It was a mismatch from the opening tip. And the Red and Blue frontcourt of freshman Michelle Nwokedi, sophomore Sydney Stipanovich and senior Kara Bonenberger reaped the benefits all night as they powered the Quakers to a 75-58 victory.
Standing at 6-foot-3, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-1, respectively, the trio towered over a Brown squad whose tallest starter was six-foot freshman Kennedy Martin.
The Quakers (17-7, 8-2 Ivy) displayed their dominance early and never let up. After surrendering the game’s first two points to Brown (10-15, 4-7), Penn went on a 17-4 run.
The Red and Blue’s fast start was led by their tall stars who continually abused the Bears in the paint. The three standouts scored Penn’s first 11 points and 14 of its first 17. But it was on the boards where they caused the most damage.
“Last weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth we got a lot of offensive rebounds, but we just couldn’t get the defensive rebounds,” Bonenberger said.
Friday night sang a different tune for the Quakers, who outrebounded Brown 48 to 33.
Stipanovitch – who led the team with 18 points – couldn’t be stopped. When she wasn’t towering over her counterparts down low, she was knocking down midrange jumpers at will. Stipanovitch was also a force on defense. She blocked three shots and recorded 10 rebounds en route to a double double.
“I think the length definitely helps,” Stipanovich noted. “Especially on defense when we all play as big as we can.”
But Stipanovitch wasn’t the only one causing havoc for Brown on the defensive end. Nwokedi added four blocks and nine rebounds of her own, and the Bears never looked comfortable in their attempts to post up against Penn’s stars.
Coach Mike McLaughlin had nothing but praise for his emerging star.
“When she stays aggressive on the offensive end she’s really effective. She’s been tremendous. She’s showing everyday that she’s adding more to what she is,” he said of Nwokedi.
Despite all of Penn’s successes, Brown did have one advantage on the Quakers.
Penn turned the ball over 15 times, and Brown capitalized to the tune of 19 points.
However, despite the Red and Blue’s failure to secure the ball, the Bears never had a serious chance at threatening to cut into Penn’s lead.
Senior guard Kathleen Roche was another big reason why. She scored 14 points of her own with a consistent steady hand from long range throughout the contest. All night, Roche was a force from downtown, connecting on 4 of her 7 shots from three.
Freshman Anna Ross added a quiet six points and ran the point nearly flawlessly. Hustling down the court on every possession, she continually delivered precise passes after clearing the floor for Penn’s hot hands.
The Quakers, who host third place Yale (12-13, 6-5) tomorrow night at the Palestra, are playing from behind in their pursuit of a second-straight Ivy title.
With each game, the Red and Blue have looked stronger and more prepared to take on an undefeated Princeton team next week in the season finale. But unfortunately for the Quakers, Princeton will need to drop a game before that contest for the Red and Blue to get a chance to play for a championship against the Tigers.
Winning the Ivy League won’t be Penn’s only shot at making it to the postseason. On Friday, the Quakers were given a stage to showcase their strengths as they work to bolster their resume for an at-large bid before NCAA and NIT selection committees meet in a few weeks.
That’s not on the squad’s mind just yet though. On the cusp of senior night, the team is reflective and focused on what they can do, together.
“Coming in as a freshman you’re scared, and then freshman to senior year you change completely,” Bonenberger said about her time at Penn. “I wish I could be here to watch them continue to grow but I know that they’ll do well.”Comments powered by Disqus
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