful truth to the home fans: 82-64. The Lady Vols have only lost once at Starkville in program history.

Tennessee got another impact win, coupled with at Stanford, Notre Dame and at South Carolina, meaning they are the only SEC program to win road games at the top two in conference.

Nared scored a career-best 30, DeShields 20 and Reynolds 17. They won rebounds by 13. They held State to 36 percent from the floor.

They earned fifth in the conference at 10-6.

 The top 5 all had at least 10 conference wins. UT is two better than last season in conference,
miles ahead in program recovery.

I’m gonna put it in a bottle,” said Holly Warlick. “We played smart, we played together. Jamie Nared was all over the place. We held them in check defensively and we had talked a lot about that.

“We just played together and that’s something we need to see all the time.

“You know you’re doing something good when Vic Schaefer goes to a zone. Whatever they did, we answered it.

“Mercedes was setting great screens and that’s what playing as a team is all about. We came in here so focused and that’s what we need every game.”

They drew 10,500.

Schaefer, for the second straight game, was at a loss to understand the lack of motivation.

“I am disappointed in the effort today,” he said . “Credit Tennessee because they have been playing well as of late. We were beaten in all the toughness categories. We were outrebounded, outhustled, out-toughed. That is not what our program is about.

 “I wish I could shake the hands of all 10,500 people who were here today. They did their part and deserved better.”

The Lady Vols won their 18th to start the week, Senior Night against long-gone Florida.

They lost leading scorer and likely All-Conference performer DeShields to a stretcher removal during the first quarter with an ankle sprain in the loss at woeful Alabama.  She skipped a game then came back for this one, though not as a starter. She was in once UT was 0-for-6 possessions, down 8-0

No. 7 South Carolina

The Gamecocks, losers of two of three the previous week, hungrily went to then third-place Texas A&M to start the Aggies’ nightmare week as part of the Gamecocks’ recovery journey.

In a reverse of the previous week, they had the late Thursday game and knew Mississippi State had given them an opening by losing the early game.

They ruined A&M’s senior Night without their own senior star, Alaina Coates. She didn’t even make the trip, with a severely sprained right ankle. The previous game, she only two scored two in a loss. The finish the Final Five was 4-1.

No Coates did not stifle them much. Dawn Staley simply rolled out a very good four-guard lineup, half of which would be the starting backcourt on any other team, moving the best reserve, Bianca Cuevas-Moore in.

Winning each quarter, they had made it a 13-point lead midway through the third as the defending Player of the Year, A’ja Wilson, led with 14 points and 10 rebounds, already a double/double. She also had three blocks. Guard Allisha Gray was leading the backcourt with 10 points. Cuevas-Moore scored 15.

At the end, Staley said, “We pressed them, we just wanted to up-tempo them. They are a team that he calls the plays from the bench. We wanted to make them play not look over the bench for the play.

“Without Coates, we once again wanted to go up-tempo, drive the ball and get the points in the paint.

 “We forced the action. It threw them off just a little bit.

“Sometimes, you have to create an edge with a Texas AM, especially on the road.”

It had been A&M coach Gary Blair’s idea to win No. 4 in conference, protecting the double-bye and his short bench while achieving a 20thwin. That all failed. They finished by being blown out by Ole Miss, 1-4 down the stretch and will play in the second day of the tournament.

 “With the stat sheet you can basically write the story without any comment from me,” Blair said after the home loss. “It’s pretty obvious. They shot well. We tried our 2-3 zone and we even tried man-to-man a little at the end. They played like a top-5 team. They played a lot better than Mississippi State did.

“Give them a lot of credit playing without Coates, the best 5-player in the league.  That’s what this league is all about. Are we going to be good enough to play with the big boys in this league?

“We are one of those teams. It doesn't matter that we've lost three games in a row.  In 2013, we lost our last three games before the conference tournament and went in and won the tournament.

“What we have to do is not worry about the conference tournament and get our confidence up. We played two top teams here and both teams were a little bit better than us but one game we could have won.

“Our guards quit scoring; in the first quarter our post players were missing the easy stuff. So we traded off again, but tonight is about South Carolina. This is one of the first games all year where we just got outclassed. I’m not that down on my team I’m just high on South Carolina. They've earned everything they’ve got.”

The best road draw in America attracted 6,402.

A&M is at best, a No. 5 seed in the elimination games.

SC undoubtedly has two home games coming in the NCAA eliminations, as a No. 1 or No. 2, depending on the league conference tournament.

Coates was back as a starter. The Gamecocks were determined to earn a share of the regular-season title, their fourth straight. They have been a No. 1 NCAA seed the past thee eliminations.
On Senior Day, they settled Kentucky into a tie for third place by stopping a five-game win streak.

The SC seniors are Coates, a South Carolina girl, and Tiffany Davis. The seniors have won 59 conference games, a school record. Like Mississippi State, SC is already locked and loaded for next season.

Against the Kats, Wilson continued her run to be the back-to-back Player of the Year with six points, but all the starters scored. Kaela Davis also had six. They started by hitting 83 percent from the field,10 of their first 12. It was 25-17 at the first stop. Coates had five rebounds.

UK’s seniors, Akhator and Epps were silent. Guard Taylor Murray scored six. UK’s plan was to outrun SC, a decidedly edgy idea when you have no depth.

The lead grew steadily. Epps got her second foul trying to take a moving charge. She sat down for awhile. The depth was already in play.

Coates rose to five points and five rebounds in the second. Epps’ freshman replacement also had two fouls. Akhator had two fouls. So much for outrunning SC. Epps was put back in by necessity. Without the home cooking they got against MSU, they were in trouble. Another starter had three fouls.

SC obviously would attack Epps. At least the  blathering cheerleader, failed SEC coach and ESPN commentator did not doom them with the “this team doesn’t quit” silliness. She did say they “will not go away” many times.

She also actually said UK “doesn’t much care” that SC was trying to win another title. Yeah right. How does she know that?

 She could have said “she is playing like” but instead gave us the definitive that the player literally did not care. Never once did she mention it would be a shared title with Mississippi State. Way to diss the No. 3 team in America.

She also said UK was trying to hang on to the double bye in the conference tournament. It was already mathematically impossible to lose it.

How do these people get hired without insight and thus inflicted on the listening audience? Is it gender? It is yet another distance between the coverage of the men’s game.

 “Could you imagine ESPN allowing a color commentary man who rooted out loud for a team? It is sadly expected in the women’s game, WWE style.

It was eight at the half. Wilson had a dozen and Kaela Davis 13.

Another Kentucky starter had three fouls early in the third. SC seemed unwilling to take advantage of any of it. Akhator, for instance, average five points against SC and was playing to that again, almost as if she folds when challenged. She was o-fer from the field.

Kentucky did not score a basket for more than four minutes. SC ran off eight. It was 65-55 at the final break. Two more UK starters had four fouls. It was not unbalanced. Each side had 15 fouls. Wilson had 17, Kaela Davis 15.

It ended as expected, South Carolina hitting a season-high 62 percent from the floor and a season-best points. Against a 17-point average, Davis had 25 and the double/double with 10 rebounds, all defensive. Kaela Davis scored 20, 8-of-11 from the field, 4-of-5 from the line. Allisha Gray scored 17 off the bench.

