Category Archives: Women's Basketball

Baron is golden at Maccabiah Games

Alyssa Baron, fourth from right, led the USA women's basketball team to a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games earlier this month.

Penn senior Alyssa Baron, fourth from right, led the USA women’s basketball team to a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games this summer.

Like most athletes, Penn senior basketball player Alyssa Baron loves the Olympics.

The tradition. The pageantry. The competition. Everything.

So when she walked around a huge stadium with other athletes from across the world last month, she got chills. She understands, of course, that the opening ceremonies for the Maccabiah Games – an international athletic competition in Israel for Jewish athletes – don’t have the same kind of wide appeal and prestige of the Olympics. But, at least for a little while, she still felt like an Olympian.

“It totally felt like the Olympics,” Baron said. “Playing a part in something really similar is amazing.”

Even better: she brought home a gold medal.

Averaging a very impressive 14.6 points per game, Baron led the USA women’s basketball team to the Maccabiah title, capped by a 72-56 win over Israel in the gold-medal game.

“It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “Traveling to Israel, being in another country and being able to play basketball there – it was amazing.”

Baron had been to Israel once before with her family but enjoyed going back, this time with people her own age and even some fellow Penn students. Among the Penn athletes Baron saw while in Israel were former basketball teammate Jackie Kates, softball players Elysse Gorney and Sydney Turchin, swimmer Alex Alias and soccer goalie Max Kurtzman.

“The more to represent our school, the better,” she said.

But nobody performed better at the Maccabiah Games than Baron, who showcased the same basketball skills that’s made her one of the premier players in the Ivy League. Now, as her senior season approaches, the high-scoring guard hopes winning a gold medal in an international competition (where the rules and style of play are different) can help her win another title back home.

“I need an Ivy League championship ring to go with the gold medal,” she said.

Below you’ll find some photos from Baron’s stay in Israel, which she was kind enough to share.

Baron Israel 1Baron Israel 2Baron Israel 3Team USA

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Penn women’s basketball team doing new things every day

Penn women's hoops

What can we expect when the Penn women’s basketball team welcomes Cornell and Columbia to the Palestra for a pair of Ivy League games this weekend?

If recent history is any indication, it seems that, well, anything could happen.

If you haven’t been paying attention, here’s quick look at some of the historic and bizarre moments the Quaker women have gone accomplished/endured over the past couple of weeks.

  • On Tuesday, freshman guard Keiera Ray was named the National Player
    Keiera Ray had a breakout performance last weekend

    Keiera Ray had a breakout performance last weekend

    of the Week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association after scoring 50 points in two games. It was the first time anyone at Penn has ever won that award (male or female).

  • On Saturday, Penn beat Dartmouth by the score of 63-40, the largest margin of victory in 68 all-time meetings with the Big Green.
  • That win also clinched Penn’s first weekend sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth in nine years.
  • One night earlier, the Quakers beat Harvard for the first time in nine years, snapping a 17-game losing streak against the Crimson. It was also their first time beating Harvard at home since 2001.
  • Five days before that, Penn posted its second-largest win over Brown in program history, beating the Bears on the road, 65-48 even though the game was rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday and came at the end of an exhausting road trip to New England (more on that below). Penn now owns its first-ever three-game winning streak in Providence.
  • One night before knocking off Brown, the Quakers ended up playing in a
    Here is where Penn played Yale two weeks ago

    Here is where Penn played Yale two weeks ago

    PRACTICE GYM at Yale after a blizzard dropped three feet of snow on New Haven, forced the game to be rescheduled several times and caused a leak in Yale’s normal arena, the Lee Ampitheater. Throw in the fact that Penn’s team hotel was nearly evacuated the night before the game at 4 a.m. because of flooding and you have a few reasons why Penn dropped a 65-56 decision to the Bulldogs.

It’s actually a shame Penn had to play Yale in such unique circumstances because, led by junior Alyssa Baron, sophomore Kara Boneberger and freshman Ray, the Quakers are looking like an Ivy League title contender. Coach Mike McLaughlin’s squad is currently alone in second place, two games behind powerhouse Princeton.  Had Penn beaten Yale, perhaps Princeton might be feeling the heat even more.

But at least the Quakers were good sports about it their wild, snow-filled weekend in New England. Take a look at this cool video below to see what I mean.

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Matt Maloney, Kelly Greenberg inducted into Big 5 Hall of Fame

Matt Maloney C’95 and Kelly Greenberg both practically grew up going to Big 5 games at the Palestra. Maloney would watch Temple, where his dad, the late Jim Maloney, was a longtime assistant coach, while Greenberg followed La Salle, where her brother, father and uncle all played.

