While Tuesday is Senior Night at the Palestra for Penn women’s basketball, there is only one focus for the Red and Blue: Beat Princeton.
At 5 p.m., the Quakers face the daunting task of beating the dominant Tigers to give seniors Brianna Bradford and Katie Davis a win in their final game at the Palestra.
Penn (16-11, 9-4 Ivy) still has hope for an at-large bid to the Women’s NIT, but will need a strong performance to keep its chances alive on Tuesday.
A matchup with the Ivy League champion Tigers (21-6, 12-1) doesn’t make it easy for the Quakers to pick up a win, but coach Mike McLaughlin is looking forward to the challenge in Penn’s final regular season game.
“It’s perfect,” McLaughlin said. “You play the best team in the league in the best facility in the league with two seniors walking out the door.”
“I don’t think you could ask for anymore from a team that has achieved a great deal so far and that’s still hungry to achieve more.”
Even though their postseason hopes remain in doubt, the Quakers have come a long way during Bradford and Davis’ time with the Red and Blue.
The two seniors joined the team at the same time as McLaughlin and have seen the team ascend the Ivy League standings.
The duo is part of Penn’s first senior class that improved its win total in each season, going from 2-26 three years ago to a winning record this year.
Even this year, the team still found a way to improve as the season progressed.
“I think we realized that it’s anyone’s game at this point,” Davis said. “And that gave us a lot of confidence heading into every game, especially realizing that every game matters.”
Now the Quakers’ final challenge comes against a team that handed them one of their worst defeats of the year, as Princeton beat Penn at Jadwin Gym in January, 77-47.
“It all comes down to the first 10 minutes,” Davis said. “Because when we get down early, it is hard for us to fight back.
“They play an interesting zone that we didn’t handle very well the first time. Hitting shots [will also be important] since we haven’t had the best shooting in the last couple games.”
On the other side, Princeton is using this final road test as a way to prepare for its next game: a first round matchup in the NCAA tournament.
“It is a road game with a great venue and staff we have a lot of respect for and a team on the rise like all NCAA Tournament teams are,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. “We just think it is a great matchup for us heading into the tournament.”
Coming off their final back-to-back of the season over the weekend, the Red and Blue only had little time to prepare for this game.
“It is so emotional during the weekend that you kind of have to give your mind a rest on Sunday and let yourself breathe for a minute,” Davis said.
And despite an emotional night to honor the senior class, the seniors are instead focused on bolstering Penn’s resume for its postseason hopes.
“It being an important game for our postseason hopes makes it that much more special.” Davis said. “Everyone is going to come out that much harder, not just to honor our career and commitment to the program but to chase those dreams of getting to play in the NIT potentially.”