Harvard came into Saturday leading the Ivy League and looking to extend its lead with an improbable sweep of both Princeton and Penn.
But Penn women’s basketball and its imposing defense didn’t get the memo.
After demolishing Dartmouth on Friday, the Quakers fought through a tough offensive start to defeat the Ivy-rival Crimson, 67-38.
The 38 points allowed marked the fewest Penn had given up in three years, led by a near triple-double that included a program-record nine blocks from Sydney Stipanovich.
The Red and Blue (12-5, 2-1 Ivy) started off slowly on offense, missing their first seven shots from the field. They knew they had their fill with the opposing Crimson (13-5, 3-1 Ivy), who were coming off a 78-point outburst to beat Princeton.
As might be expected, the Red and Blue struggled offensively early on against a solid Harvard squad, forcing up some shots at the outset of the game.
But Penn’s defense was in top-notch form early, as Stipanovich, the Quakers’ freshman center, notched four blocks while the team as a whole held Harvard to just 20 percent shooting in the first half.
The Quakers were bailed out on offense by junior guard Renee Busch in the first half, who went 3-for-4 from three-point range in the game’s first 20 minutes. They went into halftime having scratched and clawed their way to a 21-14 lead.
It was a different story for Penn’s offense in the second half.
Senior captain Alyssa Baron shook off a cold first half on the first play of the second half, taking the ball strong to the hoop and converting and three-point play. The rest of her team followed suit, attacking the Crimson from all angles on offense.
Within the first eight minutes, the Quakers had ridden a 7-for-12 shooting performance to a 20-point lead over Harvard. The astounding run was capped by an ankle-breaking crossover and subsequent three-pointer by senior guard Meghan McCullough and a step-back trey from Baron.
From that point on, Harvard pulled out all the stops, at one point subbing in a fresh five players. But the Quakers managed the pace of the game effectively and refused to allow any Crimson runs, ultimately guiding the game to an easy win.
Stipanovich finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in addition to her nine blocks, joining Baron, Busch, McCullough and Kara Bonenberger in double-digit scoring.
The Quakers have now won four straight games and move into a five-way tie in the loss column for first place in the Ivy League.
They will look to continue their winning streak next Friday against Cornell, one of the other four Ancient Eight squads with just one loss in conference.
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