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Sophomore guard Lauren Whitlatch continues to better herself as her team remains undefeated in Ivy play, setting her own career-best for most points in a game two weekends in a row. 

Credit: Ananya Chandra , Ananya Chandra

Three Ivy League doubleheader weekends, three sweeps and a win against each of the seven other Ivies. You can’t ask for a better start to conference play.

Penn women’s basketball shellacked Columbia, 71-51, and Cornell, 65-50, this weekend to earn its sixth consecutive victory and the 13th in the team’s last 14 games.

Sophomores Michelle Nwokedi and Lauren Whitlatch put on a clinic in the first quarter against the Lions (12-11, 1-7 Ivy) on Friday, scoring the Red and Blue’s first 17 points on the way to finishing with 24 and 20, respectively. For Whitlatch, it was her second straight game setting a career-high in the category after scoring 19 against Dartmouth last Saturday.

“Coach [Mike McLaughlin] has done a great job of focusing on our mental game,” Whitlatch said. “I think it’s just having confidence. If you’re going to shoot it, shoot it with confidence, knowing that it’s going to go in.”

With Columbia emphasizing defense in the paint, McLaughlin praised the Red and Blue’s shooting on a night where they converted nine of 19 three-pointers.

“They were doubling down in the post, and when they weren’t doubling they were crowding, which left the perimeter open,” McLaughlin said. “We take what the defense gives us, and fortunately we executed and made shots.”

For Penn (18-3, 7-0), the defense shined as well, conceding 12 or fewer points in three of four quarters and allowing the visitors to shoot an uninspiring 17-for-48 from the field. Columbia forward Tori Oliver, with 19 points, was the only Lion with more than 10 points, and Penn forced 16 Columbia turnovers.

Senior point guard Kasey Chambers led Penn with three steals, and Nwokedi and junior center Sydney Stipanovich each had nine rebounds and four blocks.

On Saturday, the Quakers never trailed the Big Red (13-9, 5-3) holding the lead for almost 39 of 40 minutes for the second night in a row. Penn maintained a double-digit advantage from the 6:09 mark in the second quarter through the remainder of the contest.

“I thought we continued to play the way we wanted to play,” McLaughlin said.

Once again, the Quakers’ shooting stroke was fully functional early on, with the team hitting at 63 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three in the first half.

Stipanovich scored 14 of her game-high 21 points in the first 20 minutes, and sophomore guards Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowski were right there with 10 and eight points, respectively.

McLaughlin spoke to the value of sinking shots early and forcing the defense to respect the perimeter.

“I think it kept them at arm’s length,” he said. “We came out, we made shots. Sydney made a bunch of jump shots, we hit a couple threes, that really gave us a push there in the first half. When our guards start making shots, it frees Sydney and Michelle a little more in the post.”

At first, it looked as though Cornell could break Penn’s signature zone defense by converting from beyond the arc, with Kerri Moran providing the Big Red’s first six points on threes. However, those would be the only treys of the half for Moran and company, as they went on to miss their remaining seven attempts in the half. Forward Nia Marshall had 13 of Cornell’s 27 at the half, and 10 of those came in the second period after staying quiet in the first.

Both offenses struggled out of the break, as they combined for just 24 points in the third quarter and 21 in the fourth. The Red and Blue shot just 7-for-30 from the field and missed all eight three-point attempts, but the Big Red couldn’t do much better themselves on 30.8 percent shooting. Cornell forward Nicholle Aston’s nine second-half points were the most of any individual.

Marshall carried the offensive burden for the Big Red, shooting a respectable 7-for-13 for 17 points. However, the rest of the team managed just 13 of 41, including Caroline Shelquist and Christine Ehland going a combined 1-for-17.

For the Quakers, Stipanovich filled out the stat sheet, leading the team in points, rebounds (12), assists (4) and blocks (3) while adding two steals.

Nwokedi scored six points in each half along with five rebounds, three blocks and three steals, and six Penn players recorded at least one steal en route to forcing 14 Cornell turnovers.

Moving forward, the Red and Blue will face the test of two straight weekends on the road, and first up are Brown and Yale, each of which Penn has beaten at the Palestra. Stipanovich said she’s looking forward to the challenge.

“Road games are naturally tougher, and we’ll have to bring our ‘A’ game every night.”

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