NEWARK, N.J. — It was all Quakers, all night long.
Dominating from the beginning on both sides of the ball, Penn women’s basketball soundly defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 82-52, on Thursday night in the NJIT Highlanders Christmas tournament.
The 30-point margin of victory for the Quakers (5-4) over the Rams (2-9) is Penn’s largest this season and biggest win since last February’s 68-38 win over Dartmouth.
The Red and Blue made light work of the Rams right from the tip-off, leading by double digits for 37 of the game’s 40 minutes. Rather than any one player leading the way, the win was a total team effort, as four Quakers ended up scoring in double figures and ten players found the basket at least once.
Senior Lauren Whitlatch got Penn off to a 6-0 lead with a pair of three-pointers in the game’s first 20 seconds, and the Red and Blue never looked back. She finished with 14 points, all in the first half, 12 of which came from behind the arc.
Two-time defending Ivy Rookie of the Week Eleah Parker continued to impress, as the freshman led the Quakers in scoring with a career-high 18 points, including nailing her first three-pointer of the season.
Fellow freshman Katie Kinum also starred for the Quakers from behind the three-point stripe, hitting a career-high four triples for a total of 12 points.
Senior Michelle Nwokedi continued her great form for the Red and Blue, picking up her second consecutive and fourth total double-double on the season with 13 points and a team-leading 14 rebounds. With an additional six steals and four assists, Nwokedi continues to be the playmaker the Quakers will need during Ivy League play right around the corner.
In just her second game all season, sophomore Phoebe Sterba registered on the scoresheet for the first time this year with a three-point shot to open Penn’s scoring in the fourth quarter.
After trailing by 26 at the half, VCU began to press on defense in the second half, but the Quakers always seemed to find an open player under the basket for an easy layup. Slicing through the Rams’ defense, Penn put up 65 points — more than they scored in five of their previous eight full games this season — through just the first three quarters. With a game-high five assists, senior captain Anna Ross was a key figure in Penn sharing the ball.
On defense, the Quakers limited VCU to just 19 points in the first half behind the stellar performances of Nwokedi and Parker all game long. The senior-freshman power duo combined for three steals, 19 rebounds, and all of the team’s nine blocks.
Some key figures that helped Penn cruise to victory against the Rams were its 49 rebounds and 22 assists to VCU’s 25 and 11, respectively, as well as the Quakers outscoring VCU 22-8 in second chance points.
Coincidentally, the Red and Blue have played all of their last three games against opponents from the Atlantic 10 conference. Despite playing each in a different location, including two neutral venues, the Quakers have come out on top in all three contests.
With the win, the Quakers advance to the championship of the four-team tournament, where they will face off against hosts NJIT (2-11) on Friday, while the Rams will play in the third-place game. NJIT took advantage of playing on their home court, outlasting Long Beach State by a score of 73-57 in Thursday’s first semifinal game.
Since these games are the last ones that the team will play before the start of Ivy play, a win Friday night would be crucial to carry positive momentum into the Quakers' key home game against Princeton on January 6.
If Penn plays anything like it did Thursday, Red and Blue fans should be excited to see more.
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