These days, however, Maloney and Greenberg don’t visit the historic gym on 33rd Street as much as they used to. Maloney, who teamed with Penn head coach Jerome Allen in the backcourt to lead the Quakers to a 42-0 Ivy League record from 1993-95, is currently enjoying his retirement from the NBA in Houston, while Greenberg, who starred as a La Salle player before coaching the Penn women from 1999 to 2004, is currently the head coach at Boston University.

But for a few hours on Tuesday, both returned to the place that meant so much to them as Maloney and Greenberg were inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. It’s a well-deserved honor and I was lucky enough to be there and write about it for CSNPhilly.com. For more on what they said about the induction, I’ve included quotes from both Maloney and Greenberg, which you can find below:

MATT MALONEY

On the induction: It’s incredible. I haven’t been back here in a decade. Once I walked through the door, a bunch of emotions came flooding back – not only from my days playing here but just going to games when I was younger. There’s just an incredible atmosphere and history and tradition of the Big 5, and it’s just incredible to be a part of right now.

On the legendary Matt Maloney-Jerome Allen backcourt: Well, I think it’s more Allen-Maloney. If you ask me, he was one of the best players in Big 5 history. He entailed everything you want in a great player. I just tried my best to not embarrass myself around him more than anything. He taught me so much about game. It was just an incredible experience playing with him. I’m just so happy he’s the coach here. I think it’s great for Penn basketball.

On the Allen/Maloney-led Penn teams that went 42-0 in the Ivy League: Our teams went on a great run and it wasn’t solely because of one or two people. And Fran Dunphy was a great coach. Being part of that ride was fun. Every game we played there wasn’t anyone we felt we couldn’t beat.

Maloney was the Ivy League Player of the Year in his senior season (1994-95)

On playing in the NBA from 1996-2003: I was incredibly fortunate. I know I worked hard to get the opportunity but it’s about someone giving you the opportunity above and beyond. [Former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich] gave me the opportunity to start and stuck with me for three years down there. And my teammates gave me all the confidence in the world.

On playing with Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler for the Rockets: They were the original Big 3, right? It was incredible. It was kind of easy. You dribble down, you throw the ball to one of them and just watch. It was a great experience. I was very fortunate to get the opportunity.

On possibly returning to basketball: I’m getting perspective on what I want to do. I don’t know. I definitely want to give back what my dad gave me – all the knowledge of basketball. Whatever opportunity comes up, I’ll consider and go from there. … Eventually, I will do something on the basketball level.

On Allen being Penn’s head coach: I was so excited. I knew it would be so good for Penn. He’s got so much knowledge of the game and he’s such a great leader. He commands respect for how good he was. Just being in a room and talking basketball, I know players respect him. He’s really turned the program around, and he’s just started.

On his decision to transfer to Penn after one season at Vanderbilt: I originally wanted to do so it so my dad could see me play. I ended up at Penn and the education I got here was one of the best in the world. And the opportunity to play for Coach Dunphy was incredible. He’s one of the best coaches in the game and Jerome was one of the best players in the game. It was just walking into a perfect-storm situation.

On his most memorable Palestra moment: I remember my first game here at Penn, how nervous I was. From what I recall, I was never really nervous before games. My first game in the NBA, I wasn’t nervous. But my first game here, playing for my hometown team, I was so nervous. I would say that’s the biggest moment – the atmosphere of playing here rather than being in the stands and watching.

On what he thought about when he returned to the Palestra for the first time in more than a decade: Walking down the ramp, it brought back all the memories of me walking down that thing going to practices. Going to Temple practices when I was younger. The first time I met John Chaney down here was a big experience for me when I was kid. Sitting here, now looking around, I remember when they threw streamers on the floor. A lot of different memories hit me.

KELLY GREENBERG

On the induction: It’s a tremendous honor, it really is. It’s funny, when people mention the Big 5 to me, I don’t think of when I played and don’t think of when I coached. I actually think of when I was a little girl and when I came here. It’s just a tremendous honor to have my name put up on the wall with all of the legendary players and coaches and media people. I’m very fortunate. I don’t think I was a star player or a star coach in any way. I just happened to be involved with people that really won a lot and I’m really lucky.

