Once again, the Quakers could not be stopped.
Led by senior guard Ashley Russell, who had a dominant game on both ends of the floor, recording 13 points and four steals, the Quakers dismantled Brown in their first conference home game of the season, 83-43, to remain the only undefeated team in the Ivy League.
The Red and Blue (14-3, 4-0 Ivy) got off to a rough start, starting 0-of-9 from beyond the arc and allowing the Bears (9-12, 1-4) to open a four-point lead early on. Yet with another strong defensive performance from Russell and junior guard Kendall Grasela, who had two steals each, Penn finished the first quarter leading by a score of 19-14.
In the second quarter, the Red and Blue found their pace and started to take over. Brown could not get past the Quakers’ full-court defense, which held the Bears to only six points in the quarter and forced 10 missed shots in a row. Penn couldn't be stopped on offense either. After a 22-0 run, led by junior guard Phoebe Sterba, who nailed three consecutive three pointers, the Quakers went to the halftime with a 23-point lead.
“In the beginning of the game, we weren’t hitting our shots, but the defense was constantly there, and we used that to lead into offense,” Russell said. “We knew the ball would eventually start falling, so we can’t lose our confidence. And we also know we have girls like Eleah [Parker] and Princess [Aghayere] inside, who get many rebounds.”
Senior forward Aghayere started off the third period strong, scoring four of her 13 points and grabbing three rebounds early on. Similarly to the first half, the Bears were unable to find space against the Quakers’ well-positioned defense and were forced to take contested shots, going only 4-of-18 from the field. Penn continued to expose Brown’s defensive flaws, and with a quick transition offense, the Quakers were soon able to extend their lead to 34 entering the fourth quarter.
As a result of their lead, coach Mike McLaughlin went to the bench, allowing 11 players to receive playing time. Nonetheless, the Red and Blue were not willing to slow down. Junior center Emily Anderson made the most out of her time on court, with six points in the fourth quarter and 10 overall.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations in terms of the approach at the end of a half as well as the start of a quarter or a half, and they really responded tonight,” McLaughlin said. “When you have a lead, you can make some changes at halftime and allow them to make a couple more shots.”
Penn managed to take control of every facet of the game, converting Brown’s 19 turnovers into 23 points and nailing 11-of-19 threes after the drought in the beginning of the game. Perhaps most importantly, the Red and Blue did not allow the Bears, who had averaged 74.7 points per game entering the contest, to get anything going offensively.
On Saturday, the Quakers will host Yale, which has only dropped one game in the conference this season. Despite Friday's big win, Penn's experience with back-to-back Ivy League games has helped the team stay mentally prepared.
“We can’t take any opponent lightly. Being undefeated means nothing in our league,” Russell said. “It is much more of a mental than a physical challenge, so everyone must be locked in. If you have a great win, like we did tonight, you can’t let that make you any less focused for the next game.”
If the Quakers continue to play like they did on Friday, their conference opponents will have a hard time beating them.