The Ivy League Basketball Tournament is here, and second-seeded Penn women’s basketball will take on third-seeded Harvard Saturday night at Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Quakers (22-5, 12-2 Ivy) and Crimson (16-11, 9-5) split their two regular-season matchups — both of which ended in dramatic overtime fashion — so the Red and Blue can expect a tough contest as they fight for a berth to the Ivy title game. Here are some keys for Penn to come out on top.
Neither the Quakers nor the Crimson shoot the ball extremely well from deep. The Red and Blue connect at a 31.3 percent clip from beyond the arc, while Harvard does marginally better at 32.9 percent. When Penn outlasted Harvard in a 75-70 overtime win to begin the month of March, it did so merely by being average from three — the Quakers hit 7-of-22 three-pointers, or 31.8 percent, while allowing the Crimson to hit 34.4 percent.
In its heart-wrenching, double-overtime defeat to Harvard, however, Penn struggled immensely with its three-point attempts, missing 17 of its 19 tries from deep. The Quakers shot 10.5 percent from that range and lost by just eight points. If they can stay in that low- to mid-30 percent range, the Red and Blue will have a much better chance to win.
The posteason isn’t just the time when teams’ best performers rise to the occasion; it’s also an opportunity for unheralded players to make impacts that can change the course of a season. In the two regular season matchups between Penn and Harvard, Quakers’ sophomore guard Michae Jones, who averages 4.2 points in nearly 15 minutes per game, has posted two career-high scoring performances. Jones contributed a then-best 15 points in the loss to the Crimson before adding 19 points in the second game of the season series.
It’s worth noting that in Jones’ 15-point outing, six of her points came from the free throw line. In her second career-high performance, Jones scored a stunning 13 of her 19 points from the stripe. Taking advantage of those foul line opportunities will be of great importance for the Red and Blue.
“We’ve got to convert from the foul line,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “Any time there’s a possession-type situation where it’s going to affect the outcome of the game, we really have to be good.”
Stick to What Works
All season long, Penn has played high intensity basketball with a special attention to defense, and the Quakers don’t expect that to change in the Tournament.
“When you’re in our league and you’re trying to win the league, as we were just trying to do, every game is a postseason game,” McLaughlin said.
The Red and Blue hold their opponents to an average of 53.7 points per game on 33.5 percent shooting. In its matchups against the Crimson this year, Penn allowed just 52 and 56 points in regulation at Harvard and at the Palestra, respectively. If the Quakers can turn in a similarly stout defensive performance and keep it simple on the offensive end of the floor, they should find themselves in a winnable basketball game.
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