This weekend was a tale of two teams.
One night after losing a heartbreaker to Harvard, Penn women's basketball recovered to end its weekend in New England on a high note, lighting up the floor against Dartmouth and cruising to a comfortable 79-50 win Saturday night in Hanover, N.H.
The win punched the Quakers' ticket to the Ivy League Tournament and provided a stark contrast to Friday night's 55-52 loss to the Crimson (16-9, 8-4 Ivy), as Penn (18-7, 9-3) played like a completely different squad against the Big Green (14-11, 6-6).
Saturday's game was the total team effort that Penn was lacking on Friday, as 11 players made it onto the scoresheet against Dartmouth compared to just seven the night before.
On Friday night, Harvard ruled the first half. The Crimson stretched its lead to as many as 15 points in the first half before Penn got going on offense. A dominant 16-0 run which lasted over nine minutes on both sides of the halftime break rocketed the Quakers into a 32-31 lead with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter.
It was back-and-forth for much of the second half, with the teams deadlocked at 41 entering the fourth quarter. However, the Red and Blue were held scoreless for six of the game's final eight minutes, allowing Harvard to pull away down the stretch.
In the final two minutes, Penn was able to pull within three points twice, but it could not find the baskets to eke out the win.
Saturday night, however, was a different story.
From the start, it was all Penn. The Quakers raced out to a 20-2 advantage over Dartmouth in the game's first eight minutes and never looked back, steadily increasing their lead over the course of four quarters.
Strong play on both sides of the ball allowed the Quakers to sail into the halftime break up 45-20, nearly matching its point total on Friday with the second half still to play.
After the intermission, coach Mike McLaughlin started emptying the bench and gave much of his roster minutes on the court. In total, nine non-starters saw action against Dartmouth, four more than the night before.
Junior Ashley Russell stepped up against the Big Green for the Quakers, leading the team with a career-high 21 points. In addition to having half of Penn's 10 steals, Russell had 15 of her points in the first quarter, fueling the Red and Blue's great start.
After a team-leading 14 points against Harvard, freshman Eleah Parker was a little quieter against the Big Green, scoring just nine but still tying Russell for the most points this weekend with 23.
Just one night after shooting a dismal 34 percent from the floor and committing 15 turnovers in Cambridge, Mass., Penn made half of their field goals against Dartmouth while also cutting their turnovers down to 12.
Penn's defense looked especially strong on Saturday, only allowing seven points in the first quarter and forcing 22 turnovers from the Big Green, which the Quakers converted into 25 points on the other end.
After this weekend, Penn knows it will be playing in the conference tournament on its home court in two weeks, but its seed is still undetermined. The Quakers remain one game behind league-leading Princeton but are also just one game above Harvard and Yale, who have also booked their spots in the tournament. The final conference games this weekend won't decide the teams in the tournament, but a regular season title and the fight for seeding is still up for grabs.
If Penn can play all its games like it did against Dartmouth, the Ivy Tournament won't be the last we'll see of them.
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