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Freshman guard Kayla Padilla exploded for 25 points in her second-ever game for Penn women's basketball.

Credit: Amanda Shen

They just keep rolling on.

In the team’s first away game of the season, Penn women’s basketball dominated NJIT by a score of 85-51.

Coming off a 92-44 drubbing of Siena at the Palestra, the Quakers (2-0) did not skip a beat in New Jersey and strolled to a 20-5 lead in the first quarter. Freshman guard Kayla Padilla and junior center Eleah Parker each scored seven points in the first frame to lead Penn. 

Padilla, in particular, was able to score both inside and outside throughout the game. She paced the team with 15 points at the half and finished with 25 on 9-for-15 shooting — including five three-pointers. 

As they did against Siena, the Quakers once again excelled on the defensive end. They looked especially solid in a three-two zone, applying strong ball pressure to force the Highlanders (0-4) out of the paint. This proved effective, as NJIT racked up zero points in the paint in the first half and shot just 32.7% overall.

Credit: Amanda Shen

Senior guard Kendall Grasela

“It’s a trademark of what we’ve done,” coach Mike McLaughlin said about the team’s defensive effort. “We’ve always defended hard, and they’re gelling really well.”

The Quakers’ length also made things difficult for the Highlanders. On defense, Penn was able to clog up the passing lanes, leading to 14 NJIT turnovers, which turned into 15 points for the Red and Blue. The Quakers also dominated on the glass by a 43-23 margin, including 18 offensive rebounds that led to 25 second-chance points. Five of those came from Parker, who finished the game with a near double-double of 19 points and nine boards. 

Offensively, Penn took control of the game by pushing the ball up the court whenever they could, trying to catch the slow-to-retreat Highlanders off guard. The Red and Blue finished the game with 20 fast break points, while NJIT had zero. When in the half court, the Quakers got everyone going by moving the ball around quickly. Penn displayed a pass-first mentality, including Parker and other low-post players, who took advantage of the Highlanders collapsing in or double-teaming by passing to open shooters along the perimeter. Penn finished the game with 27 assists on 35 made buckets, led by senior guard Kendall Grasela’s nine. 

“Our transition offense has been really good, getting the ball down the court, getting good shots. I’m seeing great progress in that area,” McLaughlin said. “In the backcourt, Kendall [Grasela] likes to run the ball, Kayla [Padilla] likes to run the ball. We’re fortunate we have two good guards on the court at all times. I think it’s a style that the team could benefit from.”

The Quakers will look to carry this strong momentum back to the Palestra on Sunday, when they will take on Iona. Despite two resounding wins, McLaughlin feels his team still has a long way to go.

“We’re still improving our half-court offense,” McLaughlin said. “And I think even on the defensive end, there are still some things we’re unsure of, so we’re going to have our male practice squad come in and play us a little bit on Friday. That will help us to [improve].”

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