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Penn women's basketball defeated Navy 57-43 Saturday for their fifth straight win.

Credit: Will Snow

Winning streak: five. Career wins for Mike McLaughlin: 499.

Penn women’s basketball sunk Navy, 57-43, at the Palestra on Saturday afternoon, the fourth time in five games the Quakers have managed to hold their opponents under 50 points. The win gives the Red and Blue (5-1) some momentum going into the Big 5 portion of the season.

The Mids (4-4) took an early 8-0 lead in the first quarter, holding the Quakers scoreless until a three-point play from junior center Sydney Stipanovich six minutes into the game. Penn narrowed the gap as the quarter wound down, coming within a single point at 11-10 as the second quarter began.

The teams exchanged baskets throughout the second period, but after a three-pointer from sophomore Lauren Whitlatch gave the Red and Blue the lead with 2:38 remaining in the half, they never trailed again.

Stipanovich led the Quakers with 16 points and 15 rebounds — her second-straight game with a double-double — and chipped in three blocks on the defensive end. Sophomore forward Michelle Nwokedi came close to a double-double of her own, adding 11 points and nine boards, while three guards — senior Kasey Chambers and sophomores Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowksi — scored nine points apiece.

Neither offense saw much success in the first half, with the Quakers shooting 9-for-23 and Navy managing just 8-for-29 from the field. The teams combined for 16 turnovers and only five three-pointers on 19 attempts, as strong defensive play from both squads held the offenses in check.

“We were a little stagnant on offense,” Stipanovich said. “We weren’t moving the ball well, and I think that’s what we picked up in the second half.”

Navy had just one field goal from inside the paint in the first half, as the Red and Blue forced the Mids to settle for outside shots. The trio of Sarita Condie, Taylor Dunham and Ashanti Kennedy combined for 15 of Navy’s 19 first-half points, but shot only 6-for-17 from the field on mostly outside shots. In the second half, the three shot 8-for-22 while the rest of the Mids combined for just two buckets in 10 attempts.

“I think we were really locking down on defense, really knew their personnel really well,” Stipanovich said. “Our guards did a good job of pressuring them and getting a hand in their face, and we, in the post, really locked down the paint.”

In the second half, Penn didn’t budge, maintaining control the rest of the way thanks in part to a nine-point run from Brzozowski. With the Quakers commanding a 29-22 lead with 5:53 remaining in the third quarter, the sophomore guard checked in. After hitting a layup with 4:30 left in the period, she would hit three jumpers, including one from deep.

“I think we have six starters here. Beth is playing upwards of 20 minutes,” McLaughlin said. “She can shoot the three, she opens the floor up, she can handle the ball, she has good court vision, and she really opened the game up for us today.”

The Quakers are still a team transitioning into the season. After graduating Kathleen Roche, Kara Bonenberger, Katy Allen and Renee Busch in May, Penn has gone with a different look on offense, with Chambers taking over the point and Whitlatch stepping into a larger shooting role.

While Whitlatch shot just 1-for-11 from the field — every single one of her shots came from three — on an off day, McLaughlin is confident she will make up for the loss of sharpshooters Roche and Busch.

“I’m liking the way Lauren is confident shooting. She can shoot the basketball, she has a great, quick release,” the said. “She didn’t make shots today, but she did okay. But yeah, we have to shoot the three. We have to show we can make perimeter shots to open the court up for our post players.”

The Red and Blue will make the short trip to Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday to open Big Five play against the 2-4 Hawks.

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