Coates retweaked her ankle and was taken to the training room for a visit with six minutes to go. It was once again the effective four-guard offense. They coasted out, 95-87, the tie for the title secured with the top seed in the conference tournament and no game until Friday.

“It’s been great,” said Staley.

“We’ve been very fortunate to get some talented players in here that believe in our vision. They’re creating a legacy.

“When we have our big girl (Coates) in the lineup, she’s a hard guard. “While it was fun playing without her at A&M, it is better when we have her in there.

“We’ll continue to get better. We’ve always been a work in progress and I think we’re moving towards our best basketball.”

The best attendance for the women’s game in America hit again in the finals, 18,000 capacity.

No. 24 Missouri

If anyone tells you they picked Missouri to be the only conference team to close the season 5-0, they are lying.

Missouri won its 20th and 21st games – giving the conference a fourth 20-game team. As the third-place team, it dares dream of hosting two NCAA games depending on conference tournament results.

 Somebody besides the top two has gotta do it if the league gets eight in. They earned a double bye for the first time in league history. They won the most SEC games, 10, in program history.

 The Top 5 finishers all have at least 10 conference wins.

Because the Mizzou program has expressed interest in not participating in this reporting, that’s all the details we will supply.

Alabama likely played itself out of NCAA contention down the stretch.

At the start of the week, the Tide were No. 8 in a league rumored to be sending eight to the NCAAs. They won the first of three, against Auburn, then lost in overtime at Georgia. Missouri made them 2-3 in the final five, 17-12 but 5-11 in conference, 10th place.

That’s two games better than last season, good enough for an NIT team. It’s a program best in this century and still the eighth-most overall wins in conference.

Other Also Rans

LSU lost at Auburn, assuring itself of missing 20 regular-season wins then closed at home vs. Vanderbilt. Seventh place. But 8-8, non-losing, in the league. Still, 2-3 in the closing weeks.

Will the NCAA really take eight league teams? That’s been the smoke signal from behind closed doors at the Selection Committee site for weeks.

Will they really take a losing team in conference, at 15-14 overall?

Auburn also had three this week, opening with an OT home loss to Alabama, then won vs. LSU and at Arkansas, 2-3 down the stretch, 17-13 overall, 7-9 in conference.

Georgia got to eighth place by closing 3-2 in the final five, also 7-9 in conference, 15-14 overall.

With two less wins than Auburn and ’Bama, they did beat Tennessee and LSU down the stretch.

Ole Miss finished another winning season at 17-13 after bopping A&M and will make a fine NIT team. They also beat Tennessee this season. They won the escape from opening night in the SEC tournament.

Big East WBB Tourney: Is There One More Hurrah Left For St. John's Sr. Floor General Aaliyah Lewis?

(Guru’s Note: Our colleague in New York has offered this feature)

By Andy Lipton

NEW YORK -- St. John’s Red Storm point guard, 5’5” senior Aaliyah Lewis, a star recruited locally from Staten Island, has had winning season after winning season in her four years with the team.

Three 23-win seasons her first three years. And this year’s team is on the cusp of a 20-win season, with a record of 19-10.

Lewis’ Red Storm teams have had their seasons in the sun.

The St. John’s combined record this season and the previous three is 88-42, including finishes with two NCAA appearances and one Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) appearance from 2014-16

Lewis’ St. John’s teams have experienced exciting and memory-lasting victories:

▪ A win in December 2013 with three seconds remaining on a layup by Aliyyah Handford as she drove to the hoop to beat 24th ranked Texas A&M in Madison Square Garden in the Maggie Dixon Classic.

▪ A double-overtime win against Creighton in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament in 2014.

▪ A victory against the University of Southern California (USC) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with less than a second to go on an outside shot from deep in the right corner by senior Briana Brown.

  The Red Storm star took a pass from fellow senior Keylantra Langley, who was on the wing, who had received a pass from fellow senior Eugeneia McPherson, who was near the top of the key.

 McPherson to Langley to Brown:  Three seniors who achieved their final win of the season on that play.

▪ Wining two games to advance to the quarterfinals of the WNIT in 2015.

▪ Hoisting last year’s Big East Tournament Championship trophy, defeating Creighton in the championship game after beating DePaul in the semi-finals, after having lost to DePaul the previous six times they had played.

Although Lewis has been the starting point guard since her sophomore season, the Red Storm’s prolific scorers the last two years, Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant, both seniors last year, overshadowed Lewis.

This year has been Lewis’ season in the sun in becoming the leader of the Red Storm team.

Lewis directs the Red Storm offense from her point guard position. She has averaged over six assists a game this year, leading the Big East in this category by a wide margin and is fifth in the Big East in assist to turnover ratio at 2.3.

Lewis has averaged over 10 points a game, the first time she has averaged double figures in scoring in her Red Storm career.

She  is fast, with quick hands and feet.

On fast breaks, in transition, and after Red Storm steals, Lewis flies down the court, with energy, speed, and quickness, and if confronted with players in her way, then curving around these obstacles, as she can cross her dribble over from one hand to the other and then back to the other hand on the way to the hoop, and when near the hoop, lofting floating layups over much taller opponents off the backboard.

Racing down the court with the dribble, Lewis reminds me of a car being driven in a racing car simulator game you play in an arcade, going full speed down the straightaway and around obstacles and curves while staying on the road.

Any on-court collisions Lewis incurs are typically the fault of her opponents as they foul her on her drives.

This season Lewis has drawn more fouls than any of her teammates, going to the charity stripe 149 times. Nobody in the Top 15 in free-throw percentage in the Big East has gone to the foul line more times than Lewis.

She  leads the team in steals with 38.

Lewis can use her 5’5” height and quickness to her advantage on defense. She can get and stay low and close on taller players trying to dribble up the court, making it tough for them to do so. In her last regular season game against Seton Hall, Lewis was judicious with her on-ball defense to avoid foul trouble. Coach  Tartamella needs her in the game, not on the bench.

He has relied heavily on Lewis, playing her an average of 37 minutes a game this year, the most for a Big East player, and over 35 minutes the previous two seasons.

Lewis is tireless, never stops playing hard, unflappable, and always positive on the court.  And she is quietly confident that she can compete against anyone.

You can tell from looking at her face and body language on the court, that she flat out loves to play and compete.

Lewis would like to continue playing ball after she graduates before she puts her degree in sports management to use.

The Red Storm ended their regular season on February 26 with a win against Seton Hall at Carnesecca Arena on their home  campus.

 It was Senior Day in which players Lewis, Jade Walker, Sandra Udobi, and Kendyl Nunn, and graduate assistant Shanise Bulton, and their families were honored with Lewis playing a big part to help the Red Storm beat their nearby conference rival from New Jersey.

The Big East Tournament starts this Saturday, March 4 at the Al McGuire Center on the campus of Marquette University with St. John’s opening against Villanova.

Winning the Big East Tournament will guarantee the Red Storm a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

 Making it to the championship game in the Big East Tournament might put them in there as well, depending on whom they beat in the previous rounds.

 But that will be a very close call.

 Through February 25, St. John’s was ranked number 68 in the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI), which measures and ranks teams based on overall record and strength of schedule.  Only 64 teams make it to the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Given its record and current RPI, St. John’s should almost be a lock to make the WNIT, regardless of how they do in the conference tourney in Milwaukee.

