Milestone game for Penn women's basketball
Quakers have shot at first 3-0 start in program history, two years removed from 2-26 season
November 21, 2011, 11:23 pm·
Pete Lodato | DP
A resurgent Penn squad has a chance for a milestone victory Tuesday night at La Salle.
Just two years removed from a 2-26 season, the women’s basketball team has an opportunity to start 3-0 for the first time in program history.
“These are small things that we kind of aim for,” senior forward Jess Knapp said.
Rather than speculating on a possible record-setting start, coach Mike McLaughlin is focused on what the Quakers have already accomplished.
“To get off to a 2-0 start, it shows that for all their hard work, they’re being rewarded a little bit,” McLaughlin said, referring to the remaining players from the 2-26 campaign.
But Knapp acknowledged that a good start is just a stepping stone to a greater goal.
“We are, of course, a very humble team,” Knapp said. “This game is as big as any other one.”
“You don’t win a championship in three games,” she added.
McLaughlin echoed the sentiment.
“It’s a small sample size, its only two [games] of 28, “ he said.
The Quakers look for their third win of the season against an Explorers team (1-3) that they beat last season to snap a six-year Big 5 losing streak, 45-40.
“The purpose [last year’s game] serves is to let us know that we are in the Big 5 for a reason, and that we can play these teams and hang in there,” Knapp said.
“I think [breaking the skid] can only help us going forward,” McGlaughlin added.
This year’s squads on both sides of the ball, however, have very different make-ups.
“We have a lot of new pieces,” McLaughlin said, including freshman starter Renee Busch. “They have a lot of new pieces that are pretty good.”
Though the Explorers are on a three-game losing skid, they are led by a standout freshman in Jada Payne, who averages a team-best 12.3 points a game.
On Penn’s side, sophomore guard Alyssa Baron has dominated the first two games, averaging 28.5 points, but McLaughlin has been equally impressed with her defensive performance thus far.
“She’s been really special on both ends of the court,” he said. “What we asked Alyssa to do is to be the complete player this year, to make her value even higher for us, and she has done that.”
Specifically, McLaughlin pointed to Baron’s improved defensive “focus,” which has helped her play team defense.
Knapp has also been a force in the paint for the Quakers in the early going. She is averaging 9.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks through two games.
“I think the good thing about our team is that everyone has a role to play,” Knapp said.
“Its kind of settling to know that you don’t have to try and juggle everything,” she continued. “You don’t have to try and do everything on the court, but you just have to do what you’re good at.”