Guru's Ivy Report: First Place Penn Gets Momentary Scare While Routing Dartmouth
PHILADELPHIA – The best thing that happened to Penn’s women’s basketball team Saturday night in a 68-38 Ivy smackdown of Dartmouth was not another great defensive stand on the back-to-back weekend at the Palestra.
The most impressive thing was not that in days of old – like any season before the current one highlighting the coming of the Ivy tournament – the headlines on the Guru blog, the Daily Pennsylvanian and other places would point to the quick and tight grip the Quakers have on the standings with a two-game lead as the last unbeaten squad in league competition.
And no, great as it is to see them every year, the focus was not the return of the alums for what was also the annual #Play4Kay event, everyone wearing pink, to feature support of the fight against women’s breast cancer.
The thing that mattered most for Penn fans everywhere was what didn’t happen because if it had, the sports community part of the campus in West Philadelphia would be suddenly filled with some doubt as to whether back-to-back titles might happen for the first time in the history of the program.
Wth 6 minutes, 17 seconds left in the second quarter and Penn showing no let down from its trashing of Harvard’s 16-game win streak 24 hours earlier, suddenly a member of the red and blue was down, specifically “the member” of the red and blue was down, and coming from her direction seemed to be a sound of pain known all too well from those who have been around the women’s game.
And while the three-initial description of a knee injury was becoming the thinkable, hopefully it was the unthinkable as senior Sydney Stipanovich was helped off the court with her leg slightly raised.
Cue the heavy documentary music. One could hear the voice-over on the screen – two years after the arrival of Alyssa Baron, it was the addition of this talented center who became the final piece for the successful quest for an Ivy crown that broke up the Princeton monopoly.
So what now?
It was 23-10 when junior Michelle Nwokedi, the other part of the inside force of the Quakers, came in as a replacement after she had been rotated out for a little breather.
In a sense the Quakers of the future suddenly became the Quakers of now since Stipanovich will be the biggest loss through graduation.
And over the next two minutes Penn held serve until the Public Address Announcer gave the news that returning to the game, Sydney Stipanovich.
Feeding a few scores, all seemed ok again and newspapers were mythically told they could stand down reporting Stipanovich’s demise.
The countdown of six blocked shots to a new Ivy career record could continue though no more were registered by the native of St. Louis Saturday night.
She ran up and down the court in the flow in the closing minutes of the half and seemed all right – the buzz in the stands from people closely connected was “high ankle sprain,” though she played the rest of the night.
And finally came the words of relief as Stipanovich talked about the moment.
“You know what, I kind of blacked out for a second when it happened, but,” she paused a second, “I’ll be fine. My teammates, we all stuck together the whole time,” she said of the period they played while she was getting quick treatment.
“I wasn’t going to let … stop me from being back on the court. I’ll get treatment and I’ll be fine. The whole team was focused for a whole 40 minutes and it showed.”
So how did coach Mike McLaughlin feel seeing one of his building blocks potentially being lost at the moment.
“Anyone goes down, I just said it in the locker room, your automatic reaction is, `Oh, wow.’ When she got up and limped off, it was a little discouraging. But Michelle tried to rally the group. And Sydney, she’ll be ok. But to answer your question, of course.”
And while Penn (12-6, 5-0 Ivy) was making quick work of Dartmouth (6-13, 1-5) allowing no one to register double digits in scoring, rebounding or anything else, up at Princeton, the Tigers got the work done in overtime at home in Jadwin Gym to beat Harvard and enable Penn to open the two-game lead in the loss column.
So in terms of the new four-team tournaments for men and women at the Palestra, Penn’s goal is to hold serve above a major fray that will determine the other three slots because it doesn’t look the way it was suppose to look back in the preseason.
As for the numbers, Stipanovich finished with 15 points, Anna Ross had another standout night, scoring 12 points, Nwokedi had nine points, 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots, and off the bench Ashley Russell matched a career high set last weekend with 11 points.
Dartmouth was held to 23.6 percent from the field. The Quakers dominated the paint, 34-8, and had slight advantages in the other categories.
“Our defensive effort was again, I felt we played these 80 minutes as well as we could this weekend,” McLaughlin said. “This is the best basketball we played as a group on both ends of the floor. But I think we limited teams to one shot, using our size as an advantage, defensively is what gave us this opportunity this weekend. The offensive piece is getting better every time, and I couldn’t be any more proud this weekend.
“They worked really hard. They dedicated themselves. They were here again this afternoon going through film and every piece of it. They deserve what they got this weekend. And a great crowd. Let’s come out and support these girls. They play the right way.”
As for the bench, McLaughlin said, "I like where we're at. They continue to grow. We're going to need them in a big spot and they’re really getting there.”
Penn next weekend plays at Columbia Friday night and at Cornell Saturday.
The Rest of the Ivies: Return of the Tigers, Demise of the Crimson?
As the second half of the opening series of back-to-back nights in Ivy play concluded, the Princeton-Harvard game was the most anticipated.
A Princeton loss would be trouble for the former longtime rulers in terms of high seed while likewise to Harvard.
And so they battled until Gabrielle Rush’s three-pointer secured the 63-58 win in overtime for the Tigers (9-9, 3-2 Ivy), who finally made it back to .500 after struggling start in non-conference that included an 0-4 launch.
Rush had a game and career-high 14 points aided by four treys while Leslie Robinson matched career highs with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Freshman Bella Alarie had 15 points, eight rebounds, 4 assists, four steals and three blocked shots.
Princeton had to rally from an eight point deficit in the second quarter.
Harvard (16-3, 4-2) had come to the Southern sector of the League with a program-tying 16-game win streak and an RPI in the 20s.
Katie Benzan had 17 points for Harvard while Madeline Raster scored 13, Destiny Nunley had 11 and 11 rebounds, and Jeannie Boehm grabbed 12 rebounds.
Harvard hosts Brown and Yale next weekend while Dartmouth in reverse hosts Yale and Brown.
The Bears of Brown (13-6, 4-2) on Friday night beat Columbia 69-60 at home in Providence, R.I., as Shayna Mehta and Taylor Will each scored 18 points. Erika Steeves had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Camille Zimmerman had 21 points with 13 rebounds for Columbia (12-7, 2-4), which cannot afford to be swept by Penn and Princeton next weekend.
In the other Ivy game, Cornell on the road pulled out of its losing streak beating host Yale 76-63 at the Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Conn.
Nia Marshall had 18 points, while Megan LeDuc scored 17, Nicholle Aston had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Kerri Morgan scored 11 for the Big Red (12-7, 3-3 Ivy).
Lena Munzer had a career-high 25 points for Yale (10-9, 1-5).
Team W-L W-L GB
Penn 12-6, 5-0 –-
Harvard 16-3, 4-2 1.5
Brown 13-6, 4-2, 1.5
Princeton 9-9, 3-2, 2.0
Cornell 12-7, 3-3, 2.5
Columbia 12-7, 2-4 3.5
Yale 10-9, 1-5, 4.0
Dartmouth 6-13, 1-5 4.0
The Also Rans (League Numbers Only)
Team W-L W-L G.B.
Cornell 3-3 0.5
Columbia 2-4 1.0
Yale 1-5 2.5
Dartmouth 1-5 2.5