Two days, two Ivy League teams, and two commanding victories for Penn’s women’s basketball.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned this weekend, it’s that we can trust this team more than we could ever trust any individual player on it. Even though Penn boasts a solid core of experienced players this year, the team’s most valuable asset – one which could carry them through the Ivy League tournament and beyond – is its collective ability to maintain balance each game as players pick up the slack for their teammates on their off-days.
Take Anna Ross, for example. The junior from Syracuse, NY exploded on Saturday against Brown. She chalked up a team-leading 19 points by going 7-for-10 from the field and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. She also led the team in assists and steals, and she didn’t turn the ball over once.
For Ross, it must have felt as though she was falling back into a groove from which she had been dislodged the day before.
During the Yale game on Friday, Ross had trouble finding a rhythm to justify her seven attempted three-pointers — missing five of them. Her turnover count was the highest on the team. She wasn’t the player we’re used to seeing.
That night, though, it was Kasey Chambers and Lauren Whitlach who stepped up and filled the gap. Whitlach worked especially hard when she was subbed in at Ross’s position on top of the Quakers' defensive zone and also knocked down some clutch corner threes to keep Penn on top in the second half.
More noticeably, Chambers made herself a threat from deep, even more than she usually does as a point guard. She wasn’t afraid to shoot threes when the play called for it, and every time it did, she drained the shot.
And on Saturday, when Chambers stuttered from downtown and posted the same three-point percentage that Ross posted against Yale, her teammate was there to return the favor.
It’s a give and take for this team.
Just look at Princess Aghayere, who played less than half of each contest, but was the ultimate relief pitcher for forward Michelle Nwokedi and center Sydney Stipanovich.
Even though the two starters were integral against both Yale and Brown, Aghayere was equally important in allowing the two superstars to rest and there ensuring that they could both be effective for the entire game. She was the perfect substitute, missing only one shot on Friday and none on Saturday. When her teammates needed a breather, Aghayere was there for them.
Additionally, this weekend taught us that the best offense for Penn really is a good defense. In their matchup against Yale, and particularly against offensive powerhouse Brown, the hard-working 2-3 defense allowed the Quakers to take chances on the other half of the court. Just look to Nwokedi and Stipanovich’s double-digit defensive rebound stats as evidence.
Having won six straight games now, this looks like a team that is ready to take on the rest of the Ivy League, and with any luck, the NCAA Tournament in March as well.
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