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Women Basketball beats Morgan State Credit: Jing Ran , Jing Ran, Jing Ran

For the Penn women’s basketball team, a season-opening three game slide has become a thing of the past.

The Quakers (7-5) have started to come into their own just in time for the start of Ivy League play, winning six of their final seven games to close out 2012, four of them on the road.

Starting off 2013 with their first home games since December 3rd, the Red and Blue have fallen back to earth somewhat, beating Morgan State (4-10), 79-73, on Tuesday, after falling to St. Joseph’s (9-5) on Saturday, 66-53.

Despite the split, the Quakers have begun to come together as a team.

“We’re gaining depth,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We’re in a good spot. Point guard play is picking up. Keiera [Ray] is trying to learn the game, the pace of the game and that position, but she’s doing a great job.”

Against the Hawks on Saturday, Penn received its typical strong performance from junior guard Alyssa Baron, who dropped in a team-high 12 points.

But the Quakers simply couldn’t handle the St. Joe’s forward-guard tandem of Chatilla van Grinsven and Natasha Cloud, who finished with 27 and 19 points, respectively.

“It was a battle,” McLaughlin said. “We played for 30 minutes of the game, but weren’t able to hold on the whole time. It’s a really good basketball team. They’re big strong and athletic. We played well, but they just wore us down.”

Going into the half down just three, the Hawks turned up the intensity for the rest of the game, crashing the boards relentlessly on their way to a game-clinching, 17-4 second-half run.

St. Joe’s more than doubled up the Quakers’ on rebounds, 44-21, leading to a 16-2 advantage in second-chance points that ultimately proved fatal to Penn’s hopes.

“As a coach, that’s my worry — we don’t rebound the guard particularly well,” McLaughlin said. “Good teams break you down if you give them the ball too many times. St. Joe’s exposed us with that.”

Rebounding proved to be far less of an issue in the Red and Blue’s next matchup.

Against Morgan State, the Quakers redoubled their efforts on the boards, outrebounding the Bears by a 44-38 margin.

“Tonight the focus was on rebounding,” McLaughlin said. “Our mindset to rebound was a little stronger, and it’s certainly an area of concern moving forward.”

With their refined focus and Baron’s 28 points, the Quakers were able to withstand 12 Morgan State three-pointers in a game that saw 10 lead changes.

“The key number was that [Baron] got to the foul line 11 times,” McLaughlin said. “She’ll be guarded close no matter who we play. There’ll be games where she shoots a low percentage; I’m fine with that, she just has to get to the foul line.”

With the win, the Quakers enter their first Ivy League game against Princeton on Saturday with renewed confidence.

“It’s a good group,” McLaughlin said. “We move the ball better than we did a year ago.

“We have the pieces in place, but we have to play each position because we don’t have the ability to put teams away.”


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