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While Penn's 79-62 victory over Lafayette does not mean terribly much in the grand scheme of the season, especially with those Ivy weekends on the horizon, the way the Quakers won last night should give them quite a boost heading into the next six weeks. Jessica Allen returned to the Penn lineup tonight for the first time since December 12 and was impressive, scoring six points and pulling down four rebounds in 13 minutes. "This is my rookie year in the Ivy League," Penn coach Kelly Greenberg said. "I think I know what it's going to be like to play Friday-Saturday, but I really don't. But knowing Jess is back and knowing we've got to play numbers, that's going to be so key in that second night game, that Saturday night game." With 5:13 remaining in the first half and Penn's star forward Diana Caramanico on the bench with three fouls, Allen entered the game. It was her first action since suffering a stress fracture in her foot and missing six games. Since then, sophomore Julie Epton has played admirably in the starting lineup, scoring in double figures in all but one game. It would be easy and understandable for Epton to worry about her run of increased playing time ending with Allen's return. "I didn't have any concerns, really," Epton said. "In the past, there were times we were tired, and coach wanted to get Jess in there because she was hurt, and in this one, Jess came in and? that just gave us a really nice rotation for the game." So Allen and Epton set to work -- together. On her first defensive possession, Allen swatted a Leopards pass that had been headed for the low post. The next time down, Allen's interference caused Lafayette to throw a pass straight to Epton. Then, the two got busy on offense. With 2:46 remaining before intermission, Epton fed Allen for a layup off a high-low play, then came back down the court on the next possession to score two of her own career high-tying 19 points. Allen closed Penn's scoring for the half with a two-footer off an inbounds pass with 13.7 seconds to go. The Quakers closed the first half with their largest lead of the game to that point, as a one-point advantage became 10 points in about four minutes, a feat that would ordinarily seem unthinkable without Caramanico in the lineup. It is a very good sign for the Quakers that they were able to not only survive, but to excel when Caramanico was forced to sit down. She will, like anybody else, not be able to realistically play 80 minutes per weekend for the next six weeks of Ivy play. "Julie Epton is just coming along," Greenberg said. "She's happy; she's finishing; she's rebounding. And Jess came in, and Jess played awesome. If I'm an Ivy League coach and I see tonight's game, and see that we have a [frontcourt] rotation of [Allen, Caramanico and Epton], I'm a little concerned." It is even more troublesome for the Ivy League coaches that the Quakers played so well with not only Caramanico on the bench, but with senior guard Mandy West held scoreless for the half on 0-for-3 shooting. Because playing back-to-back Ivy League games is so taxing, having as many skilled players as possible will be critical to Penn's chances for the league title. Especially now that she is back and ready for the meat of the Ivy schedule, Allen's injury may have been a bit of a blessing in disguise. After all, it has unleashed Epton's ability, and she has become one more skilled player for the Red and Blue to use down the stretch. Greenberg has stressed all year that she does not have a two-woman team. With Caramanico on the bench and West struggling last night in the first half, the Quakers finally proved her right. And they've done it just in time for the Ivy League season.

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