St. John’s finds itself in familiar territory entering the tournament.

They are fifth in their conference with a Big East record of 11-7, the same record as the previous two seasons in which they were fourth in the standings.

 Nationally-ranked  DePaul, Creighton, and Marquette are the number one, two, and three seeds, with the Wildcats whom they will face at No. 4.

Both DePaul and Creighton are ranked in the Top 25 by the USA TODAY Coaches Poll.

Losing starting center Imani Littleton to a season-ending knee injury a few games ago, makes winning the Big East Championship a tough task for the Red Storm, who were swept by Villanova during the season.

 One that is doable, albeit closer to a long shot.

This season St. John’s has lost both games to each of Creighton, DePaul, and the Wildcats.

 In one of the two games against each of DePaul, Creighton, and Villanova, St. John’s lost by narrow differentials. And the Red Storm beat Marquette in their two games.

But Littleton played in seven out of the eight games against these four teams.

Tough man-to-man defense has long been a trademark of Red Storm teams.

This season, among all the Big East teams, the Red Storm’s opponents averaged the lowest amount of points per game, at 55.5, and the lowest field goal percentage at 36.7%.

A rock-solid defender, junior guard Crystal Simmons comes off the bench to tighten up the defense, and often adds a spark a she dives on the floor for loose balls and gets steals.

The Red Storm defense is capable of creating transition opportunities by forcing turnovers and getting steals, as well as from making their opponents miss shots.

 In transition Tartamella’s team can move the ball up the court quickly resulting in good scoring opportunities, which if capitalized upon, can also change the momentum of a game.

 They need to create these opportunities in order to have a chance to win the Big East Tournament.  And they need to rebound.

Walker, junior forward/center Maya Singleton, freshman guard Alisha Kebbe and reserve sophomore forward Jordan Agustus can hold their own on the boards.  But without Littleton, keeping it up for three games in three days could be tough due to fatigue. Or foul trouble.

In the Red Storm’s half-court offense, senior forward Jade Walker, the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.2 points a game on a field goal percentage of 47.7%, can shoot from medium range, as well as use her size to get deep inside position and then turn and score right near the basket.

 Walker has the softest touch and smoothest release on an outside shot from six to 13 feet you will ever see in any player – man or woman.  For the Red Storm these last three seasons, Jade has been the New Red.

Sophomore guard/forward Akina Wellere is the team’s best long distance shooter and league’s most accurate 3-point shooter at 47.7%.

 However, she averages only a little more than three 3-pointers a game.

 Nevertheless, her overall shooting percentage is solid at 43.9%.

Kebbe has started to find her mark offensively. In her last three games, she shot 3 for 6, 4 for 7, and 5 for 9.

Freshmen guard, Andrayah Adams has only averaged 11.5minutes per game this year, but her best game of the season came against Marquette at the Al McGuire Center.

The hoops on that court may be to her liking as she shot 9 for 15 from the field, including 6 out of 9 from the three-point line.

One thing is for sure though.

 As her college basketball career enters its final weeks, Aaliyah Lewis will keep playing hard and with an unrelenting love of the game, right down to the final buzzer. And I expect her teammates to be inspired by her example.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Guru's Ivy Overniter: Penn Regains 2-Game Lead; Harvard Qualifies; 3-Way Fight for 4th

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Will the new four-team Ivy tournament to be held in two weeks at the Palestra become the playoff Penn could have done without?

Until the men’s and women’s winners emerge with the automatic bids to the NCAA tournament that discussion will intensify on the women’s side in direct proportion to the Quakers’ grip on the top spot in the standings.

Coach Mike McLaughlin’s squad put another weekend sweep in the books, celebrating senior night on Saturday with a competitive 68-59 win over Columbia in this legendary 90-year-old treasured venue that will house the Ivy festivities.

For the second straight day a couple of unexpected upsets impacted the Quakers (17-7, 10-1 Ivy), this time in returning the two-game breathing level over Princeton (14-10, 8-3 Ivy), which was reduced by one a week ago when Penn lost at Yale.

 Tournament wise, following Penn and Princeton claiming the first two spots on Friday night, Harvard put Brown’s playoff chances in jeopardy with a slim 66-63 victory at the Bears’ Pizzotola Center Saturday afternoon in Providence, R.I., that enabled the Crimson (20-5, 8-4) to become the third participant.

Since Brown (14-11, 5-7) and Cornell (15-10, 6-6) were tied for the fourth and final spot at the day’s outset, the Bears’ loss fired up the Big Red to come back off the loss to Penn here Friday and win at Princeton 55-44 in Jadwin Gym in Central New Jersey take a one-game lead in the spot.

The other part of that dynamic was ending the Tigers’ eight-game run following an 0-2 start on the Ivy slate and moving them back to the two-game gap behind Penn.

Yale beat Dartmouth 58-44 at home in the John J. Lee Ampitheater in New Haven, Conn., to eliminate the Big Green (7-18, 2-10) as the Bulldogs (14-11, 5-7) moved into a fifth-place tie with Brown, a game behind Cornell.

The Penn victory here over Columbia formally dropped the Lions (13-12, 3-9) out of the race.

Way back in the preseason, a glance at the Ivy schedule concerning Penn and Princeton showed the most perilous part for each on the back end with each visiting Harvard next weekend besides the Dartmouth stop and then meeting each other here the following Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m.

But with Penn’s hold on first and not much left, should Harvard beat Princeton Friday night and Penn win at Dartmouth, the race will be over before the Quakers even get back into Cambridge, Mass., Saturday from Friday’s visit to the Big Green up north in Hanover, N.H.

As it is, Princeton and Harvard are likely to meet in one of the semifinals, relieving Penn of meeting one of the two fierce opponents in the tourney.

In the old days dating back as recent as last season, the focus on the league race right now would be on the three remaining contenders for the title won in the regular season and automatic bid. But with three more teams alive into next weekend for the fourth spot, that’s more attention to deeper in the standings than ever before.

According to Penn coach Mike McLaughlin, all this evaluation is great for the league but tying his team’s situation to the picture is not a discussion he needs to have for the moment.

“It’s great,” McLaughlin said of the suspense for the last qualifier. “The battle who’s going to get that fourth spot, it switches, it turns. They have a weekend to battle it out.

“I think it’s cool. It’s brought a lot of excitement, a lot of interest in our league, Megan (Columbia coach Megan Griffith) and I were talking about it before the game – I’ve never see people talk about a playoff so much as this one.

“I’ve been around basketball a long time and played in playoffs but this seems – the magnitude for what this is growing into, it’s got a chance to be pretty special for the eight (men’s and women’s) teams that get here.”

That’s all well and good but just don’t get the Penn coach all caught up in the numbers concerning his squad.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t look into the standings but that does not factor into what we do,” McLaughlin said. “That’s not the way we coach them. We’ll add them up at the end.

“We’re aware of what’s going on. But that doesn’t change our motivation or level of thinking.”

That operation involves getting Penn ready for a fine tuned machine to purr over the haul ahead and he believes they succeeded making adjustments from last weekend’s  setback to Yale.

“We had a good week. We really made some steps on the offensive end tonight,” McLaughlin said after tucking a season sweep of Columbia away to go with the 2-0 job completed Friday on Cornell.

