As they fight for the number one spot in the Ivy League Tournament, the Quakers came ready to assert their dominance.
Penn women's basketball remains in prime position to compete for the top seed in next weekend's conference tournament after a 65-56 win over Yale on Friday night.
The first half was an offensive struggle for the Quakers (21-5, 11-2 Ivy), who shot only 22 percent from outside the arc. This could largely be attributed to early foul trouble for junior guards Phoebe Sterba and Kendall Grasela.
However, the Quakers’ defensive pressure and intensity allowed them to maintain a lead until their offense got in a rhythm. They were able to hold the Yale (16-12, 6-7) offense to only eight points in the first quarter. Most importantly, they were able to keep Yale junior guard Roxy Barahman — who averages 18.6 points per game — to only two points in the first half.
“It was a challenge; [Barahman] is very good. Especially in the third and fourth quarter, she started really penetrating our gaps,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “For the most part, we did a really good job. It was a team effort.”
The third quarter, however, was marked by fouls, sloppy plays, and empty offensive possessions, which allowed Yale to get back into the game. In the third quarter alone, the Quakers committed seven fouls, compared to eight in the entire first half. A scoring drought of nearly five minutes cut Penn's lead to six and allowed the Bulldogs to get back in the game.
“We really struggled offensively, we lost a little continuity on what we were doing, missed a couple shots that hopefully we would make next time,” McLaughlin said. “We just went through some periods without good offensive possessions.”
A layup at the buzzer by Yale sophomore forward Alex Cade tied the game at 40, shifting the momentum in the Eli's direction.
After two early baskets by Yale, McLaughlin took a timeout only about a minute into the quarter.
“I just didn’t like the momentum, I thought the momentum of the game started to shift in that third quarter,” McLaughlin said. “They came out, pushed us on our heels, and scored twice.”
Following the timeout, the Quakers’ offense picked up, led mainly by sophomore center Eleah Parker. Parker had a double-double with 16 rebounds and a career-high 29 points.
“It was fun, I was trying not to really pay attention to it and just do what I had to do to help my team,” Parker said. “It feels good, but the greater victory is our team winning tonight.”
With the Red and Blue's offense flowing, their defense followed, as Yale went on a scoring drought toward the end of the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Quakers.
“[Parker] is our go-to girl. We went to her late in that fourth quarter probably eight times and she produced. What I was really proud of was her tenacity and will to find a way to will our team to victory,” McLaughlin said.
The Quakers will certainly need the continued dominance of Parker as they go into their last game of the regular season against Brown. With a win on Saturday, they would clinch at least a share of the Ivy League regular season title, and they would earn the top spot in the Ivy Tournament with a victory and a Princeton loss.