Tydings | A bright future ahead for Penn women's basketball
February 17, 2013, 9:49 pm·
After three and a half years, Penn women’s basketball finally got the statement weekend it’s been looking for.
In just two nights, the Quakers went from an Ivy afterthought to Princeton’s closest competitor, thanks to two of their best wins on the season.
The Red and Blue had been searching for a signature victory all season and so far had come up just short, with close losses to Villanova and Virginia.
But the momentum that the Quakers had been building up all season finally paid off with their victories over Harvard and Dartmouth, as the Quakers went off script to win in two different ways.
Heading into this weekend, there were significant doubts about this Penn squad. It didn’t start a single senior. It was too reliant on junior guard Alyssa Baron.
Now those doubts go out the window.
The Quakers embraced their youth in their two victories. Instead of Baron, their junior captain, it was freshman guard Keiera Ray who took center stage over the two games this weekend, scoring a combined 50 points.
Ray displayed an offensive aggressiveness that she hadn’t consistently shown throughout the year. And when the Harvard game boiled down to making free throws, Ray made 14 shots from the charity stripe to finish off the Crimson.
In the frontcourt, Penn had showed a necessity to win the rebounding margin in Ivy play. Yet the Red and Blue took both contests despite being outrebounded each time. Additionally, both Harvard and Dartmouth outshot them from the field.
But the resourceful Quakers found a way to win. They forced a combined 40 turnovers between the two games, while giving away the ball just 17 times themselves. And they also made a combined 34 free throws, compared to just 21 free throws attempted by their opponents.
What the Quakers displayed this weekend was a consistent tenacity on both sides of the ball that had been lacking at various points this season. And that aggressiveness led to two of their most important victories so far this year.
Moving forward, though, it will be tough to keep moving up in the standings. Princeton, which sits two games ahead of Penn, still hasn’t won by less than double digits in Ivy play, racking up five victories by at least 30 points.
But catching up to the Tigers doesn’t necessarily have to be the Quakers’ goal. For a program that hasn’t had a winning record overall or in conference play since 2005, the two signature wins this weekend went a long way towards bringing the Red and Blue back to Ivy contender status.
And with Princeton losing Ivy Player of the Year Niveen Rasheed to graduation next season, this weekend may have also given the Ancient Eight a glimpse at the favorites for next year’s 14-game tournament.
But this weekend was more than just giving a sneak peek at next season. It was about showing that the Quakers are in the race this season, if only for a few more weeks.
And it was about showcasing a Quakers team that can no longer be considered mediocre.
Whatever future ramifications come from this weekend’s wins, one thing is for certain: Penn women’s basketball is back, and the two victories are the stamp on the notice going out to the rest of the league.
STEVEN TYDINGS is a Wharton freshman from Hopewell, N.J., and is an associate sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.