The best offense is a good defense.
It’s a frequently used saying across many different sports, and for good reason. Penn women’s basketball's defense helped the team to a dominant 55-39 win over Drexel in its first game back after a break for final exams.
Both teams started fast out of the gate, with a quick turnover by the Quakers (7-2) after the opening tip resulting in Drexel’s first points. The Dragons (7-3) hounded Penn’s ball handlers, but that left shooters open from beyond three point line. Threes from senior guard Ashley Russell and junior guard Phoebe Sterba helped the Red and Blue jump out to an early lead that they never relinquished.
In the first quarter, the Quakers’ full court press worked to give Drexel major problems bringing the ball up the court, effectively shortening its offensive possessions. In the half court, Penn’s two-three zone suffocated the Dragons, forcing contested shots and turnovers.
“When we scored we were able to get full court pressure, which we’ve been successful with,” coach Mike McLaughlin said.
Eventually, Drexel was able to translate quick ball movement into some open shots, but even after a couple of threes from sophomore guard Hannah Nihill, the Quakers went into halftime with a 31-16 lead.
Even with the sizeable advantage, the Quakers didn’t slow the game down, frequently running fast breaks off Drexel turnovers and missed shots. Penn cashed in with 10 points in transition.
“I wanted to advance the ball, but it wasn’t always to score. It was just so Drexel wasn’t completely set on defense every time,” McLaughlin said.
The Red and Blue kept the defensive intensity up in the second half, continuing to force the Dragons to take poor shots as the shot clock wound down. The consistent defensive pressure led to offensive success, and the Quakers kept Drexel from cutting the lead down to less than 15 points.
Junior forward Bailey Greenberg, who leads the Dragons in scoring by a wide margin with 18.6 points per game, was largely neutralized by the Quakers’ lockdown defense. She was held completely scoreless in the first half on 0 of 6 shooting from the field. Greenberg wasn’t able to get much going in the second half either, finishing with eight points on just 2 of 9 shooting.
For the Quakers, sophomore center Eleah Parker owned the paint all game, both in terms of scoring and rebounding. Her relentless effort on the offensive glass gave the Red and Blue multiple second chance opportunities. Parker bullied her way through Drexel’s interior defense to score 17 points while also snatching 13 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks in the game.
“I thought Eleah was special today,” McLaughlin said. “She was dominant on the defensive end, she rebounded the ball, she’s showing perimeter skills, she can lay it up with both hands, [and] she’s a competitor."
Senior forward Princess Aghayere also had a big day, with 10 points and five boards. The Quakers out-rebounded the Dragons 48-38 in the game and scored twice as many points in the paint.
With their first Ivy League matchup just two weeks away, the Red and Blue are heating up at the right time. They will travel down to Florida on Dec. 31 to face Stetson before opening conference play at Princeton on Jan. 5.
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