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A sizable early deficit doomed Penn women's basketball to a 58-51 loss on the road to Ivy League rival Harvard. (Photo from Erica Denhoff)

Nothing seems to be going right for the Quakers at the moment.

With Ivy League play resuming, Penn women’s basketball dropped its fourth game in a row, falling at the hands of Harvard by a score of 58-51.

The game was foreseen as a battle beyond the arc, as both teams shoot and make the three ball at a high volume. Harvard (11-5, 2-1 Ivy) leads the League with 8.1 threes per game, with Penn (10-5, 0-2) a close second at 7.9 per contest. It was also billed as a battle between two freshman guard sensations: Kayla Padilla of Penn and Lola Mullaney of Harvard. Both players lead their team in scoring, and are big threats from deep.

Quakers coach Mike McLaughlin sprang an early surprise as he inserted junior forward Tori Crawford into the starting lineup in place of sophomore forward Kennedy Suttle.

“I think Tori [Crawford]’s been really consistent all year,” McLaughlin said. “She brings a high level of energy to the floor which we really need. It was also that we wanted to give Kennedy [Suttle] a different look at the game from the bench. We just need her to be more aggressive on the offensive end, so we switched her role so she could be a better scorer [off the bench].”

The Quakers jumped out to an early 7-3 lead, but then allowed the Harvard to go on a 14-0 run. Most of that came from the Crimson’s hustle on the glass, as they grabbed five offensive rebounds during the quarter, from which they either made simple put-back layups under the rim, or found an open player for a three-point shot.

The Red and Blue continued to struggle offensively entering the second quarter. A short jumper by junior center Eleah Parker with 9:21 left in the half was the team’s first and only bucket of the quarter, as they missed their next 17 shots. Besides Parker, only Padilla and Crawford had gotten on the board at the half. The trio combined to shoot 23.1% (6-for-26), while the rest of the team went 0-for-9.

Meanwhile, the Crimson lived up to their billing as an elite three-point shooting team, going 7-for-14 from range in the first half. Spearheading the charge from outside was Mullaney, who went 5-for-8 from three and finished with 20 points. Harvard’s quick-firing offense sank Penn into an early hole from which it could never recover.

Throughout the game, McLaughlin looked for inspiration from his bench. Freshman forward Silke Milliman and sophomore guard Mia Lakstigala each saw some game action at some point. However, none of them were able to make a significant impact on the game. At one point in the third, Harvard even stretched its lead up to 23.

Then, with 4:18 left in the quarter, McLaughlin turned to sophomore guard Meg Hair. With Hair in the lineup, Penn went on a 13-2 run behind three three-pointers, two from Padilla and one from junior guard Michae Jones, to cut the Crimson lead down to 12. During her 12-minute stint, Hair was especially impressive on defense and helped progress the ball quickly on the other end.

That gave Penn a brief glimpse of hope entering the final quarter. Besides Hair, newly promoted starter Crawford also put in an excellent shift patrolling the paint in place of Parker, who played just 18 minutes and did not return to the game since the 5:51 mark in the third.

Crawford was a menace in the paint, grabbing seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, to give the Red and Blue multiple second-chance and third-chance efforts. Her aggression under the basket also forced the Crimson over the foul limit early on. However, the team was not able to take advantage of that, shooting just 6-of-13 from the foul line in the fourth.

With 1:01 to go, a three-pointer by Padilla cut the deficit down to six. Yet, the early 23-point deficit proved too much for the Quakers to overcome, as they dropped their fourth consecutive game on the season. Padilla paced the Quakers with 21 points, but shot just 6-of-25. As a whole, the Red and Blue went 18-for-71 (25.4%) from the field.

Addressing the team’s shooting woes, McLaughlin rues a mix of missing good opportunities and taking bad shots.

“We missed a lot of great shots, especially at the end of that first quarter,” he said. “[When] you start missing one or two, you start pressing and hope the ball goes in the basket; it became sort of contagious for us. Hopefully tomorrow [at Dartmouth], we can find the basket, be more settled, and make a great response.”

Despite the loss, there were some positives in the second half, such as Crawford, who finished with 10 points and 14 boards (nine offensive), and the solid play of Hair. The Quakers could certainly use some contributions from them once again tomorrow as they visit Dartmouth, who beat the Crimson on its home court earlier on, to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole in Ivy League play.

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