While most of us were off relaxing over winter break, Penn sports teams were busy at work. Our editors debate: Which team had the best winter break?
Jonathan Pollack, Sports Editor:
Penn women’s basketball had the best winter break of any Penn team, and it isn’t even close. In addition to capturing two wins on the West Coast and spending New Year’s Eve in a warm California, the presumptive Ivy favorites started off conference play with a captivating, come-from-behind victory against their biggest rival, Princeton.
The 62-57 win over the Tigers was an all-around team effort, with huge contributions from usual characters and bench players alike. Stipanovich and Nwokedi both had double digit points, Anna Ross looked like a coach on the court in the first half, and Beth Brzozowski put the team on her back down the stretch, knocking down three straight treys to put the Quakers ahead for good in the fourth quarter. If this game was any indication, the Red and Blue can expect strong play up and down the lineup, which would be huge in the upcoming weeks.
Even though they’re only one game into their Ivy season, the Quakers have already played what should be their most difficult game — on the road at Princeton — and they came away with a win. They started off their title defense in the best possible way, and because of that, no other team had a better winter break.
Cole Jacobson, Sports Editor:
Sure, the easy choice — and probably the correct one — would be Penn women’s basketball, considering its 3-0 record. But as impressive as that squad’s past two weeks have been, its counterpart on the men’s side has made strides at a similar rate.
The Quakers’ first winter break showdown came against a Drexel team that had topped the Red and Blue in six consecutive match-ups dating back to 2006, most recently including a frustrating 53-52 overtime heartbreaker a year ago. So while Penn’s eight-point win wasn’t necessarily unexpected looking at national rankings, its importance to the Quakers when considering the intimacy of Philadelphia basketball rivalries can’t be overstated.
Following that win, Penn took another impressive non-league victory against a Fairfield squad led by a dominant pair of guards in Tyler Nelson and Curtis Cobb, giving coach Steve Donahue’s squad major momentum heading into the conference opener against the hated Tigers.
And though the Red and Blue ultimately came up short in the rivalry matchup, there were plenty of positives on display on the Jadwin Gym floor. Trailing 39-18 in the second half to the conference’s preseason favorites, the Red and Blue didn’t lay down at all, using a barrage of three-point shots to go on a remarkable 26-5 run to briefly tie the game at 44 before the senior-laden Tigers eventually pulled away.
Even in a loss, the message Penn sent to the league was clear: this team can hang with the best that the Ivy League has to offer. And for a program that hasn’t finished in the top half of the conference since 2012, that change of pace is awfully refreshing.
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