On her family ties to the Big 5: My brother, dad and uncle played at La Salle. My dad and uncle weren’t in the actual Big 5; they played before the Big 5. Coming here in fourth and fifth grade, I remember the banners and streamers. And then becoming a player and realizing there’s a whole new side to it. I always knew the men and by the time I got to college, the women started having a Big 5 of their own. I got to experience both sides to it.

On how this day compared to when she was unveiled as the new Penn coach in 1999: That really was a great day for me. It was a great day for my family and me being back home and being able to coach my home games in this legendary building. That was a magical five years for us. As an assistant coach for so many years, you finally get a chance and I thank Steve Bilsky for giving me that opportunity. What’s special about today is all 11 of my siblings are here. The 12 of us don’t get together too often anymore because there’s much going on. That’s mostly my fault, to be honest.

On if she misses Philadelphia: I definitely do. I miss the basketball part of it and I really miss my family. Up at BU, I feel like we’ve got something really special going on but my family is not a part of it, so that’s the one thing I do miss a lot.

Greenberg coached Penn to two Ivy League championships in five years at the helm

On if it was a hard decision to leave Penn for Boston: It was. At the time, it was very hard. It wasn’t like I had to get the heck out of Penn but I felt ready for a different challenge. I lived up in Boston during my 20s and loved it. BU’s a great place. I really enjoy it. That first year-and-a-half, you always worry if you did the right thing. But I did. And my time at Penn is a great memory.

On her best memory at Penn: I remember [in 2000-01] when we kept winning and went undefeated [in the Ivy League and went to the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament]. That was so special because of the senior class of Claire Cavanaugh, Erin Ladley, Liz Alexander, Jess Allen and of course Diana [Caramanico]. I remember every single game and we squeaked out of so many of those Ivy League games. I really remember games more than anything. To be honest with you, as a coach, I can do without an office. I really remember the practices and the games and the players of course.

On keeping up with Penn women’s basketball after leaving (following Penn’s second trip to the NCAA tourney in 2004): In the beginning, when Amanda [Kammes] and [Jessica Fleischer] and them were finishing up their careers and I wasn’t here, I certainly kept in touch. But it’s really hard when you have your own program and start getting pulled and you just don’t have the time. I’m not a real Internet person but when I could check the papers early on, I certainly did. And now it’s just so different and I don’t know any of the players. But I still want them to do well, of course. I keep in touch with players I coached at Penn. I went to Diana’s wedding. I went to Tara [Twomey’s] wedding. I’ve seen Claire’s kids. So you know, they’re all special people in my life.

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Penn women’s hoops coach: ‘Future is bright’

By most standards, an 11-17 overall record and a sixth-place league finish would be considered a disappointing season. But for the Penn women’s basketball team, which was coming off a two-win campaign, it was nothing short of historic. Yesterday, the team that enjoyed the greatest single-season turnaround in program history honored its own at the annual end-of-season banquet. And a couple of days before that, I caught up with Mike McLaughlin, the Quakers’ sharp head coach charged with forging a new direction, and asked, among other things, about the progress he’s seen since arriving from Holy Family two years ago. Here’s the interview:

PENN GAZETTE SPORTS: After your second season in charge, how would you assess the building process?

MIKE MCLAUGHLIN: I definitely think we progressed from last year to this year in a lot of ways. Last year, even though we struggled winning games, I think we set the foundation and created a pretty good culture. I thought our players had a good offseason. The freshman that came in impacted us. Going from two wins to 11, I thought, was significant progress for this program.

What excited you most about the 2010-11 season?

I think the commitment level really excited me. I saw some young players with great futures. I saw upperclassmen improve from one year to the next. I’ve seen a very positive culture that we’ve built here. I think the future is bright with good players. We’re still a work in progress but I’m happy where we’re at right now.

How exciting was it to get the program’s first Big 5 win since 2004?

To get that monkey off the program’s back was huge for us. It happened on our own court and there’s a big emphasis on the Big 5, so that was great to see. It was great for the alumni who called us to let us know they were happy we got a Big 5 win.

What specifically have you done to change the losing culture that was prevalent before you arrived?

I don’t want to speak for what was here before me but I know the way we want to do it. We want to do it where it’s a positive environment. The coaching staff is energetic and we’re bringing people in that are fully invested in Penn basketball. It takes time to reinforce that. It takes time to build on that. It takes time for people to believe in it. After two years, I’m happy. I think the players have bought into it and they see a bright future for Penn basketball. It started with the players last year. We didn’t win many games, but that group last year really helped buy into what this new coaching staff was doing. When we have success down the road, which we’re starting to have, a lot of the credit will go to those three seniors I had last year because they could have given up.

