After a disappointing loss to Dartmouth, coach Mike McLaughlin will help Penn continue strong through its final games. However, the weekend was a net positive for the Quakers, as they strengthened their hold on second place in the Ivy League.

Credit: Sam Sherman

S ometimes losses are tough to swallow. None more so than the loss suffered by Penn women’s basketball this weekend to Dartmouth.

After a deflating loss to the last-place team in the conference the night after claiming the top spot, most teams would struggle to rebound.

But this Penn team is not most teams.

If anything, this loss will serve as a wake-up call for a Quakers squad that has been dominant for the most part this season, but clearly still has a few flaws.

Dartmouth found ways to shut down the strong interior offense that has been vital to Penn’s success throughout this season.

With the frontcourt neutralized, success for the Red and Blue was tied to the outside shooting and a few too many missed threes doomed the Quakers.

“They left our wings open, left our three open and we didn’t shoot particularly well that day,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “If we had made a couple of those shots early and got them out of that defense early, it could have ended differently.”

This loss could just be chalked up to some poor shooting, but McLaughlin and his coaching staff know that it’s more than that. It’s an opportunity to build a game plan away from the reliance on interior offense that has driven this squad thus far.

And they’ll need it, because the defense that Dartmouth ran wasn’t particularly unique; it just forced the Red and Blue out of their comfort zone. When it comes down to it, the loss to Dartmouth isn’t the real takeaway from this weekend.

It just served to overshadow what may have been the biggest win in McLaughlin’s tenure as coach.

To put Penn’s 63-50 win over Harvard into perspective, the last time the Quakers won at Lavietes Pavilion was 10 years ago. Penn hadn’t swept the Crimson in the past 13 seasons.

So while the loss to Dartmouth was definitely a step backward, the win against Harvard kept the Quakers moving in the right direction.

With their pair of losses this weekend to Penn and Princeton, Crimson have fallen out of title contention and forged a path for the Quakers to find themselves battling Princeton down to the last game.

As it stands right now, Penn is one game out of first and in the driver’s seat for second place and a berth in the Women’s NIT.

It controls its own destiny for the Ivy League title as well, needing to win out and defeat Princeton to end the season for the chance to force a one-game playoff.

“We’re not out of this,” McLaughlin said. “The kids have the resilience to bounce back.”

So take this weekend as exactly what it was, a display of both the best and the worst of Penn women’s basketball this season and a reminder that, despite a nine-game winning streak, the Red and Blue are still just as mortal as any other contender in the Ivy League.

Though many would have loved to see the Quakers neck-and-neck with Princeton for their final game of the season, there is still a good chance that game will be just as meaningful as fans had hoped when the schedules were released.

Because when it comes down to it, this Penn team has bounced back too well this season to let a disappointing loss serve as anything less than a fire to power it through the final stretch.

One step backward, two steps forward.

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