Shots are falling as Penn women’s basketball just keeps on rolling.
The Quakers came into Friday’s game against Dartmouth with a seven game winning streak. Rather than resting on their laurels, the team came into this game with a fire, shutting the Big Green down early and holding onto the lead throughout in a game that stopped being close sometime in the second quarter. Penn ended up winning the game by a whopping 65-47.
Dartmouth (12-8, 4-3 Ivy) won a pair of Ivy back-to-backs heading into tonight, but even that momentum was not enough to stop Penn (14-5, 5-1), who was able to shut down what had been a sharpshooting and prolific offense. Despite shooting over 40 percent on field goals before tonight, Penn held the Big Green to a meager 28 percent on 54 shots.
“We made an effort to extend a little bit more which created a little bit of extra dribble penetration for them, which broke us down at times, but we were committed to push them off the line a little bit, push them inside the arc, thought we did a good job of that,” coach Mike McLaughlin said.
Junior guard Ashley Russell started heating up early in the game, and ended up shooting 60 percent on the night, with a mark of 40 percent from beyond the arc, notching her a team-high 14 points. Her dominance, especially in the first half of the game, helped to spread the floor on offense, and in the second half senior forward Michelle Nwokedi and freshman center Eleah Parker were able to get into a rhythm down low. By then, Dartmouth had little chance of making a comeback.
“[Ashley’s] been terrific, I mean, she’s the glue. She’s tough, she gives all these extra possessions, she can shoot the three,” McLaughlin said. “She’s a winner; we don’t get where we’re at so far this year without Ashley.”
It seemed like the Big Green knew they’d have to prevent the Penn frontcourt from finding their groove, and they had some minor success early, although this only opened up more space for Russell and senior guard Anna Ross to dominate from the backcourt. The team passed and communicated well on offense, spreading the floor and playing selflessly. Seven members of the team scored five or more points, as Penn proved willing to make the extra pass and get the ball to the open teammate.
“We really want to focus on ball movement, especially in transition, because when we come out in transition, we really wanna just get into a flow of offense,” Russell said. “Ball movement really gets our offense going, all of our points come from that.”
Rebounding also proved to be a key for Penn, on both sides of the ball. The Quakers out-rebounded Dartmouth 49-32 and had one fewer turnover, preventing their opponents from having too many possessions and scoring attempts. Especially remarkable was one Penn offensive possession, which featured three misses, each immediately followed by a Nwokedi rebound, until Parker finally scored.
“We got the ball so many extra times,” Donahue said. “It’s just what we need to do, [we shot] under 40 percent and still got to 65, which is pretty good for us.”
Penn also played exemplary defense, especially in crunch time. Despite having the ball at the end of the first two quarters, Dartmouth couldn’t score a bucket heading into the break either time. Additionally, despite their game plan apparently being to shoot as many threes as possible, Penn’s hard-hitting perimeter defense from their guards forced Dartmouth inside, where they had to face the Penn frontcourt.
“We knew this weekend was a huge weekend for us guarding the three point line, and we kind of just made a point for our guards to guard the arc hard, close out really hard” Russell said.
The Quakers will need to continue this high level of scoring and lockdown defense if they want to defeat Harvard (13-7, 5-2) when they host them on Saturday.
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