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Junior guard Kasey Chambers recorded a career-best 25 points on Saturday as Penn cruised to a 77-59 blowout against Yale.

Credit: Will Snow

BOSTON — For a minute and half, it looked like it would be a ballgame.

But that was all Penn women’s basketball trailed on Friday, leading almost wire-to-wire in a 68-48 rout of Harvard on the road.

Madeline Raster sunk the Crimson’s first bucket just four seconds into the game — the last her team would make 11 and a half minutes — to open play. After a pair of layups from junior Sydney Stipanovich and sophomore Michelle Nwokedi, the Quakers (15-3, 4-0 Ivy) never looked back.

On the night, however, the team’s tandem of forwards was fairly quiet, logging a combined 18 points and with neither breaking double-digit rebounds.

Instead, it was the backcourt that led the way for the Red and Blue as senior Kasey Chambers put up a team-high 16 points and sophomore Anna Ross finished with a standout 12-point, nine-assist, seven-rebound performance in the successful bout with Harvard (8-10, 3-2).

Penn coach Mike McLaughlin was quick to praise Chambers’ performance in particular for helping spark his squad’s early and sizable lead.

“She gives that fire right from the beginning, she’s the one that spearheaded that first quarter offense, the transition opportunities,” he said. “She made a couple threes. She did a really good job.

“But her defensive presence and her competitive nature is contagious. You see her out there competing every day regardless of the situation or the score, that’s a good trait to have. Because this group here follows her.”

Following Raster’s basket shortly after tipoff, things got quiet for the Crimson, and only a single free throw added to their total throughout the rest of the first period. It was all Penn on the night, starting with a 13-0 run capped off by junior Jackie Falconer before the Quakers eventually closed the quarter up 16-3.

Two minutes into the second period, AnnMarie Healy got Harvard going again to make it 18-5 but the Crimson never got the deficit into single digits again.

Effective ball movement from the Red and Blue made it impossible to cut deeply into the lead, and aggressive defensive play held Harvard to just 25 percent shooting and its first game under 50 points all season.

Highlighting that effort was sophomore Lauren Whitlatch, who posted a career-best and team-high 11 rebounds.

“She just competes,” McLaughlin said. “She’s going to give you everything she has. … And she battled. She got the right spot. She had a great showing tonight, she really played well.”

Coming out of the half with a 31-11 lead, the Quakers were loath to ease off the gas pedal. Both sides traded baskets, and midway through the third period, Penn still maintained a 44-20 lead thanks to eight points from Chambers in the quarter before taking a 50-27 advantage into the final 10 minutes.

A pair of threes from Healy and junior Grace Keane made it 58-42 with three and a half minutes to go, but despite the crowd at Lavietes Pavilion coming alive, it wouldn’t get any closer as the Red and Blue sank six free throws and a pair of layups to wind down the contest drama-free.

“We stay tight, stay focused,” Ross said. "Tonight, for example, the atmosphere was crazy. They were all getting excited after baskets, but we stayed in the game. And I think that’s been a big part of it.”

The dominant performance against the Crimson is one that the Quakers have made a habit of in recent years, having taken six of the last seven after losing 17 straight from 2004-12 — and with that win, Penn stands a half-game up on Cornell for primacy in the Ancient Eight. That success has been a big driver as the team heads into the heart of Ivy play.

“I think we’re just so motivated, we’re more confident and I can feel it in our play,” Ross said. “Just the way we move the ball. We know how to win, and I think we played the Penn way and we got it done.”

They’ll look to carry that success into Saturday, taking on a Dartmouth squad fresh off of a blowout loss at the hands of Princeton.

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