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Now-junior guard Stina Almqvist attempts a layup against Yale on Jan. 21, 2023.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Since the last time Penn women’s basketball matched up against Yale, the two teams could not have gone in more different directions. 

Granted, only one game separates tonight from that previous matchup, where after losing to the Bulldogs in overtime, Penn picked up yet another conference loss, meaning that the team headed up to New Haven on a two-game losing streak. On the other hand, Yale turned its own two-game losing streak into a two-game winning one, picking up a win against Cornell after leaving the Palestra victorious.

In the last game, Penn failed to close the door on Yale despite leading by double-digits after the first quarter. This time around, the Quakers left nothing up to chance as they dominated the Bulldogs from beginning to end, winning 66-52.

Like the last time the two teams matched up against each other, Penn (12-10, 4-5 Ivy) got off to a red hot start in the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter, Penn led Yale (6-16, 3-6) by 10, making the game eerily similar to the one from last week. In that game, a cold streak from the Red and Blue in the second quarter led to Yale clawing its way back into the game, shot by shot. A layup from Yale senior forward Brenna McDonald with less than eight seconds left in the half seemed to shift the momentum dangerously in favor of the Bulldogs, but a drained three-pointer from far out by Penn freshman guard Mataya Gayle to beat the buzzer was the much-needed calming factor for the Quakers as they headed into the locker room with a well-earned nine-point lead. 

“It was a similar start,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “But I thought today we just had incredible resolve. We were consistent throughout the game. … I thought today we were a better team today in terms of the way we played and the way we competed.”

The first-half dominance was expected. The real question was whether or not the Red and Blue would be able to put the game away coming out of the locker room after halftime — something that the team has struggled with as of late. One week ago, the answer was no. Today, the answer was a resounding yes. 

Layups off of scoops were the bread and butter for the Quaker offense throughout the entirety of the game. The lane to the bucket was open all night, and junior guard Stina Almqvist took advantage. Time after time, Almqvist split the Yale defenders and made the shot with ease and consistency. Almqvist, who entered the game leading the team in scoring with 319 points on the season, added to that tally against the Bulldogs, finishing with 18 points. Senior forward Jordan Obi, who had a relatively quiet first half, broke out in the second, scoring a team-high 19 points.

“In the second half, I was just trying to attack more, look for my shots more,” Obi said. “I think getting to the foul line is a big part of my game and how I can kind of get into my rhythm.”

The Bulldogs struggled to move the ball on offense throughout most of the game and were never really given the chance to get anything going in the second half, when Penn switched up to a zone defense midway through the third quarter that Yale struggled to crack. Yale’s leading scorer, senior guard Jenna Clark, was held scoreless the entire game for only the second time in her entire career as a starter. Penn was also able to hold Yale to zero three-pointers made during the entire game. 

“I got to give credit to the team, but [junior guard] Lizzy Groetsch really did a tremendous job on her,” McLaughlin said. “[Clark]’s a really good player. I thought the first time we played them, she was probably the best player on the floor … and I think she's one of the reasons they came back … and I thought Lizzy … did a tremendous job.”

The dagger that really seemed to seal the deal came with just over five minutes left to play. Gayle nabbed a rebound and passed the ball off to Obi who found a wide open sophomore guard Simone Sawyer. Sawyer knocked down the three-point shot to give the Quakers a 12-point lead, effectively deflating Yale’s spirit. 

The win in New Haven sets Penn up nicely as the team travels to Providence to take on Brown. A win tomorrow pushes the Red and Blue past the Bears to claim sole possession of fourth place in the Ivy League and thus, the last spot in the Ivy League Tournament. Although the season is far from over, a win tomorrow would mean quite a lot to the team in terms of momentum, especially with the Ivy Madness looming on the horizon. 

“[The team] ultimately wants to make the Ivy League tournament,” McLaughlin said. “They know tomorrow is a really important game to get there. Our job right now is to drive up to Providence tonight, get some rest, get them prepared and ready for five o'clock tomorrow.”

Penn women’s basketball will take the court again tomorrow in Providence, R.I. against Brown.