Penn women’s basketball knew it had to play a near-perfect game to get a positive result against No. 23 Princeton, and the end result on Tuesday night was far from perfect.
Just like they have done against every other Ivy League team this season, the Tigers raced out to a big lead and never gave the Red and Blue a chance to come back, securing an 80-44 result at the Jadwin Gymnasium.
In what was the Quakers' (17-6, 7-3 Ivy) worst loss of the season — and biggest since a 45-point defeat to Tennessee in November 2014 — they were all off on both sides of the ball.
The first few minutes started decently for the visitors, with back-and-forth play keeping the Quakers in it early. But then the Tigers (22-1, 10-0) struck, closing out the first quarter with four straight three-pointers to take a 13-point lead after 10 minutes.
Three turnovers in the first three Quaker possessions set the tone for what would be a showcase of offensive disorganization for most of the game.
The Quakers started off by running their usual action plays, but against the No. 1 scoring defense in Division I, they struggled to get clean looks at the basket as the Tigers went through Penn's screens like a knife through butter.
Penn was held scoreless for nearly 10 minutes spanning the first and second quarters, allowing the lead to balloon to 21 by the end of the half at 34-13.
The Red and Blue's offense started to get more looks in the second half, outscoring the Tigers in the third quarter. But Princeton suppressed any comeback in the works, shooting lights out and especially dominating on the glass.
For the second time this season, the Tigers proved too strong and Penn could not figure out a cohesive strategy to stop them.
Usually, the Red and Blue can depend on the low post play of junior center Eleah Parker to bail the team out. However, Parker was muffled by the Tigers’ interior defense, which did not give her any room to pull off her go-to moves. She was limited to just two points in 19 minutes on the court.
While Parker had an off night, most of her teammates did not fare any better. As a team, Penn had a total of one assist. Had freshman guard Kayla Padilla, who scored 24 of Penn’s 44 points on the night, not exploded for a 15-point third-quarter, the scoreline could have been much uglier.
Coming into the game, the Red and Blue were ninth nationally in fewest turnovers per game (11.6). However, they turned the ball over 19 times on Tuesday, seven coming in the first quarter alone. This gave the Tigers extra possessions and fast-break opportunities, which they took full advantage of by pouring in 22 points off turnovers.
Credit has to be given to the Tigers’ tenacious defense, which used ball pressure and swift movement to cut off the Quakers’ passing lanes. But the Quakers did not exactly do themselves a favor, as the rest of the team, Padilla aside, were ice-cold and did not seem to know what the plan on offense was.
Another significant aspect that was missing from the Quakers on Tuesday night was hustle.
Throughout the game, the possession arrow changed three times. Each of those jump balls involved Princeton freshman forward Ellie Mitchell, who was relentless in getting her hands onto the basketball. She finished the game with five steals, matching Penn’s team total.
Mitchell’s spirit proved infectious to the Tigers, as they outhustled the Red and Blue on both ends of the court. Just 23 seconds into the second half and with her team up by 21, Princeton junior guard Carlie Littlefield dove to the ground to recover a loose rebound off her own miss, and, much to the crowd’s pleasure, called timeout before the Quakers could force a jump ball.
The Red and Blue were also outdone on the glass. Penn grabbed 27 total rebounds, compared to Princeton’s 48 — 21 of which were offensive. The team as a whole struggled to box out effectively, allowing the likes of Mitchell and senior center Bella Alarie to crash the glass. The Tigers finished the game with 16 second-chance points. The Quakers only had two.
“You’ve got to appreciate the game, respect the game,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We talked a little [after the game] about the sport, and what it does to you … the grit and the grind needs to be back in the morning.”
Penn only has a few days to get the grind back before another Ivy Weekend, this time hosting Yale on Friday and Brown on Saturday. The Quakers beat both teams on the road earlier this season, but Penn will need to shake off Tuesday's loss if it wants to add two more wins and clinch its spot in Ivy Madness.
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