Early in the season, the Penn women’s basketball team is reinventing the notion of traveling.
While their walking violations haven’t increased this season, their frequent flyer miles definitely have. Wednesday’s matchup against St. Francis (NY) in Brooklyn will be their third road game of the season, and the first of five games in a row away from home.
“We didn’t play consistently well for 40 minutes in our first away games,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “So hopefully we learned the first two times that playing sporadically on the road is just not going to get it done.”
The results thus far this season have been mixed for the Quakers (2-3), who have dropped their only two road contests by a combined 14 points.
“The close ones always hurt,” junior forward Courtney Wilson said. “But when you’re on the other side like we were against Bucknell, it’s that much sweeter.
“We live for that type of competition, though.”
Still searching for their first win away from home, the Red and Blue have been hoping for some veteran leadership.
That leadership may have shown itself on Monday night, when the Quakers battled to an overtime victory at the Palestra over Bucknell, 58-53. Strong performances from Wilson and fellow junior Alyssa Baron led the way.
Baron has been a force, leading the team in scoring, rebounding and assists. But it has been on the other side of the floor where she has really stepped up her game.
“Defense is where she’s made the most progress,” McLaughlin said. “I’m a typical coach, I see what she’s done on the offensive side but I’ve needed more defense and she’s doing much better there.”
The team has been waiting for someone to step up alongside Baron.
Early-season hopes were high for sophomore Renee Busch, who has gotten off to a slow start.
A stronger effort against Bucknell, though, may be a sign that the guard has turned the corner.
“She struggled for a couple weeks, which just happened to be at the beginning of the season basketball-wise, but she’s gotten it together and has been working her butt off,” McLaughlin said. “She just got off to a slow start.”
One bright spot has been freshman Keiera Ray, who is second on the team in points, rebounds and steals.
“She went from playing a backup role in that position to a full-time point,” McLaughlin said. “She’s got some growth to do in terms of learning the speed and pace of the game, but she’s a real aggressive player on the offensive end.
“I’m seeing improvement every day and looking forward to great things from her.”
Wilson echoed coach McLaughlin’s sentiments.
“She’s done a really good job attacking the basketball and stepping up as a leader,” Wilson said. “It’s really hard coming in as a freshman, but she’s been doing well.”
They will need another strong performance from Ray against the Terriers (2-3), who have dropped three in a row after a fast start.
“This is a much better team than the last few years,” McLaughlin said. “They’re very disciplined and have a new coach. They are a pretty good team and we’ll have to be prepared to beat them.”
Tip off is at 7 p.m., and the team will be back in Brooklyn on Sunday to take on LIU-Brooklyn on the road.
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