Last time the Quakers played Harvard, they only scored 13 points in the first half. This time around, the Red and Blue were up 12-0 four minutes into the game and never looked back.
Penn women's basketball took on Harvard on Saturday in the second game of its fourth Ivy Weekend of the season, and won its seventh straight conference game in a 70-48 drubbing.
Toppling Dartmouth on Friday by a dominant 33-point margin, the Red and Blue (17-5, 7-2 Ivy) faced the Crimson (14-9, 5-5) looking for revenge. Losing to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. by seven in their first contest this season, Quakers sought to improve their defense and work on shooting in the rematch.
The Red and Blue started hot with a dozen unanswered points, consistently pressuring the Crimson on offense by attacking the basket. Penn’s lockdown defense was again shining, forcing Harvard to take low-percentage shots. Continuing into the first quarter, Harvard’s first points came from a second-chance bucket five minutes into the game.
However, the Quakers continued to dominate. Freshman Kayla Padilla started the game on fire, scoring 14 of Penn's 24 first-quarter points off of four three-pointers and two free throws.
“I think the chemistry tonight especially was on point," Padilla said. "Eleah’s been dominating, so attention there allows easy access for the guards to do their thing. So, I think that we moved the ball well and all played our game."
Penn started the second quarter just as hot as the first. Tiring Harvard out on the defensive side of the ball, the Red and Blue did not allow the Crimson any easy passes or shots, while also continuing to attack the basket on the other side of the court.
Junior center Eleah Parker's prowess on the glass proved to be instrumental to the Quakers' offense. However, one overarching issue for both sides was the inability to hold on to the ball. Penn seemed to continuously turn over the ball by letting go of defensive rebounds, while the Crimson were prone to losing the ball on bad passing.
As the half came to a close, the Quakers again went on a run. A pair of three-pointers from Padilla and senior guard Phoebe Sterba put the Penn up by 16 to end the half up 38-22.
“Our level of intensity right out of the gate gave us unbelievable momentum on both sides of the ball. I feel that offensively, we really pushed the ball in transition," coach Mike McLaughlin said. "We got some easy shots at the basket and they went in and it gave us a lot of early life. And I thought defensively, we were pretty good tonight."
Going into the second half, Penn kept its focus and never let Harvard back into the game. Both teams hit the court energized, and Penn continued to press on both sides of the ball. The third quarter saw much of the same, with the Quakers extending their lead to as much as 28 points — at 57-29 — near the end of the period.
Throughout the fourth, the Red and Blue worked to maintain their lead and finish the game. Harvard became more physical as it tried to chip into Penn's lead, but it came to little avail. Padilla continued to attack the basket, putting up 23 points total on 7-of-17 shooting, including six three-pointers. McLaughlin emptied his bench towards the end, and 13 Penn players were able to get time in the 22-point victory.
As the Quakers take this win in stride, they look ahead to a week full of Ivy League games. First up is a Tuesday contest on the road against No. 25 Princeton, who remains undefeated in League play. Then the Red and Blue remain at home for matchups with Yale and Brown over the weekend, where Penn hopes to clinch its spot in Ivy Madness. The Quakers currently sit second in Ivy play, only behind the 9-0 Tigers.
"The little things are starting to add up for us," McLaughlin said. "The special situation stuff, the attention to details, the one extra pass; I think all these things are going to be a constant for us."
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