In the regular-season finale, Penn women's basketball took care of business in Providence, R.I. and cruised to a 75-53 win over Brown. While the men fought hard to secure a spot in the Ivy League Tournament, the women locked up the No. 2 seed in the women's tourney thanks to great play on both ends of the floor.
The Quakers (22-5, 12-2 Ivy) dominated the game from the opening whistle, not relinquishing their lead over Brown (9-21, 1-13) for the entire contest. Here are some key takeaways from Saturday night's win.
Penn came out to play on offense
It's been proven time and time again that the Quakers can play tight defense to win games. They rank No. 7 in the NCAA with just 53.6 points allowed per game and No. 20 in opponent three-point percentage, surrendering just 27.7 percent of attempts from distance. They have a dominant defensive center in sophomore Eleah Parker, who ranks second in Division I with 3.23 blocks per game.
On Saturday night, though, the Quakers came out to play on offense. They shot the ball at a 52.5 percent clip from the field and sunk 9-of-20 three-point shots, both season bests in conference play. Parker, junior Phoebe Sterba, and senior Princess Aghayere scored 26, 23, and 16 points, respectively, while each shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
Critics will point out that they were playing a Bears team that was by far the worst in the Ivy League. After beating Yale to open the season, Brown went on a 13-game losing streak and lost 12 of those games by 10 points or more. Brown also allowed a conference-high 78.4 points per game.
These are valid concerns, but this Brown team still beat Yale by 15. Furthermore, Penn was the first team to shoot over 50 percent from the floor and over 40 percent on threes in conference play this season. At the very least, it will give the confidence when taking shots next week during the Ivy League tournament.
Eleah Parker might just be Ivy League Player of the Year
Parker has been on a tear recently, scoring at least 20 points in each of her last three games. This stretch epitomizes what has been an amazing season for the sophomore, who took home Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors last season. Parker has put up 8.9 rebounds per game, a 50.7 percent field goal percentage, and 3.3 blocks per game, all of which rank first in conference play. She's also put up 15.6 points per game, good for fifth in the Ivy League.
Parker has been getting hot at just the right time, and with voting right around the corner, there's a chance she'll be first on some voters' ballots. Leading her team to the NCAA tournament would surely bolster her chances even more, and she'll have a good chance to do that with the way she's been playing.
Her competition, of course, is last year's winner and Princeton star Bella Alarie, who has put up some impressive stats of her own and led her team to the No. 1 seed in the Ivy Tournament.
Phoebe Sterba could be Penn's x-factor next week.
Parker is this team's best player and go-to option on offense, but Sterba has stepped up all season, including on Saturday night, trailing only Parker in points scored. Sterba nailed 7-of-11 three-pointers and was a force on offense against the Bears. This marked the second time this season Sterba has scored over 20 points, after she put up 21 in Penn's Ivy opening-win over Princeton in January.
Averaging 9.3 points per game, Sterba hasn't been the first or even second option for the Quakers on offense. Nonetheless, her offensive explosion in Providence could give her confidence to step up in the Ivy tournament. If Sterba gets hot in New Haven, Conn., especially against the Tigers again, the Red and Blue team could just make their way into the Big Dance.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.