Although it may not have been in the forecast, it was raining threes at the Palestra on Friday evening.
Penn women’s basketball used a run of hot second half shooting to rebound from a disappointing first Ivy loss to Harvard with a dominant 79-56 win over Columbia on Friday.
The Quakers (17-4, 7-1 Ivy) used their signature full-court press to get off to a quick start, forcing two early turnovers and jumping out to a 10-2 lead capped off by a reverse and-one by senior guard Ashley Russell.
"We really honed in on winning the toughness battle, gritting it out and trying to find good shots," Russell said. "We had a nice flow; when we do that our defense turns into offense."
By the end of the first quarter, the Quakers' stifling defense would help them overcome a slow 2-of-9 start from behind the three-point arc. They opened up a 17-8 lead with Russell matching Columbia’s team total scoring with eight of her own.
The second quarter was much of the same with the Lions unable to score their first basket until the halfway mark, allowing the Red and Blue to take an 18-point lead. Penn’s leading scorer, sophomore center Eleah Parker, began to find her groove, leading the Quakers with seven points and three rebounds in the frame. Yet Columbia (7-15, 3-6) would not go down without a fight, finding success by pushing the tempo and running in transition to beat the Quakers' press; they would go into the half down by only 11.
"Sometimes we were caught behind them when we were pushing the ball. We need to make sure we can stop the ball and catch people in transition to prevent any easy looks," Russell said. "We talked about always having one person behind their last person."
"If they are not scoring, then they just beat your press and that's the way I saw it," coach Mike McLaughlin said. "They didn't put pressure on us to score, and we adjust when we see someone is beating us in that style."
Both teams came out of the halftime locker room with their offenses firing on all cylinders. However, an onslaught of Penn three pointers from Russell, junior guard Phoebe Sterba, and sophomore guard Michae Jones, as well as two from senior forward Princess Aghayere, would be too much for the Lions to handle. After a combined 51 points in the third quarter — with Quakers nearly matching their first half total with 32 points — Penn’s lead would sit at 25 points, putting the game away for good.
"We had a really good talk in the locker room. Coach emphasized that we lacked a little bit of energy in the first half, and so even though we were up we wanted to come out and give a good effort," Aghayere said.
"We made an emphasis to find open shots and take good shots rather then hesitating," Russell said. "We made sure everyone felt comfortable to shoot their shot."
The Quakers would finish with 12 threes, paced by Sterba who had four and Aghayere who went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, helping her to a team-high 19 points. The Quakers were also led by Russell who played a solid all-around game, recording 15 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.
"When our perimeter players score the ball from outside it gives our post players some space," McLaughlin said. "Princess hit a foul line jumper then she hit two threes because they were out on our guards, so it does a lot for our whole offense when our guards score."
The Red and Blue will hope to keep their hot shooting going after struggling from deep last weekend against Harvard as they prepares to take on Cornell to finish off the weekend set.
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