Penn women’s basketball entered the heart of Ivy League play with great expectations, and much like another Dickens novel, it was the best of times all weekend for the Quakers.
The Red and Blue swept the first Ivy doubleheader of the season in impressive fashion, defeating Dartmouth on Friday and Harvard on Saturday.
The Quakers (12-5, 2-1 Ivy) started off the weekend by taking care of business against an overmatched Dartmouth squad (3-15, 0-4), 71-53.
For the first half, the name of the game was defense for the Quakers. The Red and Blue were able to hold the Big Green scoreless for a seven-minute stretch.
Meanwhile, Penn’s guards took advantage of Dartmouth turnovers to score fast break buckets, building a healthy first-half lead for the Quakers.
The Big Green shot much better in the second half, but senior guard Alyssa Baron was up to the challenge. She scored 13 points in the first seven minutes of the half to match Dartmouth’s run en route to an easy victory.
The Quakers were led by Baron — who notched 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists — and junior guard Kathleen Roche, who went 4-for-5 on shots from three-point range.
“Our ball movement in the first half was really great against their zone,” Baron said. “Credit to Kathleen — she’s been practicing every day on her shot, and she was able to knock them down today.”
The main event of the weekend, though, was Penn’s Saturday matchup against Harvard (13-5, 3-1), who were coming off of an impressive win against Princeton.
However, it turned out to be even more of a laugher than the previous night’s game, as the Quakers blew out the Crimson, 67-38.
The win included the largest margin of victory against the Crimson in program history, and the 38 points allowed marked the fewest Penn had given up in three years.
Penn was led by a near triple-double that included a program-record nine blocks from freshman center Sydney Stipanovich.
“I just tried to stay straight up,” Stipanovich said. “I think we had a great team effort on defense today.”
The Red and Blue started off slowly on offense, missing their first seven shots from the field.
“We were too excited and too anxious … so I just told them to slow down a little bit,” coach Mike McLaughlin said.
The Quakers defense kept them in the game, holding the Crimson to 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, and Penn went into halftime with a 21-14 lead.
Baron shook off a cold first half on the first play of the second half, taking the ball strong to the hoop and converting a three-point play.
And within the first eight minutes, the Quakers had followed suit, riding a 7-for-12 shooting performance to a 20-point lead. The astounding run was capped by an ankle-breaking crossover and subsequent three-pointer by senior guard Meghan McCullough.
“I finally got [my defender] off me, and she was on the ground so I figured I’d shoot it,” she added with a smile.
Stipanovich finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in addition to her nine blocks, leading the way for Penn’s decisive victory.
The Quakers have now won four straight games and are in a five-way tie in the loss column for first place in the Ivy League.
“These games are all going to be a challenge,” McLaughlin said. “If we have success or we don’t, either way we have to move on.”
They will look to continue their winning streak next Friday vs. Cornell and hold the worst of times off for the indefinite future.
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