For Penn women’s basketball, Princeton continues to be a perpetual Achilles’ Heel.
The Tigers came to the Palestra on Saturday and gave the Quakers a rude awakening to begin Ivy season, easily taking down the Red and Blue, 84-53, to snap their eight game winning streak.
“I’m disappointed,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I was hoping we’d play better but we got beaten in all phases of the game.
“Our expectations are against everyone to compete mentally and physically for 40 minutes and I don’t think that happened tonight.”
The beginning of the game was a back and forth affair, as the Quakers (8-3, 0-1 Ivy) received early three-pointers from senior captain Meghan McCullough and junior guard Kathleen Roche.
But just before the first media timeout, things began to click for the Tigers (10-5, 1-0). Down by two, Princeton promptly went on a 16-0 run, taking a commanding 14-point lead thanks to a 9-for-15 start on field goal shooting.
“I don’t think we handled that particularly great as a team,” McLaughlin said. “I think that’s what we have to learn as a group: It’s not that they made shots or we missed shots. It’s about [how] you can handle it a little better in those situations.”
The rest of the first half featured the Red and Blue fighting to stay in the game while the Tigers made their shots to keep Penn from getting within nine points. Penn couldn’t find the bottom of the basket often enough, going 8-for-31, just 25.8 percent.
Princeton had early contributions from its starting guards as well as senior forward Kristen Helmstetter. Helmstetter and junior guard Blake Dietrick each made two treys in the opening half while combining for 10 of Princeton’s 23 rebounds.
Penn’s offense came alive to start the second half, making seven of 14 shots immediately after the break thanks to an early effort from Kara Bonenberger and Alyssa Baron.
But with Princeton continuing to make shots, things slowly came unraveled for the Red and Blue. Unable to get within 10 points, the Quakers began to accumulate turnovers, giving Princeton chances to extend its lead with 26 points off Penn’s giveaways.
The Tigers dominated from the free throw line in the second half, shooting 19-for-22 while Penn couldn’t convert its opportunities, missing 11 shots from the line in the second half.
When all was said and done, the Quakers just couldn’t keep up with Princeton’s high-powered offensive attack. The Tigers got scoring from much of their squad, having seven players with at least six points, led by 16 points each from Dietrick and Helmstetter.
For Penn, Bonenberger and Baron combined to shoot 8-for-24 from the field, scoring 10 points each while the team shot 30.5 percent from the field.
The loss for Penn marks the 11th straight loss to the Tigers as coach Mike McLaughlin fell to 0-11 vs. rival Princeton. It also gives Princeton a leg up in its quest for a fifth-straight Ivy title.
“I thought [when] we came in, we were definitely equal talent,” McCullough said. “They kind of gave it to us. We didn’t come mentally prepared so obviously it was a larger gap.”
Penn picks up play on Wednesday, traveling to Villanova before facing St. Joes on Saturday in a continuation of nonconference play. That is followed by another Big 5 matchup with Temple.
“This is a difficult part of our schedule,” McLaughlin said. “Obviously, we have Villanova, St. Joe’s and Temple within the next week so regardless of who you are, that’s tough.
“And we’re not going change what we do. We practice hard, we compete hard, we play hard. The girls are phenomenal in what they do. One game is not going to define us.