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Penn women's basketball lost 67-54 to Princeton on Feb. 10.

Credit: Tjaden Litwiler

Penn women’s basketball played a scrappy, determined 40 minutes against No. 25 Princeton, losing 67-54 in a game that was much more competitive than the box score implies.

“Penn-Princeton, for everyone that's around, is a very big deal, and I want [the team] to embrace that,” head coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I do want them to represent Penn out there, and I thought they did that.”

After the Quakers (11-10, 3-5 Ivy) scored first to claim an early 2-0 lead, Princeton (18-3, 8-0 Ivy) compiled a second quarter eight-basket scoring run that had them up by 14 . Penn played the rest of the game from behind, at times narrowing the score to a few possessions, but never regaining the lead.

Even as the Tigers dominated the second quarter, a bright spot for the Quakers came from senior forward Jordan Obi. Scoring 12 of Penn’s 26 first-half points, Obi provided a much needed offensive spark to keep the game competitive. Some well-executed pick-and-roll chemistry between Obi and fellow senior forward Floor Toonders showcased the best (and worst) of the Penn basketball system.

“We did a pretty good job with the ball at times, but, you know, we set a couple moving screens, and we couldn't really afford to give up those possessions,” McLaughlin said.

In the third quarter, Penn seemed to find an offensive rhythm. The Quakers scored on multiple consecutive plays, as freshman guard Ese Ogbevire sank a pair of electrifying threes that brought the crowd back to life. Freshman guard Mataya Gayle then pulled down a crucial defensive rebound before posting a layup on the other side of the court, and by the end of the third, Penn had narrowed the score to 44-48.

The Quakers’ energy carried into the final ten minutes, but it was not enough to complete the upset. In the opening minute of fourth quarter play, junior guard Lizzie Groetsch dove on a loose ball, wrestling for control with a Princeton player. The refs called the jump ball in Princeton’s favor — a decision that, combined with three defensive fouls called on Penn in the subsequent minutes, had even ESPN announcers sharing confused looks.

Despite narrowing the score to a two-possession game, Penn could not contain Princeton’s closing act. The Tigers expanded their lead into the double digits, leaving Penn Band’s “Garfield is more intimidating” banner feeling more inspirational than accurate.

Ultimately, self-inflicted errors doomed the Quakers. The Red and Blue lost possessions to half-court violations, missed passes, ball mishandling, travels, and shot clock violations. The team seemed to especially struggle with offensive shot clock management with multiple possessions ending on last ditch thoughts-and-prayers style lobs as the time drained to zero.

At the final whistle, Princeton had scored 28 points from Penn’s 27 turnovers. Meanwhile, Penn only managed two points off of Princeton’s seven giveaways.

Turnovers aside, McLaughlin remained optimistic about his team’s performance.

“I do think we competed at a very high level against a really talented team,” McLaughlin remarked.

The Quakers will face Yale (6-15, 3-5 Ivy) on Feb. 16, with the chance to redeem themselves against a less formidable Ivy opponent.