Time to protect the Palestra.
Penn women’s basketball is set to play Brown and Yale this weekend in what will be the team's first Ivy League action at home this season.
Winners of their last nine out of 10 games, the Red and Blue (13-3, 3-0 Ivy) rolled through their first Ivy League road trip of the year in New York last weekend, defeating both Cornell and Columbia in convincing fashion.
Sophomore center Eleah Parker was dominant once again against Cornell, registering 26 points and 12 rebounds. But make no mistake, as excellent as Parker has been, this Penn offense is as balanced as it has been all season.
Four players scored double-digits against Columbia, including seniors Ashley Russell and Princess Aghayere, who had 16 points and 11 points, respectively. Both players, along with junior guard Phoebe Sterba, have been a big reason for the Red and Blue’s recent strong play. Even when Russell, who is averaging a career high in points, isn’t scoring, she finds ways to affect the game by pulling down rebounds and dishing out assists.
“[Against Cornell] I was taking my shots but they weren’t falling, so I knew I would have to be more of a distributor,” Russell said. "I think it’s key knowing who’s on that night. It doesn’t have to be me; if you’re on, I’ll get you the ball.”
“Ashley’s scored in all three phases," coach Mike McLaughlin said. "She’s having an awesome senior year to this point. Princess has just needed an opportunity to play more minutes. She can shoot the three, she’s very crafty, can score around the basket, and has great footwork.
“I just think both of them really stepped their game up as seniors, as you would only hope."
The Red and Blue will hope to continue to put up a team effort against the Bears (9-11, 1-3) and the Elis (13-6, 3-1).
After defeating Yale in its first Ivy matchup of the season, Brown has dropped three games in a row. The losses haven’t come from a lack of points, however.
The Bears boast the most prolific offense in the Ivy League, leading the conference with 74.7 points per game. The scoring is led by two guards, junior Justine Gaziano and senior Shayna Mehta, who average 19 and 17.9 points per game, respectively. But despite their offensive prowess, they give up 76.4 points per game, which is worst in the conference. The Red and Blue, on the other hand, have been the best in the Ancient Eight at limiting their opponents offensively, only giving up 51.4 points per game.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” McLaughlin said. “We’re going to have to score some shots, and we’re going to have to contain them on the defensive end.”
“Brown is very good in transition and especially on the three,” Russell said. “The key is going to be guarding their shooters and knowing that we have to find shooters in transition. … We have to make sure we play our basketball.”
Yale comes into the weekend on a three-game win streak and is ranked second in the Ivy League behind Penn. Part of the reason for its ranking has been solid play in close contests. The Bulldogs have had nine games decided by 10 points or less this year, and they are 6-3 in such games.
But Yale needs more than that if it hopes to topple the Red and Blue this weekend. The Quakers don’t look like they’re slowing down any time soon.