After two consecutive losses, Penn women's basketball has a chance to regain momentum with a Big 5 title.
On Thursday, the Quakers will take on Temple at the Liacouras Center. Since starting 10-1, the Red and Blue (10-3, 2-1 Big 5) have dropped two in a row, including a 20-point home loss against Princeton. This weekend is their opportunity to right the ship before Ivy play starts up again.
Though they’ve hit some roadblocks, coach Mike McLaughlin’s approach remains the same.
“I think we’ve got to be careful judging how you play by wins and losses. We’ve played two very good teams. With that said, we’re looking at the big picture of how we can win tomorrow, how we can take those two games, along with the 11 others,” McLaughlin said.
Senior guard Phoebe Sterba echoed McLaughlin's sentiment, stressing that the Quakers just need to focus on the next opponent ahead. In this case, that would be the Owls (11-7, 2-1).
“As a team, we try not to look back in the box score,” Sterba said. “We have to move forward."
If the Red and Blue win the game, they will secure a share of the Big 5 title, but Temple is in the same situation. Since taking over as head coach, McLaughlin has had immense success in the Big 5, winning two titles during his career.
Though they have dropped their last two games, there have been some bright spots for the Quakers. Freshman guard Kayla Padilla scored 50 combined points on 58% shooting from the field in those two games.
In order for the Quakers to right the ship, their offense needs to shoot the ball more effectively. They have scored fewer than 60 points two games in a row after scoring more than 60 in six of their last seven.
For the Red and Blue to launch an offensive turnaround, they will likely need a spark from junior center Eleah Parker. After averaging almost 16 points per game last year, she is averaging just 9.4 points per game this season. Her field goal percentage is down, and her free throw percentage has fallen to just 28.6%.
“We’ve been working on more ball screens, running sets to make sure she’s getting looks deep in the post,” senior guard Kendall Grasela said. “Something I can do is tell her how much I believe in her, how confident I am in her. She’s such an amazing player.”
On the other end of the floor, however, Parker and the Quakers are excelling. She is averaging 2.4 blocks per game and anchoring a top-10 scoring defense in the nation. Penn is giving up just 51.7 points per game, and Parker has been a big part of the team's success. She patrols the paint and defends without fouling; she has 31 blocks on the year and just 21 fouls.
With a win tomorrow, the Quakers will have their 11th non-conference win of the year, tying a program record and clinching a title along the way.