Penn women's basketball halts losing skid as Knapp returns
Behind freshman Renee Busch's 24 points, the Quakers cruised past Columbia
January 29, 2012, 11:57 pm · Updated January 31, 2012, 8:56 pm·
Six minutes and 33 seconds into its matchup against Columbia on Friday night, Jess Knapp took court for the first time in nearly a month.
The ovation the Penn basketball captain received was not only for her long-awaited return, but also for her toughness in coming back to play with two torn ligaments in her right knee.
Her impact was felt immediately, as the Quakers finally put an end to their six-game losing streak, defeating the Lions, 75-50.
“She had a huge emotional effect,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “Especially at that moment when her teammates saw her take her shooting shirt off to check into the game after all she’s been through.”
And although freshman Renee Busch led the team statistically with 20 points, it’s hard to deny the role Knapp’s return played.
While her stat line was modest, especially for her — two rebounds, two fouls and no points in 11 minutes — her presence on the court after a rough six games fueled the Quakers (8-9, 1-2 Ivy) for the night.
“When she realizes what she currently can and cannot do, and doesn’t get frustrated with not being able to do what she could before, it’ll be better,” McLaughlin said. “She’s an asset regardless. It’s awesome to have her out there.”
In their highest scoring output of the year, the Red and Blue had five players in double figures, including Busch’s career-high 20 points. She also led the team in rebounds and tied for the lead in assists, collecting eight and four, respectively.
“The basket was really big, and the ball went in,” McLaughlin said. “Overall, it was a great win.”
The Quakers continued their stifling perimeter defense — they rank No. 6 in the country in three-point percentage allowed — holding the Lions to 25 percent on 4-of-16 shooting. Penn shot nearly 50 percent from distance, converting 10-of-21.
While four treys came from Busch, her fellow freshmen teammates have also taken a larger role on the team as of late. Point guard Jackie Kates replaced sophomore Meghan McCullough in the starting lineup and forwards Katy Allen and Kara Bonenberger have boosted both the team’s offense and defense with their increased minutes.
Kates seemed to move into the starting role without a hitch, and Penn’s sophomore scoring ace lauded her performance.
“Jackie’s learning and she’s playing well,” said Alyssa Baron, who tallied 13 points on the night. “She’s taken the role as the starting point guard. She’s taking it head on and she’s doing well out there.”
Against Columbia (2-15, 0-3), Allen scored 12 points and six boards, while Bonenberger had 10 points and four rebounds to go along with four assists and two steals.
The young Quakers were bigger, faster and better than the Lions, and the result was never in question.
As Baron said, “We really took it to Columbia.”
Against Cornell on Sunday afternoon, Penn was not as fortunate in a 67-53 loss.