Sometimes in sports, everything just clicks, and you make the game look so easy.
That’s what happened on Saturday for Penn’s women’s basketball, as the Quakers cruised to a 63-39 victory over Wagner. The Red and Blue did everything a team needs to do to win: winning all the major statistical battles, playing sound defense and not giving its opponent any chance of getting back into the game. It helped that the Seahawks only had six available players.
The Quakers (3-3) absolutely dominated the Seahawks (1-6) in the first half, as they entered halftime with a 16-point lead, their largest halftime advantage so far this season. Much of that lead was built during a nine-minute, 18-0 run for the Red and Blue in the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters. A pair of threes from junior guard Anna Ross started the run, and offensive possessions marked by good ball movement led several other Quakers to get involved in the scoring.
“We had a couple possessions there where we got some shots and then offensive rebounds to kick out threes a couple of times,” coach Mike McLaughlin said about the run. “I think that’s huge, that hurts the morale of the other team, second chance points that turn into three points. On the other side, I just thought that we had a series of really good defensive stands.”
Throughout the run, the defense stood tall, forcing several turnovers and preventing Wagner from converting on second-chance opportunities. That was a major theme for the day, as the unit turned in their best performance of the year.
“I think going back, our defense was just awesome. Everyone was getting involved — our press, the two guards up top, and the back line really were active and got to some balls,” senior captain Sydney Stipanovich said.
Penn came out of the midway break firing, as junior guard Lauren Whitlatch hit a pair of treys on the team’s first two possessions of the third quarter, extending the Quakers’ lead to 22 points. Led by Whitlatch’s three three-pointers, the Quakers drained 10 treys throughout the game, tying their season high. The deep barrage, along with continued energy on defense, allowed the Red and Blue to push the lead up to 25 by the end of the third quarter, essentially putting the game all but out of reach for the Seahawks.
Stipanovich and junior forward Michelle Nwokedi once again were the offensive stars for the Quakers, as they both recorded their fourth double-doubles of the season and combined for a total of 27 points and 20 rebounds. The two continue to be the biggest factors for Penn’s offense, and their success thus far early in the season bodes well for the rest of the year. But despite their preeminence on the score sheet, they feel that this win was more than just because of them.
“I think our offense was a lot better in this game than it has been in the past, I think we moved the ball really well, and also on the defensive end that was a huge spark for us,” Stipanovich said. “We kept up the energy for all 40 minutes, had a lot of chances for steals, and had a few 10-second violations against them, so I think overall it was a really good team effort and a really great win.”
The Quakers now have a bit of momentum, with a two-game win streak and a .500 record for the first time this season. If they keep playing like they did against Wagner — with a strong defense and total team effort — they can expect the wins to keep piling up.