Encouraging defensive effort for women's hoops in South Bend
Penn defense holds No. 3 Notre Dame to its second-lowest output of the season in loss
December 5, 2011, 12:13 am·
The Penn women’s basketball team traveled to South Bend, Ind., Thursday morning, riding the wave of jubilation from the best five-game start in program history.
But even that momentum wasn’t enough to carry the Quakers to victory against one of the nation’s top teams — as they fell, 69-38, to No. 3 Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish (7-1), last season’s NCAA runner-ups figured to give the Quakers (4-2) some problems after starting the season 5-1, including a 65-point annihilation of Indiana State.
Though the odds were stacked against the Red and Blue, the team remained confident in its preparation.
“Coach does a great job of preparing us for each opponent,” senior captain Jourdan Banks said. “We had a specific game plan that we needed to stick to [in order] to win, and unfortunately we didn’t.”
Notre Dame was able to continue its early-season dominance and handled the Quakers with relative ease.
Penn fell behind early and went into the half down, 40-15. Such a young team could be expected to fold at that point, but the Red and Blue did not. In a stronger second half, Notre Dame outscored Penn by just six points.
“The girls are doing great,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “Each game they are building, but one thing I continue to stress with them is playing a full 40-minute game.”
Freshman standout Kara Bonenberger led the Quakers in scoring with nine points and added seven rebounds in her 22 minutes on the floor.
“Kara has been great for us,” McLaughlin said. “All the freshmen have. They’re steadily improving game-to-game and will be a force in the years to come.”
Sophomore scoring machine Alyssa Baron struggled from the field, going 3-for-15 for just seven points, though she collected five rebounds, second only to Bonenberger.
“Alyssa is required to do so much for us, but when you rely so much on one player, you will get some days [like this],” McLaughlin said.
Scoring struggles from top players notwithstanding, it was an encouraging effort for Penn, whose staple defensive prowess was solely responsible for a number of feats.
The collective effort held Notre Dame to 38-percent shooting — only No. 7 Duke has held the Irish to a lower mark — resulting in the second sub-80-point game for the Irish all season.
In addition, Penn clamped down on 2011 third-team All-American Skylar Diggins, who rose to prominence in the national tournament last season and entered the contest averaging over 20 points per game. The Quakers defense limited Diggins to eight points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Overall, McLaughlin believes the trip was worthwhile and knows his team can use what they learned from playing a national powerhouse to improve.
“The experience here, with both schools having such prestigious histories, and playing in front of such a large crowd, will be an invaluable experience for this team moving forward.”