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Senior guard Phoebe Sterba said that the Quakers are looking to improve their consistency after going on long scoring droughts during their loss to Duke.

Credit: Chase Sutton

After a historic start to the season, the Quakers are no longer undefeated. 

Penn women’s basketball entered Thanksgiving weekend undefeated as the team traveled to the famous Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. to face off against Duke. However, Penn couldn’t keep the good times rolling, as the Blue Devils handed Penn a 66-50 loss. Penn (4-1) is now 0-4 all time against the Blue Devils (6-2) and 1-16 against the Atlantic Coast Conference. 

Penn came into the game third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 45.5 points per game. However, in this contest, it was the Quakers' defense that wasn't quite as sharp as usual throughout the four quarters. This game is the first all season in which the Red and Blue allowed more than 51 points, and they collected their fewest defensive rebounds with 15. 

While their defense struggled, Penn’s offense compounded the problem in the first half. In the first and second quarters, the Quakers scored only 11 points each. At the time, those were the lowest scoring quarters for the Red and Blue this season, but in the fourth quarter, they only mustered six points. Junior center Eleah Parker had her lowest scoring game this year, only accounting for four points and three turnovers in 31 minutes. 

For Penn, the problem was not due to a lack of opportunities; the shots were simply not falling. The Quakers had eight more field-goal attempts than the Blue Devils and double the amount from three-point range. Despite that, more attempts did not translate to more points, as Penn shot 32.2% from the field and 25% from behind the arc, both season lows. 

The first half was one to forget for the Quakers, as they were down by as many as 21 in the second quarter. However, they came out of the locker room after halftime with life as they looked to rally back. The Red and Blue’s third quarter defense is more of what they were used to playing. 

“We were [playing] like we could really compete with this team, like this should be our game,” senior guard Phoebe Sterba said. “[Coach Mike McLaughlin] said that we can set the tone for the second half, and I think we did that, and I think it all just starts from our defense.”

Penn didn’t give up a field goal in the first 5:11 of the third quarter, holding Duke to only three made free throws during that time. With 3:00 left in the quarter, sophomore forward Kennedy Suttle picked up a steal, the ball found its way back to her, and she drained it for a three to cut the lead to six. As Duke called a timeout, it seemed that the Quakers had all the momentum and might even come all the way back to win.

With the Quakers only down 49-44 going into the fourth quarter, Penn’s offense stagnated when it mattered most. The Red and Blue only made two field goals in the fourth, both coming in the first three minutes of the quarter. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils went on to score 17 points. For the Quakers, lack of consistency was their biggest problem. The 10 minutes in the third quarter were certainly a highlight, but they did not play their best basketball for the other 30 minutes. 

“[We're focused on] making sure that we continue the game and play the same way every single quarter, and not just show up in one quarter, or one possession, but try to be more consistent,” Sterba said.

No longer an undefeated team, Penn will need to improve on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The Red and Blue will look to get back to their winning ways when they return to the Palestra to face off against Hartford on Monday.

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