“Defensively, we were really working together and Sydney (Stipanovich) was really good working the middle this weekend. A great league. To get out of here with two wins. Really proud of the group.”

The night began on a bittersweet note with the farewell to the senior trio of Kasey Chambers, Jackie Falconer and Stipanovich, the new Ivy career shot-blocking leader, who was the final addition to get Penn to its first Ivy title under McLaughlin three seasons ago and became a mainstay of making the Quakers a constant threat to foes outside the league.

The major damage against Columbia was delivered by junior Michelle Nwokedi, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds to go with a pair of assists, two steals and and a blocked shot. Chambers had 11 points, and Anna Ross scored 11 points.

Nwokedi, Ross and Chambers each fired two of the nine three-pointers connected by the Quakers.

Camille Zimmerman was again unstoppable for Columbia, scoring 31 points, while Tori Oliver scored 11.

Looking ahead to the finish and the tournament leading to a return to the NCAA for the third time in four years, McLaughlin said, “There’s growth to be had and I think they know that. We can get better before we do this again in the playoffs.

“That’s what I’m impressed with. They want to get better. There’s growth to be had. We haven’t hit our ceiling as a group. There’s no doubt we want to win this regular season outright. It’s important to them.

“The goals were to get to the playoffs. To win the league outright if possible. Their composure is really there. The will to win. They understanding how to win. It’s pretty strong in this group. It’s led by the seniors, Kasey’s a leader and Sydney’s a winner. And Anna Ross and Michelle Nwokedi have won a lot of games now. They know how to win.

“We’re going to enjoy this right now. Ten out of 11 in our league. One of the top eight conferences in the country, RPI. It’s pretty special.”

Cornell 55, Princeton 44 – The visiting Big Red knowing it could move into sole possession for fourth place and the last available berth in the Ivy tourney came motivated, though more work remains next weekend to assure the Big Red a place at the Palestra.

Despite the setback, the Tigers already claimed one of the berths Friday night but the loss put them two games behind Penn with three remaining so it will take help to finish first in the standings.

Cornell got stronger at the finish launching a 6-0 run at the outset in the fourth period in which it would outscore the Tigers 17-6 across the final 10 minutes.

 Princeton got within three and it looked like perhaps the Tigers might pull out another narrow win as they had to beat Harvard and Yale in Jadwin, but Megan LeDuc gave the Big Red added comfort with a 3-pointer that sent them on to a 49-41 lead before hitting six free throws to emerge with the victory.

"We didn’t do schematically anything differently,” Cornell coach Dayna Smith said of the final stanza. “The biggest difference was forcing them into tough shots and when they didn’t finish we got some big rebounds.”

Nicholle Astin had 14 points for Cornell, Nia Marshall scored 12 and had 13 rebounds, LeDuc scored 11, and Kerri Morgan scored 11.

Marshall also set a program record for her school, becoming the career scorer when she passed the 1,650 from Karen Walker in 1991.

Leslie Robinson scored 12 for Princeton, while Vanessa Smith scored 10, and freshman Bella Alarie had nine points and eight rebounds while her 45th block of the season, which came in the second period, set a new standard for incoming freshmen.

As mentioned, Princeton heads to Harvard, Friday, and then to Dartmouth the next night before returning and ending the regular season at Penn, March 7.

The path to the Palestra for Cornell is in its own hands, hosting Yale, Friday night at 6 p.m. in Newman Arena, and Brown, Saturday at 5 p.m.

Harvard 66, Brown 63 – The Crimson taking a road win clinched the third available berth for the league playoffs and put the host Bears in a difficult spot to also get to the Palestra.

Katie Benzan had a career-high 24 points, while Destiny Nunley had 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Jeannie Boehm had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

A Kirby Porter steal with less than a minute enabled the Crimson to go ahead, which occurred when Benzan scored on a jump shot with 42 seconds left in regulation to give Harvard the lead.

Brown, after an exchange of treys, went for the lead but Bohem blocked Janie White’s three-point attempt and Porter grabbed the rebound to seal the win.

Erika Steeves scored 21 points for the Bears and Janie White had nine rebounds.

Harvard returns home to finish next weekend in Lavietes Pavilion hosting Princeton Friday night at 7 p.m. and Penn Saturday at 6.

It’s moot whether Harvard finishes second or third since the Crimson would meet Princeton in the same semifinal game in the tournament.

Brown heads to Cornell and Columbia needing to win both to have a chance to make the fourth spot.

Yale 58, Dartmouth 44 – The Bulldogs won their third straight, completing a sweep, but failed to gain ground on Cornell, which upset Princeton, but did move into a tie with Brown for fifth off the Bears’ loss to Harvard.

Yale opened with a 16-5 run and held on the rest of the way.

Meghan McIntyre had 12 points for the Bulldogs and Jen Berkowitz scored 11.

“To come back after an emotional, hard fought win last night, I was proud of the way we came out and threw the first punch tonight,” Yale coach Allison Guth said.

Next weekend, Yale must sweep their way in, beating Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., Friday night, and then win at Columbia Saturday.

Kate Letkewicz had 27 for Dartmouth.

Ivy Madness


Team. W. L. W.  L. G.B.  GR
*Penn 17-7  10-1. --  3
*Pctn. 14-10. 8-3. 2.0 3
*Hrvd. 20-5  8-4  2.5 2
Crnll 15-10 6-6  4.5 2
Brwn 14-11 5-7 5.5 2
Yale 14-11 5-7 5.5 2
x-Colm 13-12 3-9 7.5 2
x-Dtmth 7-18 2-10 8.5 2
*Clinched Berth

Also Rans
(Ivy Records Only)

Team W-L G.B. GR

Crnell 6-6 – 2
Brwn 5-7 1.0 2
Yale 5-7 1.0 2

Remaining Schedule

Friday, Mar. 3

*Penn at Dartmouth, 7 p.m.
*Princeton at *Harvard, 7 p.m.
Yale at Cornell, 6 p.m.
Brown at Columbia, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Mar. 4

*Penn at *Harvard, 6 p.m.
*Princeton at Dartmouth, 6 p.m.
Yale at Columbia, 6 p.m.
Brown at Cornell, 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Mar. 7

*Princeton at *Penn, 7 p.m.

What Teams Must Do To Finish

Penn: To finish first controls its destiny. The Quakers can clinch as early as Friday beating Dartmouth if Harvard beats Princeton or can clinch Saturday by sweeping both games ahead of the Princeton visit. If Penn was swept and Princeton sweeps New England then it becomes head-to-head March 7 at the Palestra as it was in Princeton two of the last three seasons.

Princeton: To finish first, the Tigers need Penn to lose its last three and Princeton win its last three, including the head-to-head with the Quakers at the Palestra on March 7.

Harvard: To finish first, the Crimson must sweep Penn and Princeton and need to find tiebreak because of the schedule they couldn’t win outright.

Cornell: Will need to check with league on tie breaks cause that may have to happen for somebody. But initially, in the Big Red’s destiny. if they sweep Yale and Brown, they are fourth. On Friday, if they beat Yale and Columbia beats Brown.
Brown: Must sweep Cornell and Columbia and Yale beats Cornell and loses to Columbia.

