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Freshman forward Sima Visockaite in action against Duke at the Palestra on Dec. 5.

Credit: William Bartoc

In the back-to-back losses against La Salle and Bucknell University, Penn women's basketball struggled to put the ball in the hoop.

In their matchup against the Bisons, the Quakers were shorthanded once again, as some of Penn’s usual starters were out serving suspensions. The absence of junior guard Kayla Padilla, a key player for the Quakers, was felt. But freshman forward Sima Visockaite stepped up in place of Padilla.  

Visockaite played a phenomenal game. Shooting seven-for-11 from the floor, Visockaite registered her first career double-double and led the team in points and rebounds with 14 and 10, respectively. 

Despite Visockaite putting up strong shooting numbers, the rest of the team failed to do the same. Collectively, the Quakers shot 30% from the field. Strong numbers were tallied in the second and third quarters, but a poor start and a weaker finish decided the Red and Blue’s fate.

The suspensions served by upperclassmen through the first eight games of the season proved to be costly for the team. They say consistency is key, but how can you have consistency when each time out on the floor, you’re with a new set of players? The Red and Blue are still trying to figure out how to play together. With little experience playing at full strength, players are still trying to find their place on the team.

Aside from the fact that the suspensions forced key players on the bench, it allowed for underclassmen to make a name for themselves. In fact, the top-three scorers of Friday’s game were fresh faces to Penn women’s basketball. Consistent outings from sophomore forward Jordan Obi have helped keep the team afloat. Thus, it is no surprise that single-digit performances from Obi in the matchups against Bucknell and Duke resulted in losses.

Credit: William Bartoc

Sophomore forward Jordan Obi attempts a three-pointer against Duke at the Palestra on Dec. 5.

But blame cannot be placed on a single player. A similar tale from Friday can be told for Sunday’s showdown against Duke. A battle was definitely fought, but once again, low shooting numbers, paired with a slow-scoring start allowed Duke to run away with a 77-55 win.

The first quarter was brutal to watch. Two minutes passed after tip-off before the Blue Devils opened the scoring. Duke then went on an 8-0 run, until senior guard Mia Lakstigala’s three-pointer scored the first points of the game for the Red and Blue. The Quakers were only able to put up five points in the first frame compared to Duke’s 22. When the buzzer sounded marking the end of the first, Penn was shooting a measly 15%.

Aggressiveness amped up in the second. Yet, the Quakers put up their lowest-scoring first-half performance of the season. The distracting, though well-executed, passing from outside the paint means close to nothing when few shots connect to show for it.

Pressure from Duke’s defense forced many Quakers to chuck the ball at the net without a proper set-up. As a result, accuracy was low. The low shooting numbers that plagued Penn’s past three games have resulted in the inability to break 60 points. 

The score sheet reveals similar numbers in both teams' turnovers, rebounds, blocks, and steals. It is the accuracy that proved to be the deciding factor in Sunday’s loss.

Ultimately, Penn finished 32% from the field. The team’s defense couldn’t crack down on Duke’s fast breaks, as the Blue Devils scored 19 points in transition.

Duke handed Penn its fifth loss and the Quakers fall below .500 for the first time this season. Although the Red and Blue had all hands on deck and three key upperclassmen scored in the double-digit range, the team’s defense couldn’t tame the Blue Devils.

The matchup against a tough opponent in wake of a return to full strength, though unsuccessful, highlighted weaknesses that the Red and Blue must address moving forward. One can expect that with more experience, better results will follow. As players gain a deeper understanding of their position on the team and on the court, the issue of inconsistency will hopefully fade away.