It’s been more than two years but are there challenges for you personally adjusting from Division II to Division I?

No, I don’t see the level being a challenge. I think coaching at any level is a great challenge. Being acclimated at the school now has helped us dealing with our recruits and understanding the type of player we’re trying to get. We have a great product to sell; we have a great program and we have a phenomenal school. We just have to reach out in this big country and find kids that fit the mold.

Does the 78-27 loss to Princeton to end the season leave a sour taste in your mouth going into the next year?

It does, no question. It was a disappointing end to a very good year. It was our worst game by far and it happened to be at the end. It was a shame to have our worst day as your last game, because that’s what we remember. But I have to turn a real negative into a positive. I don’t know if our players need any more motivation but they know we’re a long way from winning. We’ve made strides, no question. But we are a long way away.

What do you have to do to compete with teams like Princeton for the Ivy League championship?

Well, we competed all year. We played Princeton tough the first time; we were tied at half and they beat us by 11. But we have to increase our talent level. We have to get the players here better, no question about that. We’re not hiding from that fact.

Did you know when you recruited her how wildly successful Alyssa Baron could be in her first year?

I thought she was a very talented player. One of the reasons Alyssa came in with us is she wanted the opportunity to play right away. And I think Penn fit her needs both academically and for her basketball goals. She had a tremendous freshman year, no question. I thought she was going to be a good player. But you never know – there’s a big transition from the high school to the college level. And she did a phenomenal job. I do think her future is going to be even brighter. I think she realizes she can improve in a lot of areas, and I think we’re going to have a better Alyssa Baron as her career goes on.

How is next year’s recruiting class shaping up? Do you have any more Alyssa Barons coming through the pipeline?

You know, I can only hope. I think have five good players coming in. They all have very good backgrounds and had good high school careers. I think they add significantly to what we have talent-wise. But it’s a transition. It’s a different level and you need to be prepared.

Do you think the Texas A&M-Notre Dame final – pitting two teams that weren’t necessarily supposed to be there – was good for women’s basketball and do you feel like the sport in general is on good footing?

I think it’s great for the sport. I actually was out there for the national semifinals and I can tell you that was a tremendous atmosphere for women’s basketball. It was a sold-out facility. The energy was high. I’ve been to other Final Fours but this one really had a great buzz to it. It’s great for our sport. I think it’s going to continue to grow. And I thought it was good basketball. UConn has set the bar so high and I think it’s making people better because they’re trying to reach them. It was good to see a new champion this year.

And when you go to the NCAA tournament yourself, I’m sure you dream of what it would be like taking your team there, right?

I think we all dream of winning championships. I hope our players got a chance to watch that, because it’s a special moment when you finally win something that’s special. And our goal is to win our league and make that feeling for our players.

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Jewel Clark a part of Big 5 lore

It was during her sophomore or junior year when Jewel Clark C’04 walked into the Palestra, saw that the gym floor was covered in tarp and filled with banquet tables, and, bummed out, questioned why her team had to practice somewhere else that day.

“As I think back,” said Clark, a star player on the women’s basketball team from 2000-2004, “maybe that was a bit disrespectful.”

A decade later, she understands why those banquet tables were there. This time, she was a part of it.

Last Friday at the Palestra, Clark was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame, gaining entry into the prestigious club alongside former rival Stacey Smalls of Temple and three men’s hoops standouts from the 1990s – Kerry Kittles (Villanova), Rick Brunson (Temple) and Rashid Bey (Saint Joseph’s).

Clark, who ranks second all-time on the program’s scoring list, becomes the 11th Penn women’s basketball player to make the Big 5 Hall of Fame, joining Barbara Albom (1980-84), Kirsten Brendel (1987-91), Diana Caramanico 1998-2001), Auretha Fleming (1980-84), Sharon Gross (1978-82), Sandy Hawthorne (1979-82), Carol Kuna (1977-80), Vivian Machinksi (1973-77), June Staumbaugh (1983-86) and Beth Stegner (1979-83).

“I’m learning now why everyone loves the Big 5,” Clark said, shortly before she was inducted. “It’s becoming more meaningful to me. To walk into this building and to see the setup and to understand that I’m a part of it – that’s amazing.”

In her speech, Clark, who today is a teacher in Baltimore, noted that winning Big 5 games were special because in her mind, the girls from the Ivy League weren’t supposed to beat any other team in the city. By the time she graduated, however, the Maryland native had helped the Quakers knock off every Big 5 squad except La Salle.

