Penn Completes Weekend Palesta Sweep Beating Brown in Ivy Tilt
PHILADELPHIA – It may take until Harvard comes to town Feb. 3 to jump to any conclusions about the Penn women’s basketball team’s ultimate destiny in the Ivy League, especially with the new four-team tourney attached to the end of the regular season here at the Palestra.
But what can be said is the Quakers made a major leap this weekend taking a back-to-back sweep at home that started with a win over Yale Friday night and concluded Saturday night with an 86-60 win over Brown, which arrived off a high-scoring shootout victory at Princeton the previous evening.
It took a bit for coach Mike McLaughlin’s bunch to apply the brakes to a Brown-style tempo that threatened to turn the Palestra into an indoor Penn Relays but the Quakers had plenty of firepower to contend with the Bears until they began to lock things down, defensively.
Once that occurred, separation from Brown on the scoreboard in a winning direction did not bring a ton of resistance, especially with another hot shooting night in which Penn (9-4, 3-0 Ivy) shot 55.7 percent from the field and also hit 50 percent of their 3-pointer opportunities nailing 13 treys off 26 attempts.
When the final tally of play involving some, but not all, of the Ancient Eight was concluded, the defending champions with more games than other league rivals were standing all alone at the top at 3-0 to go with their overall 9-4 mark.
It was also Penn’s sixth straight triumph.
“We certainly didn’t want to get into an open court shootout with them,” McLaughlin said afterwards. “That’s the style they play. I felt we had to control the tempo. We had on dead balls to keep the ball in front of us.
“For the most part there were a few periods where they got on a roll in the first half – we didn’t matchup in transition, but I thought defensively, the way we played, the style we played, as hard as we played and only had seven fouls and guarded the ball hard with good team help.”
Anna Ross, completing a pair of games that often result in Ivy player of the week accolades, had a team-high 19 points, dealt seven assists, blocked a shot, grabbed two steals and shot 7-for-10 from the field, including a perfect 3-for-3 on attempted treys while making both her free throw opportunities.
“We played three previous games here and, of course, it didn’t go our way so coming out here and making it a sweep on our court and finally getting a win is amazing,” Ross said. “We stayed mentally strong for both games and I think it just showed how we’re going to play for the rest of the season.
“We definitely saw the Princeton score last night,” Ross said about dealing with Brown’s attack. “And what we got from that: Brown can score the ball. They’re going to push the ball and they’re not going to stop.
“So we had to come back against that and we did. We pushed the ball up, I think we got a lot of transition points, more than we really have and we shot the ball great. Our percentage was crazy. All around we played the way we had to beat them.”
The inside play of the Quakers was as good as could be anticipated with Sydney Stipanovich scoring 17 points, grabbing seven rebounds, dealing four assists, blocking a pair of shots and taking a steal. She also shot 8-for-12 from the field.
Michelle Nwokedi, right alongside, did her thing with 11 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and a pair of blocks while shooting 5-for-9 on attempted field goals. And once again off the bench, Princess Aghayere contributed with eight points, four rebounds, three assists, while shooting a perfect 3-for-3 of which one was a triplet.
Kasey Chambers, another attacking guard, had 10 points, shooting 4-for-9 with a pair of three-pointers.
Justine Gaziano had 24 points for Brown (10-5, 1-1) while Erika Steeves and Taylor Will each scored 10 points.
Penn owned four of the five key categories, leading 24-18 on points in the paint, 17-8 for points in transition, 11-9 on second chance points, and 26-12 off the bench.
The Quakers are at the outset of a stretch of seven home games, though the next two are Wednesday night Big 5 encounters hosting Villanova and Temple before Stevens Tech arrives and then Ivy play will resume with visits from Harvard and Dartmouth.
“It’s got to help us,” McLaughlin said of the string of home games. “The ball started going in the basket. We did a lot of shooting here the last week. The confidence was here. The crowd was great. It’s got to help us.”
He was once again pleased with the depth off the bench and the ability to give some rest to Nowkedi.
“Again, Princess was playing well. We had great control when she was in the game. I took Michelle out to give her a breather and we started to roll when Princess got on a roll. And then we got ahead so I never put Michelle back in.
“Princess was tremendous again,” McLaughlin said. “Princess and Anna Ross were super and Sydney defensively was the Sydney we all know. She dictated where the ball was going to go just by her presence. And Kasey and Beth Brzozowski on the ball were pretty good.”
Brzozowski had nine points, knocking down 3-of-5 three-point attempts for all nine of her points.
“We’re starting to play out of double teams, out of crowding pretty good, we’re starting to see the open player and we’re starting to make shots. It’s all coming together a little bit at a time.”
Next up is Villanova, which has owned Penn especially with the Wildcats’ 3-point prowess.
Perhaps the array of threes shot by the Quakers Saturday night might give hope that Penn might level the field a bit when the Wildcats visit Wednesday night.
“We’re not even on them, it’s about what we did today,” McLaughlin said. “Of course, you’d like to carry something over but each game is it’s only entity. There’s no guarantee you’re going to make those shots Wednesday.
“But play that team we’re going to have to do some of that. But we have our hands full, no question.”
Princeton Slide Stops
With a threat beginning to loom of fighting among a crowd just to land a spot in the Ivy tournament instead of contending for the top seeds among the four participants, Princeton rallied to down Yale 74-62 at home in Jadwin Gym and earn the Tigers’ first Ivy win of the season.
A 25-6 fourth quarter attack not only carried the home team but also made it a lost weekend for Yale being swept on the road in the Bulldogs’ first two league games.
Leslie Robinson had her second straight double double for Princeton (7-9, 1-2 Ivy), which will now engage in its annual most of January hiatus from games during the final exam period. They return on Feb. 3 to host Dartmouth and then Harvard on back-to-back Friday and Saturday nights.
The niece of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle had 16 points to go with a career-high 15 rebounds and Robinson, also the daughter of former Princeton star Craig Robinson, also had six assists.
Freshman Bella Alarie, who set a Princeton freshman blocks record with seven in the loss to Brown, had 13 points and 10 rebounds while Tia Weledji had 17 points.
During the comeback, Princeton held the Bulldogs (9-6, 0-2) to one basket the last 6 minutes, nine seconds of play.
Tamara Simpson had a game-high 22 points for Yale, while Lena Munzer had 13 points and Jen Berkowitz scored 11. Princeton held the opposition to 37 percent shooting in the second half.