By now, you ought to know the drill.
Ivy League-leading Penn women’s basketball faces a tricky trip up to New England this weekend, with Brown and Yale on tap.
Still undefeated in the league, the Quakers (14-6, 7-0 Ivy) are clear favorites to take another pair of wins on Friday and Saturday, but they can ill-afford to take their eyes off the ball. In Brown (14-7, 5-3) they face what some might call a sleeper team, currently fourth in the league and playing some solid basketball.
According to senior Kasey Chambers, the Bears are a force to be reckoned with.
“I wouldn’t consider them a sleeper team. I don’t think anyone is,” the guard said. “Brown has been really good this year — they have multiple ways to score at all positions, and they run the ball really well.”
But when Penn hosted the Bears earlier this season, the result wasn’t that close. In the team’s highest-scoring conference contest thus far, the players were rampant, putting up 86 points and winning by a margin of 26. Four Quakers put up double-digits that night, and junior Beth Brzozowski scored nine points of her own.
As coach Mike McLaughlin put it, everything went right for his team that night. The players were able to counter everything Brown had to offer.
“What they do well, we did a good job of,” McLaughlin said of the 86-60 rout. “We were able to contain them, and we made shots against them.”
That game followed a win over Yale (11-10, 2-6) just a night earlier a little over a month ago. Although Yale sits lower in the conference standings, the Bulldogs were able to hold their hosts to a tighter game, ultimately finishing 66-55.
But that weekend was a slightly different time for Penn. In the beginning of January, the Quakers were still able to rely on junior Lauren Whitlatch. The shooting guard since picked up an injury that has her on the sidelines for the rest of the season. Brzozowski came off the bench that weekend, but she has since filled Whitlatch’s spot in the starting lineup.
That doesn’t change anything in Brzozowski’s mind, however.
“I go into it with the same mentality, and so does the team,” she said. “Obviously having Lauren out is a huge hit to us, and it hurts...but we go into every game with the same mentality, regardless of what personnel we put out there.”
Halfway through the 14-game conference season now, Penn sits on a commanding one-and-a-half-game gap over second-place Harvard. The team’s 7-0 start to league play also means that two more wins this weekend would bring them one giant step closer to a perfect 14-0 — a feat that only rivals Princeton have managed in the past ten years.
“If you look too far ahead, you’re gonna miss what’s right in front of you,” Chambers said, “and we have two really big games coming up. We’re gonna take those, and see what happens in the end.”
And now more than ever, staying focused matters, given the Ivy League tournament at the end of the season. Even if the team went 14-0, they could still lose in the postseason tournament and miss out on the automatic bid to the Big Dance in March.
So it’s back to the same drill — the Quakers will put their nose to the grindstone, and if all goes according to plan, their position on top of the Ancient Eight will only be further solidified.