Just keep the good times coming.
Penn women’s basketball is about as hot as it can be as the squad rolls into a brief respite from Ivy play, starting off with a Big 5 matchup at home against Villanova on Wednesday.
The Quakers (9-4, 3-0 Ivy) are fresh off two double-digit wins against Ivy opponents, most notably an 86-60 drubbing of Brown on Saturday that saw four players reach double figures in scoring. The two wins stretched the Red and Blue’s win streak to six, and they have not lost in over a month. The wins also represented the Quakers’ first victories at home this season, as they entered the weekend 0-3 at the Palestra.
“It was really big,” junior guard Anna Ross said about the wins at home. “It brought a lot of confidence to us. I think we finally got to where we want to be playing offensively and defensively as a team.”
In Villanova (8-9, 4-3 Big East), Penn will face a surging team that has won four of its last five contests. The Wildcats’ defense has been strong lately, giving up just 54.2 points per game over that stretch. Villanova has given the Quakers fits in recent years, as the Wildcats have won the previous 14 meetings, dating all the way back to the 2001-2002 season. The matchup also has an interesting side-storyline: Penn and Villanova are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in fewest turnovers per game nationally.
The game will serve as a test for a Penn offense that is firing on all cylinders and is coming off by far its best performance of the season, an 86-point outburst that was the highest-scoring performance in coach Mike McLaughlin’s tenure. That game also featured the most assists, three-pointers and field goals made, and the best field goal percentage of any game in all of McLaughlin’s eight years as coach.
The Quakers’ offensive efforts in the past few weeks have not been top-heavy though. Although the team continues to run through senior center Sydney Stipanovich and junior forward Michelle Nwokedi, everyone has stepped up lately, from Ross dropping 19 points on Brown to junior Beth Brzozowski’s clutch three treys against Princeton. With so many players contributing, McLaughlin can feel confident with any lineup he throws out there.
“I think they’re just starting to get really comfortable with each other, their spacing is a lot better, and we made shots,” he said. “I think that kind of spiraled in a positive way, credit the way we played, but the ball went in and I think we really fed off that.”
On the other side of the ball, the Red and Blue just passed perhaps their biggest test of the season by limiting Brown’s Ivy-leading offense to just 60 points. Penn has been dominant on the defensive side of the ball all season, leading the Ancient Eight with just 52.3 points against per game.
“We came out and we played [Brown] the way we usually play, and they did a really good job, they attacked us from the middle and we adjusted,” McLaughlin said. “That’s what I was happier about ... I think it was a good in-game adjustment the girls made and I thought we defended a really good offensive team really well.”
The Villanova game marks the first game of a nearly three-week break from Ivy play for the Red and Blue. Such a break might derail the momentum of some teams, but the Quakers are not concerned.
“I don’t think it matters at all,” Ross said. “It’s fun to play in the Big 5 too, and we’re really excited, so we’re not letting any energy go away from what we got from the Ivy play.”
If all goes well on Wednesday, the Quakers can reverse one streak while extending another.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.