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Penn guard Mataya Gayle attempts a shot against Brown on Feb. 2.

Credit: Chenyao Liu

The usual competitive spirit at the Palestra was magnified tonight as Penn women’s basketball faced off against Brown for the first time this season. With the Quakers fresh off of two losses and the Bears hoping to secure their third consecutive win, each team battled their hardest for the victory for different reasons. Ultimately Penn came out on top, crushing Brown with a final score of 77-56.

Going into tonight’s game, Brown (13-6, 4-2 Ivy) was considered a heavy favorite over Penn (11-8, 3-3 Ivy), so it came as a surprise that Penn dominated for the entire 40 minutes. Although senior forward Jordan Obi lost the tip-off, the Quaker’s hard defense forced a quick turnover, allowing Penn to score the first points of the game and secure a lead that it maintained throughout the entire game. 

This wasn’t just any typical game for Obi. In the fourth quarter, she became the 25th member of the 1,000 point club and the seventh fastest player to reach this benchmark, using just 75 games to obtain this achievement. However, she remained humble, saying, “It’s not a big deal to me, but … none of that is possible without [the coaches and teammates].”

It was a night full of three-pointers for the Quakers. Junior guard Stina Almqvist swished a beautiful three-pointer for the first points of the game. Almqvist continued to land her signature shots while playing one of her scrappiest games yet. She was on the ground wrestling for every spare ball and tapping endless rebounds out of the air. As the leading scorer for the Red and Blue, Almqvist remains one of the team’s most consistent players.

By establishing an early lead, the Quakers were able to set a fast pace for the game. The Bears countered by keeping their plays slow and controlled, but their man-to-man defense could not stop Penn’s momentum: Brown was messy and unable to keep up with Obi, Stina, and freshman point guard Mataya Gayle. Penn also played man-to-man, but the team was able to find more success through its strong control of the game’s pace which allowed it to keep Brown’s offense out of the paint. 

Unlike her team-leading performance against Columbia on Jan. 27, Gayle had a relatively quiet game. She didn’t score any points in the first half — although her speed on the court was unmatched. Once she put away her first shot, it was almost as if a rocket had been fired. Gayle quickly racked up points in the second half, proving that she can be a dangerous scoring threat even after a slow start. 

After sophomore guard Simone Sawyer sank a three-pointer at the buzzer, the Quakers finished the first quarter with a 31-12 lead. Regarding the team's tough defense, Sawyer recalled that getting an early lead is particularly important when playing at home. “Especially in this conference, you want to get up quick … and force them to call a timeout, which is what we did."

The Bears came into the second quarter fired up on offense. Although they tried to match Penn’s energy, their shooting percentage fell short and many of their points were scored at the free-throw line. By the end of the second half, the Brown players looked tired and retreated to the locker room with Penn’s 16-point lead looming over them.

In the third quarter Brown did not let go of its strategy to slow down the game: sophomore Grace Arnolie even shouted, “take it slow” as she dribbled up the court. With a significant lead, Penn appeared to concede slightly, allowing the pace to trickle down. 

After establishing their highest lead of the night — 30 points — with six minutes left to play, the Quakers decelerated even more, with coach McLaughlin sending in a team of non-starters: junior guard Marianna Papazoglou, junior forward Iyanna Rodgers, senior guard Michaela Stanfield, sophomore guard Georgia Heine, and freshman guard Abby Sharpe. This allowed Brown to regain some momentum, but not enough to break Penn’s lead.

Looking back on the game and the team’s attitude, Obi admitted that “losing was not an option,” and that previous team discussions surrounding Brown’s winning record contributed to their relentless aggression tonight.

In less than 24 hours, the Quakers will host the Bulldogs at the Palestra, hoping to channel tonight’s dynamic energy and secure another win for the Ivy series.