Yale: Must sweep Cornell and Columbia and Brown beats Cornell and loses to Columbia.

That’s it.


Guru's Overniter: Temple Clinches 2nd in American While St. Joe and La Salle Win A-10 Openers

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – It didn’t take No. 23 Temple much time Saturday afternoon to show that the Owls were none the worse for wear following Wednesday night’s drubbing up at unbeaten Connecticut.

In fact, coach Tonya Cardoza’s group delighted a senior day crowd in McGonigle Hall and did an outstanding job on Cincinnati  impersonating the Huskies’ style in the opening quarter throwing the Bearcats a defensive O-for-10 no hitter from the field on the way to a 23-2 advantage and eventual 88-64 victory in the American Athletic Conference.

Though one game remains in the regular season when the Owls (22-6, 12-3 AAC) visit Central Florida Monday night, Temple officially fulfilled the expectations it received from the conference coaches in the preseason poll by clinching second place.

The American tourney begins Friday at the Mohegan Sun near New London, Conn., and Temple will have a bye.

What the Owls may not have resulting from the only damper against Cincinnati (16-12, 7-8) is junior guard Donnaizha Fountain, who has been part of Temple’s three-guard tandem attack but went down with an unspecified leg injury with two minutes left in the first period.

Fountain, who is averaging 14.6 points per game, was seen outside McGonigle Hall navigating on crutches under her own power after the game.  Official word wasn’t available after the game and nothing had been released by the house as of Saturday night.

While Fountain’s potential absence from both the conference and likely NCAA tourneys just ahead could be cause for dismay, compensation may be available in her absence if Saturday’s performance is an indicator.

Tanaya Atkinson came off the bench to score a career-high 30 points and also grabbed 13 rebounds while Alliya Butts was lights out shooting 5-for-10 from beyond the arc on the way to 23 points.

Feyonda Fitzgerald, one of the departing seniors along with Ruth Sherrill, Safiya Martin and Monasia Bolduc filled the boxscore, as they say, shooting 6-for-11 from the field, including 4-for-6 on 3-point attempts, and dealing 11 assists while scoring 18 points.

“This was a good win,” Cardoza said. “You always want a good bounce back coming off an UConn loss and I thought that first quarter was something really special, holding them to zero field goals. That’s the way you want to play.

“And then in the second quarter, they played really good basketball. Jamelle (Elliott) is always going to make sure her team competes.”

Elliott is a former UConn star who spent a long stint with Cardoza as assistants to Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma with the Huskies.

“They really came back out in that second quarter and made some shots and made it a little closer.But I like the way we competed.”

Shanice Johnson had 15 points for Cincinnati, including connecting on three of the Bearcats’ five 3-pointers, and Sam Rogers scored 13.

Temple out rebounded Cincinnati, 41-27, including 14-7 on the offensive glass and dominated second chance points 15-6.

“Just for our seniors to always go out with a win is always good.”

Fitzgerald became the first player at Temple to deal 600 assists and recently passed Candice Dupree, the WNBA All-Star, into second place all-time in scoring with a pre-Saturday total of 1,723 points.

Saint Joseph’s and La Salle Take Atlantic Ten Openers

A Big 5 team is headed to the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals but which one will be decided on Friday in Richmond, Va.,  when sixth-seeded Saint Joseph’s and La Salle meet a third time this season in one of the four quarterfinal games at the Richmond Coliseum.

The third-seeded Hawks (16-13), who must be considered the overall dark horse in the tourney, swept the sixth-seeded Explorers (17-12) in their two meetings during the season.

The top two teams No. 1 Dayton and No. 2 George Washington earned byes and then as the final standings were set, a tie-breaker with preseason favorite Saint Louis bumped Saint Joseph’s into the third seed.

After the two bye teams were determined, they both were 13-3 in conference play by the way, the next six got to host games this weekend with three on Saturday and three more coming on Sunday.

Saint Joseph's had the easier time at home in Hagan Arena beating No. 14 Rhode Island 77-51 while La Salle held off No. 11 St. Bonaventure, 73-70.

In the third game, No. 7 Duquesne rallied to oust No. 10 George Mason 66-55.

On Sunday, in a crosstown game in Richmond, eighth-seeded VCU (15-14) will host ninth-seeded Richmond (13-16), while No. 5 Fordham ((20-10) will host No. 12 Davidson (6-22), and No. 4 Saint Louis (22-7) will host No. 13 Massachusetts (9-20).

Looking first at the two local games, on Hawk Hill, Adashia Franklyn, the daughter of all-time Temple great Marilyn Stephens and a star last summer in the league in Hatboro in the suburbs, scored 23 points.

The quarterfinal involving the Philly teams will be the last one Friday, tipping off at 7 p.m.

The Saint Joseph’s game was well under control in the Hawks’ favor heading into the fourth quarter against Rhode Island (6-23) with a 55-37.

Franklyn, who tied her previous career high for points, had seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

Chelsea Woods scored 17 points, while Alyssa Monaghan had 13 points and four assists.

Charise Wilson had a team high 13 points for URI.

The Hawks have won five straight and after a 53-44 loss at George Washington in early January that dropped them to 3-11 overall, they have gone 13-2. One of those two losses was a narrow result at Dayton in overtime.

Meanwhile, at La Salle, which also got off to a bad season start, the Explorers outscored the Bonnies 19-8 in the first quarter, only for the visitors to rally with a 24-9 effort in the next period and a halftime lead of 32-28.

The home team had a slim 72-70 lead with nine seconds left  before Adreanna Miller hit one of two foul shots made it 73-70 La Salle.

Miller had 20 points for the winners while Lisa Mintzer scored 18. Jasmine Alston had 11 points and 13 assists,

Mariah Ruff, who missed a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime, scored 22 points for the Bonnies, while Gabby Richmond finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

In the other game Saturday, Amadea Szamosi had 14 points and six rebounds for Duquesne (16-14) st the Dukes’ Palombo Center in Pittsburgh.

Tiffany Padgett had a game-high 20 points and Kara Wright scored 18 for George Mason (13-17).

In the quarterfinals Friday, Dayton will host the Richmond/VCU winner at 11 a.m., Saint Louis or Massachusetts will meet Fordham or Davidson at 2 p.m., followed by Duquesne and George Washington at 4:30 p.m. Before La Salle and Saint Joseph’s wraps the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m.

The Saturday semifinals will air at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network and the championship will be Sunday at noon on ESPNU.

Looking Ahead: Rider Goes for MAAC Co-Championship

Quinnipiac beat Canisius at home Saturday 62-49 to finish with the one seed in next weekend’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tourney in Albany, N.Y.

However, Rider can claim a co-championship for the regular season if the Broncs win at Fairfield Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Connecticut and the Guru will be on the scene.

Meanwhile Villanova is already locked into the fourth seed in next week’s Big East tourney in Milwaukee but the Wildcats are already in the town finishing up at Marquette, which has the third seed.

Villanova in the tourney will open against St. John’s whom the Wildcats swept during the season.

DePaul and Creighton are tied for first with one game remaining but if it finishes that way DePaul gets the No. 1 seed.

In the Big Ten Rutgers finishes up hosting Ohio State while Penn State hosts Michigan.

