Playoff hopes on the line for Penn women's basketball
Quakers have good chance to make WNIT with wins against Harvard, Dartmouth
February 27, 2013, 11:02 pm·
Elizabeth Schwartz | DP
While catching Princeton may be just out of reach, the Quakers have the chance to strengthen their playoff chances this weekend.
The Tigers have a stranglehold on the Ivy League crown, having won 50 of their last 51 Ivy games. But a second-place finish in the Ancient Eight means an automatic berth into the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), something Penn (14-9, 7-2 Ivy) has never accomplished.
With the Red and Blue traveling to third-place Harvard (15-8, 6-3) and fifth-place Dartmouth (6-17, 4-5) this weekend, the Quakers have the opportunity to gain separation in the standings.
And with the WNIT bid on the line, the Quakers have plenty to play for, despite already having surpassed last year’s win total.
“We haven’t placed in the top three [in the Ivies], so we’re just taking it one game at a time,” senior guard Brianna Bradford said. “But these next five are really huge for us and will determine whether we keep playing or not.”
The Red and Blue defeated both Harvard and Dartmouth two weeks ago at the Palestra but will now face tough road tests in their return matches against the Crimson and Big Green, respectively.
One question mark facing Harvard will be whether Penn handles center Temi Fagbenle. The sophomore had 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting while also grabbing 13 rebounds in the Crimson’s loss to the Quakers.
“‘Contain’ is a good word. She is too talented. She is going to score,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “She shoots 55 percent from the field and she made some really tough shots against us the first time.”
“We’re just gonna have to make it harder for her to score.”
And despite a 23-point win over Dartmouth in their first matchup, the Quakers are wary of being overconfident heading into their meeting in Hanover.
“With Dartmouth for sure, we have to rebound the ball,” McLaughlin said. “That is their biggest strength right now — they’re big and have two very good guards. I’m not worried about what the numbers are.”
Both squads will have to contend with a strong Penn defense which ranks second in the Ivy League in points allowed. The Red and Blue’s ‘D’ has been an essential part of their current five-game winning streak.
“I feel like a lot of times our offense comes out of our defense,” Bradford said. “If we have really high energy on defense, it really sparks our offense. And I feel that our defense is really our foundation.”
That foundation will be a huge factor in whether the Quakers can make a run to the postseason. After facing the Crimson and Big Green, the Red and Blue return home to face Brown and Yale during spring break.
Whether Princeton loses or not in the next few weeks, this weekend’s road trip will be essential to Penn’s playoff push.
“We are approaching Dartmouth hard. We are approaching Harvard hard,” McLaughlin said. “And we don’t look too far down the road. We’re just looking at this weekend and this weekend only.”