While Philadelphia was a cold, snowy mess, Penn women’s basketball turned up the heat for their first home game of the season.
The Quakers opened Big 5 play at the Palestra with their home opener against St. Joseph's on Thursday night. Before this game, the Quakers were only 1-24 against the Hawks at home, and 3-40 all time against the team. Emphatically defying the trend, Penn was able to bounce back from a loss to No. 1 Notre Dame with a 65-45 win against their cross-city rival.
Penn (2-1, 1-0 Big 5) came out aggressive from the tip, scoring first and putting the defensive pressure on early with a steal on St. Joe’s opening possession. Senior guard Ashley Russell was able to spark the offense with a layup in the paint and a jumper following a forced turnover. The defense was able to hold the Hawks to five points in the first quarter, also converting six turnovers into nine points the other way.
The Quakers were able to extend their lead to 13 in the middle of the second quarter as senior forward Princess Aghayere heated up. A trey by Aghayere got her to 14 points at the half and helped give Penn a 40-20 halftime lead.
“One thing coach [Mike McLaughlin] stressed was to not get complacent,” sophomore center Eleah Parker said. “He told us to keep going, keep pushing it at them.”
In the second half, the Quakers continued their offensive and defensive dominance, widening the gap to as large as 32 points in the fourth quarter. Defense was a huge part of the Quakers game, forcing 14 turnovers. The Quakers won the battle down low, keeping the Hawks (0-3, 0-2) to just 18 points in the paint and snatching 50 rebounds.
“We did a good job on the perimeter, we really knew their personnel well,” McLaughlin said. “Eleah affected their play around the rim, which gave a chance for our guards to really get spread.”
Aghayere has continued to thrive and take advantage of her starring role, after coming off the bench all of last season. She was able to tally 16 points and seven rebounds.
“Being off the bench last year, I was able to watch others … I was able to see the intensity that they bring on the floor every single time, and so that’s kind of how I’m trying to approach the season,” Aghayere said.
McLaughlin also praised Aghayere’s play after the game.
“I thought Princess today was as good as we’ve seen her all year,” Mclaughlin said. “I sat with her yesterday and I told her ‘you’re a senior, let's go out the right way, let's go out there and leave everything — every game — out on the floor.”
Parker put up 15 points and secured 10 rebounds to earn a double-double after struggling on the road against Notre Dame.
“The first few away games were kind of tough, but I think being here at the Palestra, playing at home … it really helped give us a lot of energy,” Parker said.
The Red and Blue will look to take that energy and momentum into their next game Saturday at the Palestra against NJIT.
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