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Senior guard Ashley Russell and Penn women's basketball are currently 4-0 in Ivy League play.

Credit: Chase Sutton

There’s a lot of basketball left to be played, but with four Ivy League games in the books, the Quakers are doing exactly what’s expected of them.

Penn women's basketball put together a dominating performance with a 40-point rout of a visiting Brown team that has now dropped four consecutive contests. Here are some takeaways from Friday night’s matchup as the Quakers look on toward an Ivy League slate that figures to be much more demanding.

The defense is solid

The first thing that jumped out about Penn’s showing against Brown was its defense. After a tightly contested, back-and-forth first quarter, the Red and Blue started the second quarter aggressively; they forced only five turnovers after making the Bears give the ball up eight times in the first ten minutes of play, but the Red and Blue limited Brown to just six points in the second quarter. They went into halftime with a 23-point lead and from there, the margin only grew.

“When you have a lead, [the other team] is making some changes at halftime,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. If they make a couple of shots coming out of the gates and you give them life, then you have to chase your way back, but I thought that right out of the gates, we came out strong and opened up the game.”

The Quakers gave up 43 points to a Brown team that averages more than 70 per game and didn’t allow a double-figure scorer. Their disruptive defense forced 19 turnovers, which led to 23 points on the other end. If there were a recipe for success throughout the grind of a college basketball season, this kind of suffocating defense would be the main ingredient.

The offense isn’t too shabby, either

On top of its airtight defensive performance, Penn was able to get things moving on the offensive side of the ball. The Red and Blue’s 83 points were good for their second-best scoring output of the season. Despite missing all nine of their attempts from beyond the arc in the first quarter, the Quakers worked the ball inside the paint, where they outscored their opponents 18-4 in the quarter and 44-18 throughout the game. 

“I liked the shots we were getting” said McLaughlin. “I play this game where the basket gets bigger once the ball goes in and it gets smaller when it doesn’t, so it’s part of the sport.”

Penn added 19 second-chance points off of 15 offensive rebounds. Its presence on the glass kept the Bears on their heels and out of transition. Strong offense makes for easier defense, and vice versa.

Penn is doing what it’s supposed to do

Flexibility on the offensive end and lockdown defense are hallmarks of winning teams. Thus far, the Quakers have left each of their Ivy League matchups, all of which have come against teams that have more losses than wins, victorious. The Red and Blue are spreading the wealth – four players were in double figures against Brown, while sophomore guard Katie Kinum and junior guard Phoebe Sterba each added nine points – and winning the games that they need to win.

Of course, not all games will be against sub-.500 competition — Saturday night will feature a matchup against a hot Yale team that is in search of its first win against the Red and Blue since the 2016-17 season — but the Quakers have taken advantage of their opportunities against weaker teams to show that their position atop the Ivy League is deserved. It remains to be seen whether Penn can continue its all-around performances throughout rest the Ivy League schedule.

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