Revenge is often best served cold. But Saturday afternoon, revenge was served red hot, as Penn women's basketball rode to a well-earned victory over a Harvard team that had dominated them just a few weeks ago.
The Crimson came into the Palestra with a five-game win streak, with four of those wins being on the road. The one home win? A 24-point domination of Penn on Jan. 28.
“We had a really tough loss at their place,” senior guard Kayla Padilla said. “But there’s something special about this home floor. We came out ready to play.”
On Saturday, Penn (15-8, 7-3 Ivy) reversed the narrative by defeating the Crimson (14-8, 7-3) 70-64. Despite a close margin in the final score, Penn dominated most of the game, finishing ahead in most statistical categories and leading for the entire second half.
The Quakers came out the game sloppy, with seven turnovers in the first quarter and a couple of possessions marked by players tumbling off the court. Harvard, on the other hand, initially looked composed and prepared, as sophomore guard Harmoni Turner — a favorite for Ivy league player of the year — set the tone early with a pair of steals and a couple of impressive no-look passes.
This slow start, a trend for the Quakers across multiple recent games, was over when Padilla scored six straight points out of the first media time out. From there, it was a slugfest, with both teams scrapping on defense and clawing for rebounds.
Padilla carried the offense in the second quarter, taking and making tough contested jumpers, while junior forwards Floor Toonders and Jordan Obi held the fort down on defense. The real difference that kept Harvard competitive was the amount of fouls called on the Quakers, with several possessions being stopped by relatively minimal contact.
“We’ve had a lot of games where we just had some ticky-tacky fouls,” Padilla said. “I think learning to play through those, playing smart, and at the end of the day our defense is their offense — so the message was not to take our foot off the gas pedal.”
Nearing the end of the first half, the foul calls stopped, Padilla stayed hot, and Penn pulled off an 11-0 run. By halftime, Padilla had 15 points and five assists, the Palestra crowd was rocking, and Penn led by nine.
In the second half, it was all Penn. Freshman guard Simone Sawyer hit two shots from long range in the first minute of the third quarter. On top of the electric offense, Penn closed down Harvard’s chances for any second-chance shots with Obi recording many of her 11 total rebounds in this period. Toward the end of the third quarter, Obi hit a step-back triple to put Penn up by 15 in what felt like a dagger.
But while many at the Palestra thought the game was nearly over heading into the fourth quarter, Harvard was able to go on an 11-0 run of their own, cutting the lead to four with under a minute left. However, the Quakers held on with split free throws in the final minutes from Padilla, senior guard Mandy McGurk, and senior guard Sydnei Caldwell.
This game was full of impressive performances from a multitude of Penn players. Padilla showed out in the match, scoring 27 points while dishing out eight assists. This is Padilla’s eighth 20-plus point performance this season, and Penn is undefeated in all eight of those games.
Sawyer made a name for herself as well, scoring 15 points on 5-12 shooting from deep. On top of that, Obi and Toonders were potent on both sides of the floor, as each finished with 11 points. Performances like these helped Penn put up 70 points against a Harvard team that regularly holds their opponent’s scoring in the 50s.
Saturday’s win marked Penn’s 10th victory in their last 11 home games against the Crimson. With only four games left in the regular season, this win was as important as any, as the team now controls its own destiny for a bid to the Ivy League Tournament next month.