“After my first year,” said Clark the 2003-04 Ivy League and Big 5 Player of the Year, “I realized how special those games were and I wanted it that much more.”

Just as special were Penn’s two Ivy League championships that bookended Clark’s career. In fact, she and classmate Mikaelyn Austin C’04 are the only players in team history to have played in two NCAA tournaments.

In 2001, as a freshman, Clark helped a team led by Caramanico qualify for the program’s first NCAA berth, where it lost at Texas Tech in the first round. Then, as a senior in ’04, Clark and the Quakers fell to Naismith College Player of the Year Diana Taurasi and eventual national champion UConn in the same round. That was Penn’s last NCAA appearance.

“Playing against Texas Tech was really just an experience,” Clark said. “It was a lot to take in. Playing in the NCAA tournament is not like playing in Ivy League or playing in the Big 5. So a lot came to me at once. The second time, playing at UConn, you don’t go into a game defeated and we didn’t do that. We did hang close for a little bit.”

As a competitor, Clark admits losing her final game was bitter, even if it did come against the best player and team in the country. But as she met members of the Big 5 Hall of Fame, enjoyed a meal on the same floor that she once perfected her jump shot, and gave a speech that Kittles said was very hard to follow, it all became clear to her – her impact on both Penn and the city’s basketball community was vital.

And if that wasn’t enough, all she had to was look to the current players on the Quakers’ women’s basketball team, who after the ceremony came into the Palestra, didn’t seem to mind the tarp covering the floor and, smiling, posed for a picture next to the life-sized poster of Clark.

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The highs and lows of the Big 5

It was an emotional night for both Penn basketball teams last night – but for very different reasons.

Following a 73-56 loss to Temple for the men’s team, senior forward Jack Eggleston appeared to be fighting back tears as he spoke of his 0-15 Big 15 record and how important Saturday’s game vs. St. Joe’s is when he and the rest of the seniors have one last chance to win a City Series game before they graduate.

Meanwhile, back on Penn’s campus, the players on the women’s team were all smiles as they reveled in a historic 45-40 victory over La Salle – which not only marked the program’s 400th win but also the team’s first Big 5 triumph since 2004.

While very different, both of these emotions are rooted in the same thing: the significance of college basketball in Philadelphia. Neither the men’s or the women’s team at Penn has been proud of the fact that they’ve fallen on hard times in the Big 5, but young coaches Jerome Allen and Mike McLaughlin are each hoping to change course.

The women’s team was able to stop its Big 5 losing streak this week, and the men’s team will be a desperate team Saturday as it attempts to snap its own city skid. League play hasn’t started yet but it’s a vitally important game, especially for Eggleston and the rest of the Quakers’ seniors.

“City basketball, the Big 5,” Allen was saying after Penn’s loss to Temple. “It’s something that guys, if they’re not from this area, by the time they become seniors they have more appreciation for it, in terms of the history and the tradition.”

Speaking of history and tradition, former women’s player Jewel Clark C’04 will be inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame tomorrow at the Palestra.

Clark went to two NCAA tournaments at Penn

Clark, a high-scoring guard who was the Ivy League and Big 5 Player of the Year for the 2003-04 season, helped the Quakers to two Ivy League championships. She was also a freshman on one of the first teams I covered as a student journalist – the 2000-01 squad that earned the program’s first NCAA tournament berth. (I followed the Quakers to lovely Lubbock, Texas, where they lost to Texas Tech in the first round.)

So, in the span of four days, Penn could see the end of two city losing streaks and the induction of one of its greats into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. How’s that for some history?

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Langel and Twomey’s Big Night

Tara Twomey

Help may be on the way to the Penn men’s basketball team – in about 18 years.

Last week, two terrific former Quaker basketball players, Matt Langel and Tara Twomey, had their second child together.

Many people may have noticed that Langel, an assistant coach at Temple, rushed away from the Palestra during last Wednesday’s exciting Penn-Temple game. He had good reason as Lucas James Langel was born at 10:02 p.m., weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces and was 21” long at birth.

Langel and Twomey wed in 2006, following in the path of two other Penn basketball greats, Geoff Owens and Diana Caramanico. Twomey, a 2003 graduate, was the starting point guard on the Quakers team that went to the program’s first NCAA tournament in 2001, and Langel, of course, led the men’s team to back-to-back trips to the Big Dance in 1999 and 2000.

The Pennsylvania Gazette wishes the best to the two Penn grads, and the newest addition to their family.

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