KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Well, what did you really expect? Penn women’s basketball got clobbered by a top-5 program in the nation in the form of No. 4 Tennessee.
Normally, a 45-point blowout is cause for major concern.
But this isn’t most matchups, and as coach Mike McLaughlin and the rest of the team knew going in, this would have to be a game to build off of. While the box score may not show it, this is certainly a Penn team that had aspects of the game that go its way.
We knew before the start of the season that the biggest challenge for the team would be their guard play, and both freshmen – Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowski – got big minutes from beginning to end.
Ross got the start and showed promise early on, particularly on the glass, grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. Brzozowski dominated the offensive side of the ball late in the game and ended with a team-high 11 points and four assists.
The freshman guards struggled to keep the pace under control, a momentous challenge against an athletic team, but that too will come with experience.
It’s unsure who will eventually take over the starting job – McLaughlin was uncertain as to his opening day starter as late as Wednesday afternoon – but both appear to be capable of leading the team against Ivy League competition.
While those two freshmen certainly shone, Penn’s biggest freshman recruit – forward Michelle Nwokedi – appeared raw and overmatched against the Lady Vols.
Given the results for the Quakers in their last two contests against NCAA opponents, it’s clear that against top opponents Penn’s bigs will end up in foul trouble. As another promising forward, Nwokedi was presumed to be part of the solution – a shot-blocking inside presence off the bench – instead she struggled in her eight minutes of play.
Yet the beauty of Penn’s depth this season is that Nwokedi has plenty of time to develop; she can steadily ease herself into a larger role. She’ll be a player to watch later in the season, particularly if the Quakers go to some bigger lineups against Ivy foes.
In their first collegiate appearances, the freshmen class put together some flashes of brilliance and have a lot of potential for growth as the season progresses.
Turnovers and defensive rebounding were killer for the Quakers and the Lady Vols’ full-court pressure got to them at times. It’s impossible to expect anything different starting inexperienced guards against an SEC powerhouse on the road.
The rebounding in particular might jump out as a concern given the team’s success in that regard last season with the frontcourt duo of Kara Bonenberger and Sydney Stipanovich. Not every team is going to boast the height and athleticism of the Lady Vols; you won’t find athletes like these anywhere in the Ivy League.
While the team struggled on the glass, Stipanovich showed once again that she’s one of the top shot-blockers in the nation with six blocks (all in the first half). As a freshman, the center finished with 3.4 blocks per game, good for eighth in the nation, and Tennessee was made immediately aware of her presence.
While the team gave up 97 points, a large number came off of second chances, turnovers and fast breaks – mostly caused by the disparity in length and athleticism. The half-court defense (rebounding aside) wasn’t the primary problem, which is very encouraging.
It’s a constant theme within Penn Athletics in every sport and every season: a tough nonconference schedule begets future success in the Ivy schedule. Tennessee is this season’s toughest test for the Red and Blue.
While the Quakers certainly didn’t play a perfect game on Friday, McLaughlin and his staff should have plenty of positives to take away from their trip to Tennessee.Comments powered by Disqus
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