It’s the moment everyone has been waiting for.
On Thursday, fans will finally be able to catch a glimpse of Penn women’s basketball in action at the Palestra, taking on Saint Joseph’s in the Quakers’ first home game of the season.
So far, the Quakers (1-1) have split their first two games on the road, narrowly beating Siena 58-51 before falling to No. 1 Notre Dame by 20 points on Monday. That game saw the Red and Blue shoot only 35.6 percent from the floor and commit 21 turnovers. While some of that was due to the high-intensity defense of Notre Dame, the defending national champion, the Quakers know they must be more careful with the ball going forward.
“I thought we had a couple of careless turnovers [against Notre Dame], but sometimes that happens when you’re playing against that level of competition,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I was pleased with the effort all 80 minutes. We just need a bit more continuity on offense for the good looks we’ve been getting to go in.”
Despite that, one major positive thus far has been Penn’s bench, which has proven its worth on the offensive end, pouring in 27.5 points per game. That effort has not gone unnoticed.
“Our goal this year is to play a bigger roster, like 10 or 11 kids,” McLaughlin said. “So far we’re pretty deep in terms of who is available and ready to play. Phoebe [Sterba] has obviously been a big fit, and I also like what Tori [Crawford] and Kennedy [Suttle] have been doing, giving us good minutes. When we identify their exact roles, which we’re trying to do now, I think they’ll do an even better job.”
In contrast to the strong play of the Quakers’ bench, sophomore center Eleah Parker, who was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year last season, hasn't been as dominant as some might have hoped, struggling against Notre Dame on Monday.
“It was a tough game against extremely good competition,” Parker said. “Talking to coach [McLaughlin] today, [something] he pointed out about the game was that when I got the ball and teams double up on me, not to immediately put it on the floor. But just learning in the face of adversity will definitely help the team and me grow.”
Parker will get her first chance to shine in front of the Penn faithful this season in Thursday’s game, which will also see the Quakers begin their defense of the Big 5 crown. Their first challenger, St. Joe’s (0-2), is coming off consecutive losses to Temple and Drexel. Last season, Penn defeated the Hawks 57-50 to snap its 22-month winless streak against Big 5 opposition. But given the Quakers’ all-time 3-40 record against St. Joe’s, the Red and Blue are not letting down their guard.
“We’ve got our hands full,” McLaughlin said. “I tried to explain to [the team] that the Big 5 is different, it’s a rivalry. We’re going to have to play well for 40 minutes.”
The Quakers are certainly hoping that they will begin their two-game home stand in winning fashion, as they look to build on their second-place finish in the Ivy League last year.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.