There was no game to be played. No points to be scored. No wins and losses.
Instead, Penn women’s basketball came out in full force to the Palestra, looking to find out where it would be heading this weekend for the NCAA Tournament in Monday night’s Selection Show.
The Quakers (22-6, 12-2 Ivy) received a No. 12 seed and will play No. 5 Texas in College Park, Md. The game is scheduled for Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.
“Just seeing our name pop up was pretty amazing, pretty crazy,” senior captain Alyssa Baron said after watching the show with her teammates.
The winner of the Penn-Texas matchup will take on the winner of No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 13 Army on Tuesday, with one of those four teams making the Sweet 16 in Louisville, Ky.
This will be the first time in program history that the Red and Blue will face the Longhorns (21-11, 11-7 Big 12), but Penn did face a tough schedule all season to prepare for this point, including a matchup with No. 1 seed Notre Dame.
“I think playing those games shows that we can compete with anyone,” freshman center Sydney Stipanovich said. “Just having that experience makes us more confident.”
Coach Mike McLaughlin wasn’t as focused on Penn’s seeding and instead was simply happy to watch his players celebrate with fans at the Palestra.
“It’s a little quick to take that in,” he said. “I was more anxious to see the reaction of the players. I haven’t really gotten that far yet but obviously being the 12 seed and hearing that it is the highest in the school’s history is a great accomplishment for the program.
The Longhorns finished fourth in the Big 12 this season, led in scoring and rebounding by junior forward Nneka Enemkpali . McLaughlin was candid after the watch party, saying he had already taken a peek at Texas.
“I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t check out Texas today a little bit,” he said. “Not too much, [I was] trying to stay in the moment. But I did look at quite a few teams that I thought we had a shot at.
“I know a few of the [Texas players] from the recruiting trail. We have a [recruit from Texas] coming in to play for us next year and two of the girls played with her in AAU.”
There was a strong crowd joining the Quakers at the Palestra on Monday, cheering as each of the players were introduced while enjoying free food and “I Bleed Penn” T-shirts .
Alongside an enthusiastic Penn band, Penn men’s basketball showed up in solid numbers with many of its players and coaches coming out to support the women’s team.
“It was really exciting,” men’s basketball junior Patrick Lucas-Perry said. “We’re really happy for the girls. They are like our counterparts so when they succeed, it just looks good for Penn basketball in general.”
In Penn’s previous two appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the Quakers were a No. 15 seed, losing to Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas in 2001 and falling against Connecticut in Bridgeport, Conn. in 2004.
Now, Penn’s senior class has a chance to continue the program’s remarkable turnaround, taking a team that went 2-26 in 2009-10, the year before they came to campus, all the way to the NCAA Tournament.
“This is part of the legacy tonight,” McLaughlin said. “To be able to have this atmosphere and to finish their career on an NCAA floor is only building on that legacy.”
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