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Womens Basketball vs. La Salle Credit: Thomas Munson , Thomas Munson

The past few games have revealed a lot about Penn women’s basketball.

After suffering a blowout loss to No. 4 Tennessee in their opening game, the Quakers have shown off exactly why they were one of the favorites (along with Princeton) to finish atop the conference: Stifling defense.

Against a Lafayette team that has shot nearly 40 percent from the floor this season, Penn’s defense – anchored by sophomore center Sydney Stipanovich — will be key once again.

Despite playing against a top-tier offense in the form of the Lady Vols, the Red and Blue still rank second in the Ivy League in opposing field goal percentage and points per game. In their past three games, opponents have shot just 25.7 percent from the field, while averaging just under 40 points per game.

The Leopards (4-2) are coming off of a tough matchup against No. 12 Louisville that saw Lafayette fall, 102-61. Junior guard Jamie O’Hare — who put up 20 against the Cardinals — has the potential to pose matchup problems for the Quakers’ inexperienced guards.

Lafayette senior forward Emily Homan leads the team in scoring with 17.6 points per game and will be matched up against Stipanovich, Bonenberger and the rest of a frontcourt group that has anchored a dominant Penn zone defense for the past year.

Stipanovich has the chance to finish the game ranked fourth all-time in career blocks for Penn, needing just one to tie all-time great Diana Caramanico. With 113 blocks in just 33 career games, the sophomore is on pace to break Katarina Poulsen’s all-time career record of 194 blocks by the end of the season.

While strong forward play has been a staple for Penn’s defense, the depth has been one of the most important aspects through the first few games. Against New Hampshire, coach Mike McLaughlin was able to rotate in fresh bodies throughout the game without losing any integrity in his zone.

Most of all against New Hampshire, Penn’s depth was truly on display. The Quakers’ bench scored 58 of their 74 points against the Wildcats, an incredible mark given the team’s starting five returns three players from last year’s championship lineup.

Yet it hasn’t been a one game trend, across the entire season, Penn’s bench has outscored its starters 30.7 points per game to 30.1 despite playing only 44.5 percent of the minutes. Most of this change has come from yet another stellar freshman class.

Freshman guards Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowski, along with freshman forward Michelle Nwokedi — reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week — have combined for 19.0 points per game so far and could potentially see even larger roles as the year progresses.

Against a Lafayette team that has relied heavily on its starters, Penn’s bench has the chance to turn the tide.

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