Drexel is at Hofstra going for a season sweep while Delaware is at Charleston in the next to the last games in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Nationally, in the Atlantic Coast Conference in a big one Florida State is at  Notre Dame.

Oregon State will be trying to lock up the top seed in the Pac-12 tourney finishing by hosting California while Stanford visit Oregon.

And for now that’s the wrap.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guru's Ivy Overniter: Penn and Princeton Punch Ivy Tickets But Logjam Below

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Considering they have been the 1-2 punch the past seven seasons in winning Ivy championships the old traditional way, perhaps it was appropriate with some outside help Friday night that defending champion Penn followed by second place Princeton were the first to grab two of the four available spots in the brand new league tournament which will be held in two weekends from now here at the Palestra.

The Ivy four-team men’s tourney will also be here right along side the women with four games on Saturday and then the championship doubleheader to send automatic qualifiers on the way to the NCAAs.

Penn, the unanimous preseason favorite in the league’s media poll, bounced back off last weekend’s upset loss at Yale to make a defensive stand and ride Michelle Nwokedi’s strong double double performance of 18 points, including the junior’s 1,000th, and 10 rebounds along with four blocks to a 47-34 win over Cornell.

“One of them was to get here,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said of the goals by his team for the season. “And now that we’re here we can look at what we want to do once we got here.

“But I’m really proud of them. They wanted to get here, they wanted to represent Penn here in the tournament.”

Of course finishing first in the standings and winning every game is still paramount even though the new playoff introduces a new rigor to the get to the NCAA tournament after the two-month weekend gauntlet of back-to-back games.

“We’re built the way we are,” McLaughlin said of finishing out the schedule. “We’re going to grind it out. Maybe if I have someone that needs a little more rest, I could look at that a little differently but right now we’ll see how it plays out.

“It doesn’t matter where we seed, I’m just trying to get this team to play a little better every time out. I thought we defended so good tonight and offensively we’re still a work in progress but that will take care of what you said (if the Quakers continue to get better).

“We want to win every time out. But that would be great at the end that we won this league. It’s one of the things we set out to do and with four games left, a long journey left, and a lot of basketball left.”

In the seed race alongside getting to the tourney, the win kept the Quakers (16-7, 9-1 Ivy) a game in front of Princeton, which ruined Columbia's Megan Griffith's pseudo-homecoming at Jadwin Gym with a 78-54 thumping of the Lions (13-11, 3-8), pushing them to the brink of elimination from the race.

Technically, Griffith’s real homecoming was when the native of King of Prussia left Princeton coach Courtney Banghart’s staff after last season to take the job in New York at her alma mater.

The win Friday night by Princeton (14-9, 8-2) completed a sweep of Columbia while Penn in its win did likewise to the Big Red (14-10, 5-6), which offset last weekend’s sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard to climb back into the Ivy tourney contention.

The help from elsewhere alluded to at the outset came from the other two games in a pair of upsets that had Yale ride last weekend’s momentum off the win over the Quakers to stun  visiting Harvard 57-52 in John J. Lee Ampitheater in New Haven, Conn., while last-place Dartmouth won at Brown 92-88 in overtime at the Pizzitola Sports Center  in Providence, R.I.

Thus Harvard (19-5, 7-4), which at one point after a season-opening loss had tied a program record with 16 straight wins, has since lost four of its last seven. The Crimson, who now visit Brown in a key game for both teams Saturday night, are still in good shape in terms of making the tournament but have now dropped three games behind Penn and two behind Princeton, in the race to finish first, which will still be acknowledged as the championship by the league.

Harvard, which hosts Princeton and Penn next weekend, remains two games ahead of Brown (14-10, 5-6) and Cornell, which are tied for fourth and the last tourney spot.

Thus the Big Red could have moved ahead of the Bears were it not for Penn here and Cornell still must deal with host Princeton Saturday night while Columbia will be here.

And Yale (13-11, 4-7), with the two improbable wins, stays alive within a game of Brown and Cornell, whom the Bulldogs visit next weekend along with Columbia before finishing hosting Brown, who beat Yale last month.

Of course all of this will have to be re-addressed after Saturday’s games.

As for what actually occurred on the floor beyond the ramifications and implications in the game here, Nwokedi had a hot hand with 16 of her 18 points in the first half where Penn put distance behind Cornell off a 17-8 second period that thrust the Quakers to an advantage of as much as 23 points in the third and they ended up holding a lead the entire game.

"Positionally, I knew where (Nwokedi) was supposed to be so I knew she was fundamentally solid,” McLaughlin said. “She willed herself at the end. She was really fatigued in the last five minutes but we had to get to the finish line.”

Nwokedi said last week’s loss did not hamper preparations for this weekend’s continuation of the race.

“We threw it out,” Nwokedi said. “We’ve been playing the best basketball at home. So coming home it was just like comforting and this huge crowd was great so we just fed off everyone and got the win.”

On making her 1,000th point, which occurred in the big second period, Nwokedi said, “I actually had no idea but it’s just an honor. I couldn’t have done it without any of my teammates. Being able to come out here and get the win and getting the tournament berth just makes it a little better.

“We knew everything was going to have to be 100 percent defensively because as you can see we didn’t score a lot. But we were able to set the tone defensively and were able to get the win because of it.”

Cornell was held to 23.5 percent shooting from the field.

 Nwokedi make a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers that gave her teammates a lift moving forward.

She was the only Penn player in double figures, though Kasey Chambers scored nine while Sydney Stipanovich had six points, eight rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists.

Though as of last Saturday at Yale she became the new all-time Ivy career leader in blocked shots, Stipanovich did not have any against Cornell.

Penn’s defense was such that Cornell’s Megan LeDuc was the only Big Red player to score in double figures and she and Kerri Moran shared team rebounding honors with seven, each.

After Columbia visits Saturday night for the 7 p.m. tip, Penn visits Dartmouth and Harvard next Friday and Saturday and then finishes up hosting Princeton Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m.

Several times in recent years the final Princeton game was needed to win for the Quakers to claim the top spot in the standings so next weekend will tell if that’s still in play.

Princeton 78, Columbia 54 – As the Tigers continue to build momentum toward a big conclusion, Courtney Banghart’s bunch  had four players in double figures for the fourth straight game.

Vanessa Smith and freshman Bella Alarie each scored 15 points while Leslie Robinson and Taylor Brown each scored 11.

Camille Zimmerman had a game-high 27 points and became Columbia’s all time leading scorer for a single season, eclipsing the the 521 scored by Judie Lomax in the 2009-10 season.

Saturday night’s game hosting Cornell tips off at 6 p.m.

Yale 57, Harvard 52 – The Bulldogs avoided elimination and got back in the race for one of the two remaining spots in the Ivy tournament by upsetting the Crimson as Jen Berkowitz matched her career high for the second straight game with 26 points, repeating her performance last Saturday against visiting Penn.

In the closing frame, Yale led 54-52 with 16 seconds left when Mary Ann Santucci missed a free throw for the Bulldogs but Berkowitz kept the ball alive and Elizabeth Haley got the offensive rebound.

She was quickly fouled but made just one of two attempts for a three-point Bulldogs lead.

Harvard freshman Katie Benzan then got in position to launch a three that could force the game in overtime but Yale’s Lena Munzer blocked the attempt with five seconds left in regulation.

