A historic rivalry, yet one in which Penn women’s basketball has won just once.
When the Quakers (8-4) make the short trip to St. Joseph’s (12-4) on Friday, they will be seeking just their second win in the 38 meetings between the schools.
“We’re the underdog — mostly people don’t think of Penn as one of the Big 5,” junior forward Kara Bonenberger said. “We just need to go in and be the aggressor after the loss [to Villanova].”
The Red and Blue will look to return to their winning ways after a pair of losses — the first a blowout to Princeton and the second a one-point loss to another Big 5 rival, Villanova earlier this week.
“I’m confident we’ll bounce back. That was definitely an emotional, heart-breaking type situation, but we played very well and put ourselves in a position to win the game,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We bounced back nicely after not playing a particularly good game [against Princeton].”
One of the keys to the game for the Quakers will be shutting down a strong Hawks offense, led by senior guard Erin Shields and sophomore forward Sarah Fairbanks. Each has been shooting remarkably well this season, with Shields shooting 42.5 percent from long range and Fairbanks hitting on 54.9 percent of her shots overall.
However, Penn has one advantage that can’t be matched when it comes to scouting the players from St. Joe’s: Hawks former assistant coach, Chris Day.
“It really comes down to the players’ ability to make plays, but for the coaching staff, it’s a tedious process to put together a full scouting report,” McLaughlin said. “So having [coach Day] along, having some familiarity with what they did a few years ago when he was there certainly helps.”
Penn also looks poised to find success on the boards against a St. Joe’s team that has found overall team success despite being outrebounded this season. Senior guard Alyssa Baron will look to continue her hot streak on the boards as she has been averaging 7.67 rebounds per game in her past three contests.
This game will mark the third Big 5 game of the season for the Quakers, who split their previous two. The win came against La Salle in early January, followed by the aforementioned loss to Villanova. Penn will face Temple next Wednesday to wrap up their Big 5 slate.
As with many historical rivalries, there is a good deal of familiarity between the teams in the Big 5. “The camaraderie’s there because a lot of these players know each other from summer ball and all that,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a great environment to play in. [Villanova] was a great environment to play in and St. Joe’s will be on Friday.”