NEW HAVEN, Conn. — If you had to pick a pair of games to describe Penn women's basketball, these would be the two.
The Quakers won twice this weekend by sticking to the game plan that has worked so well for them in recent years: stingy defense and balanced offense. Penn dominated Brown, 88-55, on Friday, and dispatched Yale the next day, 69-54.
On Friday, the Quakers' defense, especially the guards at the top of the zone, did an excellent job shutting down two of the premier offensive threats in the Ivy League in Brown's Shanya Mehta and Justine Gaziano. The pair combined for just 12 points in the first half, and only put up bigger numbers in garbage time.
"I think we kept them in front of us," coach Mike McLaughlin said after the game on Friday. "I think we kept changing up our pressure, we varied what we were doing, as they were changing, we were trying to adjust to them."
Against the Bulldogs (10-9, 3-3 Ivy), the Red and Blue (13-5, 4-1) put up another stalwart defensive effort. In addition to four blocks and 10 steals, Penn limited Yale to 33 percent shooting by forcing them into taking low-percentage shots. And that number is misleading still, as the Elis shot much better towards the very end when the game was out of reach.
On the offensive side, both games saw production up and down the lineup. While five different players recorded double-digit points against Brown (13-5, 1-4), six different players had at least six points against Yale.
And it wasn't just the starters either. Senior guard Beth Brzozowski tied a career high with 16 points against Brown, while sophomore guard Phoebe Sterba and freshman forward Tori Crawford put up 13 and six points respectively against Yale. Everyone who saw the floor had valuable offensive contributions.
"I think Lauren [Whitlatch] said it best yesterday, if it's not a posts game, it's a guards game," senior forward Michelle Nwokedi said. "The post gets double-teamed, and it leaves [the guards] wide open."
That type of multifaceted offensive attack is when the Quakers are at their best. When all five players on the court can hurt opponents on offense, teams get burned by focusing on any one individual. And on any given night, a different player can lead the charge.
The Quakers also feasted on the offensive glass, totaling 38 across both games. That effort was spearheaded by Nwokedi, who racked up six in just the Yale game, giving the Red and Blue multiple second-chance scoring opportunities.
Both the defensive and offensive efforts serve as evidence that this team is truly starting to play cohesively as a unit.
"I'm just loving the way we're playing," McLaughlin said after the Yale game. "We're sharing the ball, we played 11 players in the first half, I think that's giving us some flow, it's giving everyone an opportunity, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats."
Penn has extended its win streak to seven, and seems to be playing its best basketball at just the right time. With the heart of Ivy play yet to come, the Quakers are coming into their own, and the rest of the Ancient Eight should beware. But, if McLaughlin is right, the best could be yet to come.
"This team is getting better and better every day."
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