The Quakers got the same result as last year, but this time around, it was against a completely different La Salle team.
Penn women’s basketball took on La Salle at Tom Gola Arena, winning by a score of 65-49.
When these two squads clashed last year at the Palestra, the result was similar. Penn (6-1, 2-0 Big 5) emerged victorious by a score of 65-34 and dominated the whole game. At that point, the Explorers (6-3, 0-1) fell to 0-9 after they were handled by Penn.
This year, coach Mountain MacGillivray’s La Salle squad has undergone a huge turnaround in a short time. The Explorers had already won six games coming into Wednesday night, and they have the size to compete with Penn's All-Ivy center Eleah Parker down low. In addition, they have enough shooting to disrupt Penn’s 2-3 zone at times.
The Explorers jumped on the Quakers early, opening up the game with seven unanswered points. Star freshman guard Kayla Padilla and senior Phoebe Sterba then began to make their presence felt. Padilla repeatedly used her quick first step to get into the teeth of the defense, making short floaters and wreaking havoc on defense. Sterba dropped in threes from each corner, plus another for good measure.
In what felt like just a couple minutes, Penn went on a 32-12 run, including an 18-4 run to open the second quarter — and after that, the group never looked back.
“Tonight especially, everyone on the floor offensively was a threat,” Padilla said. “Just because the defense had to take care of so many of us on offense, it allowed us to spread the floor and create great opportunities."
Though the Quakers entered halftime with just a 10-point lead, they jumped on La Salle in the third and extended their lead to 14 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Through six games, Penn’s scoring defense is ranked fifth in the nation, as the group is allowing just over 49 points per game. This contest was no exception. The Red and Blue's stifling 2-3 matchup zone forced the Explorers into contested jump shots and didn’t allow their frontcourt to get comfortable when posting up. They forced 14 turnovers, many of which came in the half court.
“Defense is our foundation; that’s always going to spark our offense," Padilla said. “I think coming out strong on that end was the biggest factor that sparked our run, and pushed us over the edge."
The Quakers’ suffocating defense allowed them to get out on the fast break and push in transition, where they were effective. In their big second quarter run, they were able to turn defense into offense time and time again, in large part due to six combined steals from Padilla, Sterba, and senior guard Kendall Grasela.
Penn’s next chance to build on its encouraging effort will be Saturday at home versus Stetson.