Things are back to normal at the Palestra.
After losing its first three home games this season, Penn women’s basketball finally found its home court advantage with two comfortable wins over Brown and Yale.
An 86-60 win over Brown on Saturday capped off a successful Ivy League weekend for the Red and Blue, who beat Yale 66-55 the previous night.
With the two victories, Penn (9-4, 3-0 Ivy) held on to its perfect conference record and extended the team’s win streak to six straight games.
The two wins came as no surprise for a Penn team in such great form, especially in Ancient Eight play – the Quakers have only suffered one loss in conference play in the past two seasons.
On Friday night it wasn’t until the second quarter that the Quakers came alive and Yale (9-6, 0-2) began to fall behind.
Junior guard Anna Ross and sophomore forward Princess Aghayere led the way for the Quakers in the quarter with eight and six points.
“Once [Princess] started rolling and scoring the ball off the bench we’ve been a better basketball team,” coach Mike McLaughlin said of her recent performances.
When the game entered the second half it was junior guard Lauren Whitlatch who had the team’s hot hand. After a quiet first half, the sharpshooter dropped a trio of three-pointers on the Bulldogs in the third quarter as the Red and Blue pulled away from the visitors.
“I don’t think we closed the first half well as we should have. [But] I thought we came out in the second half,” McLaughlin said. “I was really happy with the way we played.”
All night long, Yale had its fair share of open shots but couldn’t bring the firepower to punish the Quakers.
Despite Penn’s game with Brown (10-5, 1-1) the next day, McLaughlin’s starters continued to play hard well into the fourth quarter even with the comfortable buffer.
“I wanted to try and draw some momentum into tomorrow,” he said. “I didn’t want to stumble to the finish line.”
Safe to say there was no stumbling on Saturday night. McLaughlin’s side handedly defeated the visiting Bears by a 26-point margin and recorded its best shooting of the season by going 55.7 percent from the field.
The meeting was touted as a test of Penn’s championship-winning defense. This season Brown has displayed one of the most potent offenses in the Ancient Eight, leading the league with an average of 75 points per game that included a 98-88 win over Princeton on Friday night.
“We didn’t want to get into an open-court shootout with them,” McLaughlin said. “That’s the style they play. I thought we had to control the tempo.”
The Bears, however, were no match for the league leaders, who had limited their opponents to less than 52 points per game on average.
A nine-point run in the second quarter put some distance between the two sides. Building off of her strong performance from Friday, Ross once again jumpstarted the Red and Blue attack.
“I put up more shots than I had last year, and tonight was just my night I guess,” Ross said.
The junior guard had 14 points in the first half alone and would go on to end the night with a tally of 19 points, shooting 70 percent from the field and going three-for-three from long range.
Going into the second half, the Quakers led 44-32 and continued to assert their dominance throughout the third quarter, extending the buffer to 18 points before the final period of play.
It was a relatively quiet game for McLaughlin’s starters, as sophomores Ashley Russell and Aghayere and junior Beth Brzozowski saw good amounts of playing time.
Senior center Sydney Stipanovich had no problem kept things under control in the front-court as the offensive did work.
By the fourth quarter, it was clear that a rout was underway, as the Red and Blue rolled to an 86-60 finish. Brown’s bench, whose voices filled the arena during the first three quarters, had gone silent by the end of the night.
The two wins at the Palestra were as good a start that the Quakers could have asked for as they enter a five game stretch of home contests.
“We stayed mentally strong for both games,” Ross added. “And I think that showed how we’re going to play for the rest of the season.”
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