Penn women's basketball has perhaps its biggest matchup on Tuesday when they travel to Princeton to take on the Tigers in a showdown of the top two Ivy League teams. The Quakers (15-5, 6-1 Ivy) fell to the Tigers (16-4, 6-1) earlier this season, 70-55. Ahead of the game, three of our writers outline the biggest keys to avoid the season sweep for the first time since 2015.
Get quality bench minutes — Marc Margolis (Associate Sports Editor)
The most dangerous teams are the ones that can go deep into the bench.
That is exactly what Princeton did to Penn last time the two faced off over winter break. In that game, the Tigers bench outscored the Quakers 24-9, with a lot of the Quakers bench points coming when the game was out of reach.
The mainstays off the bench for the Red and Blue this season have been freshmen guard Katie Kinum, junior forward Princess Aghayere, and senior guard Beth Brzozowski. Kinum paces the Quakers bench in scoring, with 5.0 points per game, while Aghayere leads the Quakers in rebounds per 40 minutes with 13.5, outpacing starters freshmen Eleah Parker and senior Michelle Nwokedi.
Additionally, this time around, Penn will have the services of sophomore guard Phoebe Sterba, who missed the first part of the season with an injury. Sterba has afforded coach Mike McLaughlin another guard to bring off the bench.
Penn has the talent to come in and provide a serious punch off the bench, especially with the return of Sterba. However, another repeat performance of the first Princeton game could doom Penn to a season sweep at the hands of the Tigers.
Play as a unit — Jonathan Pollack (Senior Sports Editor)
It's hard to put this into numbers, but over the past month or so, the Quakers have really started to play cohesively as a unit. And looking back on the last Penn-Princeton contest, it was the missing piece that caused the Red and Blue to falter.
Even though they had 15 assists on 21 baskets, the Quakers didn't have the same sort of ball movement and fluidity to their offense. And the defense struggled to switch through screens and cover the open shooter.
A lot of the growth over the past few weeks has been due to the growth of freshman center Eleah Parker, who has been on an absolute tear since the middle of January. But more than that, she's finally found her comfort zone in the team's system on both sides of the ball, and that has led to a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The team has been selfless recently, always looking for that extra pass to find the open teammate, and that's allowed them to pick apart their opponents. On defense, they've been able to shut opponents out with a tight 2-3 zone that has been shifting perfectly. If Penn can keep that up against Princeton, it should come out on top.
Stop Bella Alarie — Danny Chiarodit (Associate Sports Editor)
For the Quakers to get revenge against Princeton, they will have to contain Princeton sophomore Bella Alarie better than they did in the Ivy League opener. This applies to both sides of the ball, as the standout sophomore and reigning Ivy Rookie of the Year dominated essentially every aspect of the early January game.
Alarie had a double-double, dropping 18 points and 12 boards, and while this part of her stat line is impressive as is, she also made her mark in other ways. The 6-foot-4 guard/forward had a grand total of eight blocks versus the Red and Blue, making it difficult for Penn to get anything going offensively. Perhaps most impressively, Alarie did not turn the ball over in the 36 minutes that she was on the court.
On Tuesday, Penn’s defense must put Alarie into difficult situations by showing her different looks. If the Quakers can get the ball out of Alarie’s hands and force others on Princeton to make plays, they will likely have more success defensively, putting themselves in a better position to get out of New Jersey with a win.