Saturday afternoon’s Ivy League action at the Palestra resulted in another lopsided outcome for Penn women’s basketball. However, in this contest, it was the Quakers on the wrong side of the blowout.
Entering the contest against No. 25 Princeton, Penn had cruised through nonconference play to get out to their best start to a season in program history. Despite the team’s strong start, Penn fans still had yet to see how the Quakers would perform against a tough opponent when the stakes were high. Saturday’s game against Princeton offered them that chance.
Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, the 75-55 defeat did not instill confidence in the team’s ability to perform against higher-caliber competition. This loss uncovered several issues that have gone unnoticed in the Quakers’ blowout victories thus far.
The first — and most concerning — issue is Penn’s struggle to gather defensive rebounds and prevent opponents from getting second and often third chances at the rim. On Saturday, this issue proved it has dangerous consequences, as Princeton tallied 44 rebounds, 17 of which were offensive. Bella Alarie, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and Princeton’s best weapon, used her 11 rebounds to put up 25 points.
While some of the Quakers’ rebounding issues could be attributed to the matchup nightmare that Alarie’s talent creates, Penn still gave up too many extra opportunities to a Princeton offense that has plenty of offensive weapons outside of Alarie.
Another concern for Penn fans involves reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and Big 5 Player of the Year, junior center Eleah Parker. Coming into Saturday’s contest, the matchup between Alarie and Parker was highly anticipated. In the end, it was Alarie who won the matchup, as Parker struggled to slow down Princeton’s star throughout the game. At the same time, Parker tallied only two points on the offensive side of the ball. If Penn hopes to contend for an Ivy title this season, Parker must work to regain the success she experienced last season.
Once Princeton began to establish a consistent lead, Penn fans could notice another issue, as the Quakers battled foul trouble for the entire second half. Four of the Red and Blue’s five starters had at least three personal fouls in the contest.
Penn’s trouble with personal fouls reveals the consequences of the Quakers having limited experience playing from behind in a game. Princeton controlled the tempo for the second half, and the Red and Blue struggled to slow things down and fall back on their fundamentals. While the Quakers continued to hustle and play aggressive, Penn proved unable to mitigate the effects of Princeton’s command of the tempo.
While the Quakers’ on-court performance was sloppy on Saturday, there were still promising features of the game that the Red and Blue can take away. The most promising takeaway is that Kayla Padilla is the real deal. The freshman guard tallied 27 points against the toughest opponent Penn has faced thus far. Padilla did so by making clutch three-pointer after clutch three-pointer in a performance that shows she has the poise and confidence that Penn needs from its players if it hopes to compete this season.
Although it is easy to jump to conclusions after such a lopsided defeat in the first conference game of the year, the Quakers' fans should remain optimistic about this team’s chances. This loss to Princeton was a single game in what is a long college basketball season.
While the first instinct might be to dismiss the Quakers in any talks of Ivy League contenders, Penn’s overall performance this season has indicated that it wouldn’t be wise to count out the Red and Blue just yet.
JOEY PIATT is a Wharton freshman from Lancaster, Pa. and a Sports Associate for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.