She was fouled and went to the line and sank both shots to give Yale the win.

“It was a total team effort and I was so proud of how our team fought,” said Yale coach Allison Guth. “We played with poise through Harvard’s second half runs.

Yale trailed by five midway through the fourth period but rallied with a 7-0 run for the lead.

The home team forced Harvard into 20 turnovers.

Benzan had a team-high 14 points for the Crimson.

Yale hosts Dartmouth Saturday at 7:30 p.m. while Harvard heads to Brown for a 4 p.m. game.

Dartmouth 92, Brown 88, overtime – The Bears lost a chance to move into sole possession of fourth place and now are locked in a tie with Cornell and Yale is one game behind.

Shayna Mehta led four other Brown players scoring in double figures, with 20 points.

The Bears scored six of the last seven points in regulation to force the game into an extra period and avoid an upset which seemed possible when they went ahead 84-80 with just under three minutes left in the extra session.

But Dartmouth then surged with a 12-4 run to gain the upset.

Behind Mehta’s scoring, Brown’s Erica Steeves had 19 points and seven rebounds while freshman Justine Gaziano scored 17, Taylor Will had 15 points, and Mary Butler scored 10.

Dartmouth’s Andi Norman had 22 points and nine rebounds, Kate Letkewicz scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Oliva Smith had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

The Big Green shot 54.1 percent from the field in the extra period, made all 3-point attempts, and connected on 8 of 10 foul shot attempts.

The two teams split the season series and now Dartmouth moves on to try and stop Yale’s budding resurgence.

Ivy Madness

The shootaround schedule for Friday on the eve of the tournament has been set with the top seed, at this hour, Penn, going from 9:10 a.m. till 9:50 followed by the opposing No. 4 seed between 10:10 a.m. And 10:50.

The entire men’s participants follow with the No. 1 seed beginning 11:10, the No. 4 seed at 12:10, the No. 2 seed at 1:10, and the No. 3 seed at 2:10.

Then then women’s seeds conclude with the two seed between 3:10 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. followed by the three seed between 4:10 and 4:50.

The entire day is open to the public.

On Saturday the women’s 1-4 semifinals will tip at 11 a.m. on ESPN3 and the women’s 2-3 semifinal will tip at 6:30 p.m. On ESPN3. On Sunday’ the women’s championship will tip at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

In terms of the preseason poll, the media got the first three picks right as of now, Penn, Princeton, and Harvard, and then went with Cornell, which is almost right, tied for fourth.

Dartmouth, in last, was picked fifth; Yale in sixth was picked six, Brown in a fourth place tie was picked seventh, and Columbia, in seventh, was picked eighth.


Team. W. L. W.  L. G.B.  GR
*Penn 16-7  9-1. --  4
*Pctn. 14-9. 8-2. 1.0 4
Hrvd. 19-5  7-4  3.0 3
Crnll 14-10 5-6  4.5 3
Brwn 14-10 5-6 4.5 3
Yale 13-11 4-7 5.5 3
Colm 13-11 3-8 6.5 3
Dtmth 7-17 2-9 7.5 3
*Clinched Berth

Also Rans

(Ivy Records Only)

Team W-L G.B. GR

Crnell 5-6 – 3
Brwn 5-6 – 3
Yale 4-7 1.0 3
Clm 3-8 2.0 3
Dtm 2-9 3.0 3

Remaining Schedule

Saturday, Feb. 25

Columbia at *Penn, 7 p.m.
Cornell at *Princeton, 6 p.m.
Harvard at Brown, 4 p.m
Dartmouth at Yale, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Mar. 3

Penn at Dartmouth, 7 p.m.
Princeton at Harvard, 7 p.m.
Yale at Cornell, 6 p.m.
Brown at Columbia, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Mar. 4

Penn at Harvard, 6 p.m.
Princeton at Dartmouth, 6 p.m.
Yale at Columbia, 6 p.m.
Brown at Cornell, 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Mar. 7

Princeton at Penn, 7 p.m.



Guru's Overniter: Rider Sails to Ninth Straight on Senior Night; A-10 Tourney Opens at La Salle and Saint Joe

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Rider senior night had the sweet smell of success most of the Broncs’ Cinderella season has had to date this one being an easy 62-41 win over Niagara Friday night in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game played at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Still without Robin Perkins due to a nagging ankle injury, the absence was again no problem for coach Lynn Milligan’s squad.

Julia Duggan, one of the outgoing seniors honored, had another double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds to climb back into a first-place tie with Quinnipiac on the final weekend.

The Bobcats, who swept the Broncs early in the season, host Canisius Saturday, and a win means if Rider (22-6, 16-3) wins at Fairfield Sunday in Connecticut, the only MAAC team they lost to other than the Quinnipiac sweep, the two will be co-champs.

The Fairfield win earlier this season in Lawrenceville was 68-67 in overtime.

Obviously if the Bobcats lose Saturday and the Broncs win Sunday Rider wins the conference outright and gets the number one seed going into next weekend’s MAAC tournament in Albany, N.Y.

Rider will be a two-seed if the Broncs and Quinnipiac are co-champs but they can’t be any lower, even should they lose.

Friday’s triumph was Rider’s ninth straight and it seemed like yesterday back on the season opener when the Broncs romped at Princeton, there was wonderment at just what might suddenly has blossomed in Central New Jersey.

“This is a special group,” Milligan said of Duggan and her three other outgoing seniors from what is her tenth season with the program. “We always talk about leaving your mark, leaving your legacy and leaving the place better than you found it and these young ladies have done that.

“They care about this team and each other. They lead this team and they give me everything they’ve got every day.”

In addition to Duggan’s ninth double double, second in the MAAC, Stella Johnson scored 14 points and Kamila Hoskova scored 13 points.

Victoria Rampado had 12 points for Niagara (8-20, 5-14), while Kaylee Stroemple scored 19 points.

Drexel and Delaware Fall to the CAA Front-Runners

The local duo of Drexel and Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association each found home was of little comfort in each hosting one of the first-place tandem of defending champion James Madison and Elon, the surprise team of sorts in the conference.

Drexel held its senior night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center before playing James Madison and the only satisfaction the Dragons had was reducing a blowout to a final 74-64 result that at least looked a little more competitive.

Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark fell to Elon 74-64.

Back in Philadelphia, trailing by 21 in the first half to the Dukes (21-6, 14-2 CAA), the Dragons (20-7, 11-5) got to within three late but no closer in the game which featured the first Drexel  senior class to have three 1,000-point career scorers.

Sarah Curran, part of that trio, had 14 while Kelsi Lidje had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Freshman Bailey Greenberg and Sarah Woods each scored 11 while Meghan Creighton, another senior, scored seven points.

Drexel, which has two shots to set a season pre-conference tournament win record at 21, heads to Hofstra Sunday in Hempstead on Long Island, looking to sweep the Pride for the first time since 2008-09 when the Dragons won the CAA, ironically, at James Madison, which will host this season’s tournament the same weekend in two weeks as the Ivy League.

Coach Denise Dillon’s group finishes at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., on Wednesday.

The Dragons are locked into the third seed and with JMU and Elon tied for first, the Dukes sweep gets them the No. 1 seed and for Drexel, the Phoenix could be the lesser of two Evils as the third seed if all the high seeds advance.

