They’re still the team to beat.
Penn women’s basketball remained undefeated in Ivy League play after taking care of business in Hanover, N.H., easily dispatching Dartmouth by a score of 60-44.
In last season’s matchup, the Red and Blue (16-3, 6-0 Ivy) went on a 22-7 run in the first quarter and never looked back. This year, Penn made use of yet another big run, this time with an 18-5 spurt in the second quarter, to pull away from the Big Green (10-10, 3-4). During that 10-minute span, the Quakers showcased their team defense, which has been suffocating all season. That limited the home side to an 0-for-7 shooting performance from three-point range, with Penn also creating nine points off turnovers. After that point, the Red and Blue didn't look back.
“I thought our rotations defensively were great throughout the game, but particularly at that time," coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We were able to stop them, get a couple of live ball turnovers, a couple of blocked shots, [and] we transitioned the ball pretty good. We pushed the pace at the level we needed to be, and that gave us separation.”
Besides team defense, the Quakers also rebounded the ball exceptionally well from the floor, as they outmatched the Big Green, 42-24, in that category. 16 of their boards were offensive rebounds, seven of which were snatched by senior forward Princess Aghayere. She finished the game with a double-double, scoring 13 points and notching 11 boards.
“Princess has been terrific,” McLaughlin said. “She rebounded the ball well, and she’s so creative, she can score in multiple ways. Both her and [senior guard] Ashley [Russell] kind of willed us, and the rest of the players fought with them.”
Solid defense and rebounding from Penn made it a tough night for the Dartmouth offense as the group only shot 16-for-48 from the field, while Penn made 26 of its 56 attempts. Russell led the Red and Blue in scoring with 19, nine of which came in the game-changing second quarter. Russell seems to especially enjoy playing against Dartmouth; against the Big Green last season, she recorded a then-season high 21 points.
“Her impact — you know — you can’t even say enough," McLaughlin said. "Her conditioning is phenomenal, she’s an ultra competitor, she makes the people around her better. And she can impact the game without scoring, because she does so many things, and then when you get her to put in 19 like she did tonight, it makes [things] so much better.”
The Quakers will travel to take on Harvard on Saturday, which is the only Ivy League team they have yet to face this season. Harvard (11-9, 4-3) is coming off a 75-71 loss to Princeton but has shown flashes of great play throughout the season. In particular, McLaughlin is aware of the Crimson’s League-high 9.2 threes per game. Penn, on the other hand, leads the Ancient Eight in opponent three-point percentage, so something will have to give on Saturday.
“Their guard play is really strong, [and] they can really shoot the three," he said. "Our rotations are going to have to be quick. We’re just going to have to be really in sync to make sure that these are contested threes. And when they make a few, then we just get on [with] the next play, [as] they’re good at scoring.”
With their seven-game winning streak on the line as the Ivy League season approaches its halfway mark, the Quakers are not letting high expectations get the better of them.
“I hate to say it, but we just play each game in front of us," McLaughlin said. "We’re going to ride the momentum; we respect the game, and we’re going to continue to compete.”
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