Steele | Penn women's basketball shows it is poised to push for Ivy title belt

· February 16, 2014, 5:39 pm   ·  Updated February 17, 2014, 11:49 pm

Michele Ozer | DP

Penn freshman Sydney Stipanovich continues to dominate Ivy competition. The rookie scored 13 points against Brown to go along with 10 boards and five blocks.


I f Penn women’s basketball’s game on Saturday was a heavyweight fight, when would Brown coach Jean Marie Burr have thrown in the towel?

Would she have called the fight after senior guard Alyssa Baron canned a three-pointer with 7:07 remaining in the first half, a shot that pushed the Red and Blue’s lead to 19?

Would she have called the fight while the Bears were in the midst of a 9:48 scoring drought, a stretch in which the Quakers were able to score 18 unanswered points?

Or would she have waited until just after halftime, when one of the game’s three referees glanced down at a stat sheet and seemed shocked that the first half carnage was even worse on paper?

Sometimes, numbers and statistics don’t tell the full story. But Saturday night against Brown, with Penn methodically picking apart the Bears in the first half, the Quakers let the box score do all the talking.

Only three Brown players scored in the game’s opening frame and the Bears were a mere 5-for-23 from the field. Over the same period, the Red and Blue made 56 percent of their shots, while Baron and junior guard Renee Busch each knocked down three attempts from beyond the arc.

Put it all together and Penn’s 43-15 halftime lead was the equivalent of a first-round knockout.

And with Saturday’s performance fresh in mind, it’s impossible to ignore the obvious now: In this 14-game tournament that is the bout for the Ivy League championship, the Quakers are proving that they are a worthy challenger for the title belt.

Take a closer look at the makeup of Penn women’s basketball. You’ll notice that they have all the tools capable of pushing both Harvard and defending champion Princeton to the brink as the season winds down.

The Quakers feature the most dominant defensive force in the Ivy League in freshman center Sydney Stipanovich . After this weekend, the rookie is averaging 3.9 blocks per game, and ranked fourth nationally in that category entering Friday night’s game against Yale.

In addition to Penn’s young contributor, the Quakers also feature a plethora of veteran wisdom. Along with junior guard Kathleen Roche, seniors Baron and Meghan McCullough all combine to give the Red and Blue a steady dose of leadership.

And don’t forget the depth of Penn’s bench. Busch drilled three backbreaking three-pointers in the opening period, while Roche led the charge early in the second half, scoring nine of the Quakers’ first 11 points to emphatically seal the game.

Take into consideration the Red and Blue’s depth in the frontcourt with junior forwards Katy Allen and Kara Bonenberger , and it’s hard to imagine this team losing multiple games the rest of the season when all of its pieces mesh so well.

Sure, the Red and Blue have their weaknesses. But compared to the other Penn basketball team that calls the Palestra home, coach Mike McLaughlin’s squad’s issues are trivial.

Even as the Quakers turned the ball over 16 times against an inferior Brown team, Penn used its defensive tenacity to limit the damage. Only 12 points off that many turnovers is a statistic any coach will live with.

Halfway through their Ancient Eight slate, the Red and Blue have one blemish on their record. Despite the hiccup, the Quakers are tied for first with both the Tigers and the Crimson , and could very well play their way into the NCAA tournament.

With a couple of haymakers, a few more knockout blows and by taking advantage of the tools that were on display against Brown, Penn could be well on its way to ending the Tigers’ run as title holder atop the conference.

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