Precious Hall, likely the CAA player of the year, was unstoppable again, this time scoring 24 to move into second all-time on the JMU career charts. Amber Porter had 15 points and Hailee Barron scored 10.

JMU finishes up at home for its final two games hosting William & Mary Sunday at the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va., and then holds senior night Wednesday, hosting College of Charleston.

In Delaware, Nicole Enabosi had her 14th double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while Erika Brown was the top scorer with 14 points for the Blue Hens (14-13, 8-8 CAA), who will be either the fourth, fifth, or sixth seed in the conference tournament.

Essence Baucom and. Jennifer Rhodes each scored 11 points for Elon (22-6, 14-2), which is setting program records for wins this season.

"We kept ourselves in the game tonight with our rebounding,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “That was a major key if we were going to try and steal one from the top team in the CAA.

“I thought we really battled on the boards. We had some good looks but we just weren’t able to knock them down. Elon is a veteran team that plays really well together. We hung around, but we just couldn’t get it down to a one-possession game to put some pressure on them.”

Delaware finishes up at Charleston Sunday before returning home Wednesday to host Towson, which gave JMU both its losses.

DePaul Explodes Over Villanova

Villanova’s calendar may have said it was February in Chicago but all anybody really cared about in DePaul’s balliwick Friday was the return of January, as in Jessica January, the Blue Demon’s top star who had been sidelined the last two months.

Even though January was back, the star who emerged while she was gone Brooke Schulte continued to be a force in a 77-50 win over Villanova in a Big East game at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

Schulte had 17 points for DePaul (23-6, 15-2 Big East), while January scored 13 and Chante Stonewall had 12 points. Jacqui Grant offered 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Wildcats (16-12, 11-6), after two straight overtime wins at homde, went into the final weekend on the road hopeful of slipping into third place prior to next weekend’s tournament in Milwaukee after it had previously been held in suburban Rosemont and then at DePaul.

But a 19-2 run early in the second half shattered some of Villanova’s dreams.

Freshman Mary Gedaka was the only Villanova player to score in double figures, getting 12 points as the Wildcats were held to 29 percent from the field.

The Wildcats are in fourth place one game behind Marquette heading to finish with the Warriors on Sunday.

DePaul, which hosts Georgetown, and Creighton, which beat Xavier in Cincinnati 67-57, are tied for first going into the final day on the schedule. Marquette, which upset DePaul earlier in the week, beat Georgetown 80-70.

Creighton goes to Butler Sunday.

The National Roundup: Oregon State Gets Sweep of Stanford in Pac-12 Showdown

In a battle of two Top 10 teams in the Pac-12 conference at the top, No. 10 Oregon State edged No. 8 Stanford at home 50-47 in front of a program record crowd of 9,604, a sellout, in Gill Coliseum in Corvallis to clinch at least a share of the conference title.

“It seemed the whole state was at Gill tonight,” senior star Sydney Wiese said. “That definitely fueled us.”

Wiese had 22 points for the Beavers (26-3, 15-2 Pac-12), including five 3-pointers, while Kolbie Orum had 12 points.

Erica McCall and Alanna Smith each had nine points for Stanford (24-5, 14-3), which fell into a second-place tie with Washington.

The Cardinal had a four-game win streak snapped and took its first road loss of the season.

“They have an excellent team. They had a great crowd. It was very exciting. Great environment,” said Stanford coach Tara Va Derveer, who said similar things in a recent same-like atmosphere in Seattle where Stanford upset the Kelsey Plum-led Washington squad.

In 2014 the Beavers won the Pac-12 outright to end Stanford’s streak of 14 seasons having at least a piece of the top. Oregon State claimed a share last year and then won the conference tournament and advanced all the way to Indianapolis and the Women’s Final Four, as did Washington.

“This conference is so good, and for this team to do what they’ve done this year – with all the new people, with several teams that had more experience on the court than they did – the heart and grit and the togetherness that they’ve displayed to make this possible, that’s something to celebrate,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. “To go back-to-back-to-back in this conference? It’s unbelievable.”

Near the end Stanford held a 47-46 lead before OSU got it back with a layup. Karlie Samuelson, whose sister Katie Lou plays at UConn, missed a trey, and the Beavers scored two foul shots for the final score.

“We’re up one with how much time to go, 14 seconds?” VanDerveer said. “We didn’t find a way to win. It’s disappointing.”

Earlier this season, Oregon State beat Stanford 72-69 on Jan. 8 in double overtime at Maples Pavilion near Palo Alto.

The Beavers, who host California Sunday while Stanford goes to Oregon, get the top seed for the Pac -12 tourney in Seattle if both are tied.

Meanwhile No. 6 Texas lost its third straight, being taken down 70-66 at home in Austin to unranked Iowa State in a Big 12 game.  Last year the Cyclones didn’t get to the NCAA tourney for the first time in nine years.

Seanna Johnson scored 22 for the Cyclones (17-11, 8-9 Big 12).

“That’s one of the biggest wins we had in a long time,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “Texas has a Final Four caliber team.”

Bridget Carleton added 18 points to the Cyclone total.

“I’m concerned,” said Texas coach Karen Aston of the Longhorns (21-7, 14-3) struggles. “I ha ve to be. I’m the coach. It’s my responsibility if we played like we did tonight. We didn’t play with (steady) urgency. They had some urgency. They’re on the NCAA bubble.”

Brooke McCarty had 12 points for Texas while Brianna Taylor scored 11, and Joyner Holmes and Alecia Sutton had 10 each.

Looking Ahead: Atlantic 10 Tourney Begins at La Salle and Saint Joseph’s

Just like schedules in some large conferences backload into December for openers, so to is a piece of March Madness getting under way in late February.

Under the reconfigured Atlantic 10 tournament format, the top two teams – Dayton and George Washington – get byes straight to Richmond, Va., and next weekend’s quarterfinals, semifinals, and the championship.

The next six of the top eight are getting home games this weekend as No. 6 La Salle, finishing six slots better than the preseason forecast of 12, hosts Saint Bonaventure at 1 p.m. at Tom Gola Arena.

Saint Joseph’s, which shrugged aside an overall 2-11 start after 2017 arrived to suddenly pulsate a 12-4 run in the conference wars to land a third seed, will host Rhode Island at 2 p.m.

Should the Explorers and Hawks each advance they get to run into each other the third time after Saint Joseph’s had a sweep in the season series.

In one other game on Saturday, No. 10 George Mason visits No. 7 Duquesne.

On Sunday, No. 9 Richmond goes to No. 8 VCU, which is a cross-town trip, and the winner will meet No. 1 Dayton on Friday.

No. 5 Fordham hosts No. 12 Davidson on Sunday and the winner meets the other Sunday winner between host No. 4 Saint Louis, the preseason pick, and No. 13 Massachusets in Friday’s quarterfinals.

The Duquesne/George Mason winner on Friday meets No. 2 George Washington, which had the other bye.

Meanwhile, No. 23/20 Temple will try to shake off Wednesday’s mauling at No. 1 Connecticut by hosting Cincinnati on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game in McGonigle Hall.

Temple is trying to finish second in the conference and also build its resume for the NCAA types.

And that’s the wrap.