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Sophomore Sydney Stipanovich powered the Quakers' offense with 12 points on Friday.

Credit: Holden McGinnis

NEW YORK CITY — And they say Michael Bloomberg got rid of violent crime in New York City.

Powered by a stifling defense and standout performances by Sydney Stipanovich and Michelle Nwokedi, Penn women’s basketball beat up Columbia on Friday in a convincing 50-36 win.

The Big Apple’s recent decline in shootings was apparent in the game, as both teams struggled from the field, with Columbia (8-19, 2-11 Ivy) making only 25.6 percent of its shots and Penn (19-7, 10-2) only 29.0 percent. However, the Quakers’ lockdown defense kept them in control for the entirety of the game.

“We defend. That’s what saved us tonight,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We really didn’t execute well on offense … But when you defend, you’ve got a chance.”

The Quakers certainly employed a stop-and frisk policy on the defensive end, as the Red and Blue forced 19 Columbia turnovers and blocked nine Lion shots.

Freshman forward Michelle Nwokedi — in only 21 minutes of playing time — accounted for four of those blocks, accumulated alongside nine points and nine rebounds. Since her first career start on Feb. 2, the Texas native has averaged 12.5 points per game and has taken home four consecutive Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards.

Nwokedi is just as surprised as anyone else by her recent success.

“Honestly, I have no idea [what triggered it],” Nwokedi said. “I just give it my all in practices and try to get better.”

Teammate Sydney Stipanovich, who had a similarly impressive freshman campaign a year ago, added 12 points and seven rebounds, while freshman guard Anna Ross scored 12 of her own.

Sophomore forward Devon Roeper led the Lions with 10 points, while freshman Camille Zimmerman added eight to go along with seven rebounds.

As a team, though, Columbia struggled mightily on offense. In a city that never sleeps, the Lions shot a comatose 1-for-11 from 3-point range and didn’t score a field goal for the first 11 minutes of the second half.

The Quakers were similarly frigid on offense for much of the game. Senior guard Kathleen Roche went just 1-for-11 from the field, and senior forward Kara Bonenberger went just 1-for-10.

“It’s hard for the seniors, because they know at some point this is going to come to an end,” McLaughlin said. “I had to tell Kathleen tonight, ‘just relax a bit.’”

However, with the seniors struggling, the Quakers were able to find their Gotham City superheroes in their freshman and sophomore classes, as underclassmen accounted for 37 of the Quakers’ 50 points.

Still, as Penn’s seniors play the final Ivy weekend of their careers, Nwokedi is quick to credit their leadership for her own success.

“Their leadership has really helped us,” Nwokedi said. “We came into the season as timid freshman, but they’ve given us the green light to just play.”

So, as Penn continues its push for an Ivy title, the Quakers’ youth movement will surely remain at the forefront. Without a doubt, Nwokedi, Stipanovich and Ross have emerged as the new faces of Penn women’s basketball.

Their stock is certainly going up. The suits down on Wall Street would be wise to invest.

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