Playing back-to-back is tough, but playing just after a bad loss is even tougher.
Fortunately for Penn women’s basketball, the team was able to bounce back from a loss to Harvard on Friday night to trounce Dartmouth on Saturday by a score of 66-33.
Entering the game, Penn (11-5, 1-2 Ivy) was riding a League-worst four-game losing streak. The Big Green (7-10, 1-3 Ivy) have the worst overall record in the League, but they did beat the Crimson in Hanover by 63-62 off a last-minute go-ahead layup from senior guard Annie McKenna.
"We had to turn [things] around,” junior center Eleah Parker said. “I ended up looking at the standings before the game and I saw that we were second to last, and I knew the streak had to stop. [There] was a drive to win, I knew my team wanted it, I wanted it, and I think we really dominated tonight.”
However, Penn made sure this game would not go down the wire. The Quakers built up an 11-point lead after one quarter. In the second quarter, Penn outscored the Big Green 23-4. That gave the Red and Blue a resounding 44-14 lead at the half, one which they would not relinquish as they blew away the Big Green by 33 points in the final score.
In an attempt to shake things up, the Red and Blue employed man-to-man defense in place of their usual zone coverage. The team did not seem at all uncomfortable with the new system, as players did a good job pressuring the Big Green ball handlers and applying help defense when necessary.
This strategy certainly threw the Big Green off, as they found it difficult to move the ball around due to the stifling defense. McKenna, who leads her team with 12.4 points per game, only had two on a miserable 1-of-13 shooting. With their chief playmaker off the pace, the Big Green shot just 13-for-58 (22.4%) as a whole. Their leading scorer was freshman guard Allie Harland, who won most of her 10 points in the game's final minutes.
The Quakers' offense, which had been stalling recently, got into a hot start and never looked back. One notable reason for the improvement was the team's willingness to quickly push the ball up the court. The Big Green were slow to set their defense off missed shots, providing Penn with mismatch opportunities off of which the visitors swiftly took full advantage. Penn finished the game by outscoring Dartmouth 12-2 from fast breaks.
Another deciding factor in the game was rebounding. Penn held a stark size advantage over Dartmouth, which it utilized to great effect in the paint. Penn held a 46-35 rebounding advantage, including 12 on the offensive end. That led to many easy putback opportunities, something that Penn has not been able to take advantage of during its recent losing spell.
Parker seemed to regain her old, dominant self after sitting all but five minutes of the second half in the loss to Harvard the previous night. Using her size and strength, she terrorized the Big Green on the glass right from the get-go, grabbing four offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone.
Additionally, she also looked more comfortable playing down low with her back to the basket. Parker finished the game with a 14-point, 16-rebound double-double in 27 minutes of action.
Besides Parker, several other Quakers produced great offensive efforts on the night. Senior guard Phoebe Sterba got hot from beyond the arc early on and finished the game with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
Freshman guard Kayla Padilla scored 15 points and added three assists to continue her strong rookie season. Junior forward Tori Crawford, who had a breakout game in her first start of the season yesterday, gathered an efficient eight points and five boards.
Coach Mike McLaughlin credited his team for bouncing back and calls this one of the best 40 minute efforts the team has played all year.
“I think this is one [game] where we [were] completely focused,” he said. “We were completely focused on what we were going to do to win. We kind of challenged each other to do better in all areas, the coaches to the players, the players to the coaches, and I think they responded really well. It was a really impressive effort tonight by everyone involved.”
Both Parker and McLaughlin believe that the team can use this blowout win as a stepping stone for the rest of the season. According to Parker, the key to maintaining this level of play will be to continue cleaning up on the boards.
“Both games this weekend, we’ve outrebounded the other team,” she said. “It was something we had put emphasis on prior to this weekend. Next weekend, we just have to carry that over; [Columbia and Cornell] have really gritty players, so we have to battle and bring the same level of competitive spirit.”
This was Penn’s 11th straight win against the Big Green, and the Quakers will certainly be looking for more as the teams meet again next month. However, before that, the Red and Blue will first have to battle Columbia and Cornell at the Palestra next week.