It’s great to watch a back and forth battle between two evenly matched teams.
But, sometimes for Quakers fans, it’s also great to watch Penn women’s basketball score on the first possession of the game, lead by as many as seventeen points in the first quarter, and never trail for the entirety of the game.
And that’s exactly what the Red and Blue did tonight in a dominant 64-52 win over Yale.
With the win, the Quakers (19-7, 10-3 Ivy) have secured either the second or third seed in the Ivy Tournament next week. And, they also showed why no team should take them lightly when tournament play begins.
After jumping out to a 19-2 lead, the Quakers held the Elis to only eight points in the first quarter.
“We know Yale is a great team, they’re gonna be in the tournament next week and we have the potential to play them a third time, so we knew coming out we were gonna need that energy,” senior forward Michelle Nwokedi said.
The dominant Penn frontcourt had another impressive showing, as both Nwokedi and freshman center Eleah Parker posted double-doubles, combining for 29 points and 30 rebounds. Parker was nearly unstoppable in the low post on offense, and was also very effective when switched onto guards on the defensive end, as often happened due to Yale’s guard-heavy offensive strategy.
However, her rebounding –as well as the rest of the team's — may have been the most crucial, especially on the offensive glass.
“[Eleah and I] know we have to come out here and dominate. Times when they double us, we know that we trust each other enough to get the ball out and get it out to the guards for them to shoot it,” Nwokedi said. “This time of the year, we know our role, we know what we have to do and we’ve been working really well at it.”
Penn out-rebounded Yale (15-11, 8-5) 52 to 34, and pulled down 23 offensive boards to a mere eight from its opponents. Although the Quakers shot a lower field goal percentage than Yale, these second chance opportunities were a big part of keeping them in the lead all game long.
The game was not totally without sparks of excitement, however. Yale stormed back in the second quarter, bringing the game as close as 31-29 to end the first half. The Elis went on a 12-0 scoring run that lasted over four minutes, as the Quakers missed 12 of their last 13 shots in the first half.
“They did a heck of a job in the second quarter, they controlled us … worked us a bit in that second quarter,” said coach Mike McLaughlin. “Went into halftime up two, [but] didn’t feel great because I thought we got outplayed in the second quarter.”
However, this momentum shift was quickly corrected, as the Quakers came out of halftime with authority, going on a run to score nine points and bring the lead back up to 11. All it took was for Penn’s seniors and coaches to remind the team to settle in and relax.
“Take a deep breath, relax,” Nwokedi said she reminded her teammates during halftime. “Sometimes, we play so sped up, we’re not playing the Penn way. We only shot 30 percent from the field, but the rebounding, were getting second shots third shots and then we were able to do well.”
Although they didn’t catch fire in the last quarter of the game, the Quakers played excellent defense and scored when they needed to. A big part of that is thanks to the steady hand of senior guard Anna Ross guiding the team. Ross, who had 10 points and three assists to only one turnover, was an anchor for the team on defense and helped to keep things moving when the offense stalled late.
“She was terrific down the stretch,” McLaughlin said. “I said ‘I need you to go the whole second half’ and she did it. She makes plays, she runs the team, it’s tough to get the ball out of her hands she made a couple shots that were really big.”
With this win, the Quakers have positioned themselves with a lot of momentum heading into the Ivy tournament. They’ll look to continue that against Brown on Saturday night, but at this point, Penn is ready for a bigger stage: finally taking down rival Princeton and winning another Ivy League Championship.