There seems to be little question that Penn women’s basketball is the team to beat in the Ivy League right now. At 3-0 in conference play, the Quakers are in sole possession of first place in the storied conference and is hot off two double-digit wins at home last weekend.
“It’s like we have a chip on our shoulder because teams are going to be fighting to beat us because we’re that team that’s doing pretty good right now,” sophomore forward Michelle Nwokedi said.
The Red and Blue will make their first Ivy League road trip of the season, traveling to Harvard on Friday and then Dartmouth on Saturday.
Penn has won each of its last four contests against the Crimson (8-9, 3-1 Ivy) and eight of its last ten games against the Big Green (7-13, 2-2 Ivy). At the Palestra last weekend, junior forward Sydney Stipanovich earned her way to her fourth Ivy League Player of the Week award of the season as the Quakers blew past Yale and Brown.
Entering the weekend, the Red and Blue come on strong, with nine of their ten most recent games resulting in victories, with the exception being a 66-46 loss at Villanova last week.
In the blowout of the Bulldogs and the Bears, the Red and Blue’s most recent showing, strong individual performances bolstered the team effort. Against the Elis in the first leg, the Quakers carried a moderate seven-point lead into halftime, but outscored Yale by 12 in the second half to win by 19.
Stipanovich, who had 16 points and 16 rebounds, led the way along with sophomore guard Anna Ross, who had 16 points and hit four of five three-point attempts, and Nwokedi, who had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Penn put Brown away quickly the next night, building a 20-point halftime lead which the Bears could not erase. Stipanovich recorded her second double-double of the weekend with 19 points and 14 rebounds, with Nwokedi adding 12 points and nine rebounds.
With Penn now 3-0 in Ivy League play for the first time in his tenure at the school, coach Mike McLaughlin is telling his players to keep doing what has gotten them to this point.
“This is a different challenge, on the road for the first time. I’m just telling them to continue the path that they’re on,” he said. “I think they’re competitive, they prepped really well for everyone we’ve played.
Harvard is fresh off an Ivy League doubleheader sweep as well, having defeated Cornell and Columbia on the road thanks to big games from two of its best players. In Ithaca, Kit Metoyer turned in 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including 6-for-11 from three, en route to a 65-56 overtime victory, while AnnMarie Healy converted 13-for-14 attempts for 27 points against the Lions to lead the way in a 69-66 win.
The Crimson’s leading scorer, Healy ranks third in the conference in both points per game and field goal percentage with marks of 15.6 and 50.9 percent, respectively. Shilpa Tummala (12.4 points per game, 40.2 percent on threes) and Metoyer (10.4 points per game) have also shared the burden on offense, although Tummala shot just 2-15 from the field last weekend. McLaughlin said stopping Healy will largely influence the Quakers’ success in stopping the Harvard offense as a whole.
“Healy is challenging because she’s a bigger post, 6-foot-2, and she really gets off her feet,” McLaughlin said. “She can catch-and-shoot, and she’s a very good player. We’ll have to be aware of her when we’re in our zone, hopefully Sydney and Michelle can test her.”
Dartmouth saw both of its doubleheader games last weekend head into overtime, where the Big Green beat Columbia but fell to Cornell. With 2014-15 second team All-Ivy selection Fanni Szabo, whose 16.2 points per game last season was second in the Ivy League, battling injuries this season, forward Lakin Roland and guard Kate Letewkicz have been more consistent presences on the court for Dartmouth. Roland, who double-doubled in both games last weekend, averages 15.4 points (fifth in the Ivy League) and 8.9 rebounds (fourth), with Letkewicz not far behind at 11.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game
While admitting she prefers playing on Penn’s campus to trekking up via bus to New England, Nwokedi is excited for the opportunity to score Penn’s first road wins in conference play.
“We have to be able to show we can handle adversity.”Comments powered by Disqus
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