It’s all about just keeping the ball rolling for Penn women’s basketball right now.
“We’ve just gotta keep doing what we’re doing, and try to do it a little better each day,” coach Mike McLaughlin said.
The Quakers (12-9, 5-2 Ivy) will have the Ivy title race with undefeated Princeton in mind when they tip off against Cornell (11-10, 3-4) and Columbia (3-18, 1-6) this weekend at the Palestra.
Penn has been on a tear of late, winning five of its last six games, including a historic sweep last weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth.
It was the first time since 2004 that the Quakers took down the Crimson, having failed in their previous 17 attempts.
Last weekend’s X-factor was none other than point guard Keiera Ray, the talented but previously erratic freshman who took over early in the season for injured guard Meghan McCullough.
“She’s a real complete player,” McLaughlin said. “She’s become acclimated to the position and is handling it much better than she did earlier in the season. Every day she’s getting better, and more confident.”
After pouring in 50 points over the weekend, the rookie was named to a quartet of awards: Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Week, Ivy Player and Rookie of the Week and the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association (USBWA) Women’s National Player of the Week. She was the first ever Ivy League player — male or female — to receive the award.
“She accomplished a great deal with all of those awards,” McLaughlin said. “It was well-deserved — she had tremendous games.”
“It is an honor to be the first Ivy League player ever to receive the award,” Ray said.
But the team’s recent successes won’t affect its focus moving forward.
“Morale is great,” Ray said. “We celebrated that weekend but we have another big weekend coming so we can’t dwell on last weekend for too long.”
The team is in contention for the Ivy title for the first time in McLaughlin’s four-season tenure and this weekend’s homestand against Cornell and Columbia will have serious conference implications.
Cornell and Columbia currently sit at sixth and seventh place respectively in the Ivy League and should provide beatable competition for Penn, who swept the two teams in New York three weekends ago.
But the Quakers are also aware of the dangers of looking too far ahead in the schedule.
“You can’t worry about records too much [because] anything can happen in the game of basketball,” Ray said. “You have to stay focused on what you’re doing all the time.”
Princeton will play the same two teams over the weekend, so any upsets will affect the current two-game gap between the teams.
“We’re going to have to be really sharp, play with an edge and rebound the basketball to have success,” McLaughlin said.
With only five Ivy contests remaining after this weekend, there’s no time for that edge to wear off if the Quakers still want to catch Princeton in the standings.
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