Defense remains the focus for Penn women's basketball


Despite a second-ranked Ivy defense, practices have centered around improving the ‘D’


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Freshman forward Katy Allen has started seven straight games since Jess Knapp injured her knee in December.

Photo by Patrick Hulce


To get back into the win column, the Quakers are willing to put their bodies on the line — literally.

Not satisfied with its second-ranked Ivy defense, the Penn women’s basketball team endured a tough week of defensive-oriented practices which included taking charges and diving for loose balls. Its captain is even playing with two torn ligaments in her knee.

Despite the Quakers’ second-ranked Ivy defense, they are coming off a poor defensive outing in Sunday’s loss to Cornell. Though bolstered by senior captain Jess Knapp’s return, the Big Red racked up 67 points on 57-percent shooting.

Coach Mike McLaughlin stressed that defense needs to be improved this weekend, when Penn (8-9, 1-2 Ivy) will host the Ivy League’s second-highest scoring team in Yale (11-7, 3-1).

“We need to hold teams under a certain point total to give us a chance because we’re not a team that is going to go out and get 60, 70 points consistently,” McLaughlin said, adding that ideally, opponents should be in the mid-50s.

This will be particularly important against the Bulldogs’ potent attack, which often takes advantage of transition opportunities, according to McLaughlin.

“We’re going to have to have five players be willing to defend the entire shot clock because sometimes they’ll score in three seconds, or shoot it in three seconds, and sometimes they’ll run the clock down and execute,” he said.

“We don’t score a ton offensively, so we need our defense to start our offense,” freshman forward Katy Allen added. “We’ve been really focusing on our toughness, taking charges, getting loose balls, just wanting every play and playing hard through every possession.”

Allen said that if the team can avoid momentary mental lapses, its defense could be even better.

“One thing that has to be a stabilizing force for us is defense,” McLaughlin said. “We could come out Friday night and struggle to score, but I know at least the constant will be the other end of the court.”

Penn’s offense, however, appears to be back on track after struggling through a tough nonconference stretch.

“I think we’re just getting a little bit more mature on the offensive end,” McLaughlin said, pointing out that the team starts four underclassmen. “They know what their strengths and weaknesses are a little better. They know their roles a little better.

“We have a lot of new players, but you know what? It’s time to play for our younger kids,” he added. “They’ve gotten a lot of minutes. We just need to mature as a basketball team very quickly.”

Saturday’s game against Brown (11-7, 2-2) will be the Quakers’ annual Play 4Kay game. Play 4Kay is a national program where a team designates its game proceeds, as well as special merchandise sales, to raise breast cancer awareness.

“It’s a tremendous thing. Women’s basketball does a phenomenal job,” McLaughlin said.

After seeing limited minutes in her first weekend back, Knapp will continue to play through a torn ACL and MCL.

“I just respect her so much for what she’s done for this team, how hard she’s working,” said Allen, who has replaced Knapp in the starting lineup.

“[This week] we had one of our toughest defensive practices,” Allen said. “She did everything. She wasn’t afraid.

“Our energy has been better [since Knapp returned],” she added. “She really inspires us to do that.”

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