Following last year’s two-win season, the Penn women’s basketball team turned to its freshmen to change the team’s fortunes.
And they certainly delivered.
The Quakers defeated Bryant 70-59 to open their season Friday at the Palestra. The victory marked Penn’s first home opener win since 2006.
“We’ve put so much work in the offseason,” captain Jess Knapp said. “So I think all of us came in with the mentality that there was nothing else we could do and that we wanted to set the pace for the rest of the season.”
Knapp, a junior, recorded her second career double-double in the contest, recording 14 points and 11 rebounds.
But the rookies were the highlight of the night. Freshman Alyssa Baron led Penn with 20 points, on 7-for-15 shooting from the field. The guard earned 17 points before halftime but was forced to sit out most of the second half with a back injury.
“In the first half, I just kept taking it strong to the basket,” Baron said. “I knew the defenders couldn’t cover me as well as they should have been able to.”
Baron wasn’t the only freshman who made an impact on Friday. Point guard Meghan McCullough scored 15 points, shooting 4-for-9 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line.
“I think it’s a great start for us,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We have a lot of things we can get better on, but I like what I saw today.”
The Quakers were marked by solid shooting throughout the game, scoring more points in this season’s opener than they did in any game last season (61 was the 2009-10 high).
Penn made 39.1 percent of its shots and the team was able to take an early lead by shooting 48.1 percent in the first half. The Quakers also shot an astounding 76.9 percent from the free throw line, where the team was 30-for-39.
“Our goal is to try and get some easier baskets, some transition baskets, to increase our field goal percentage,” McLaughlin said.
Although the Quakers set the tone with the victory, they still have room for improvement. Penn gave up 19 offensive rebounds to Bryant, resulting in a number of second chance opportunities.
“We are going to watch a lot of film after today, we’re going to go over the little things,” Knapp said. “We’re a young team, so there’s only room for improvement.”
As Penn looks to improve from last season’s 2-26 finish, it will look toward the less experienced members in 2010-11.
“We have eleven players that could play a role at some point, but we really need the freshmen to be able to continue to do what they did today and improve,” McLaughlin said. “I expect them to contribute greatly throughout the year.”