Last season the University of Pennsylvania’s won’s team won one Ivy League game. That was on the final night of the season. With their 51 – 33 win over Cornell, the team has exceeded last year’s Ivy win total. The Red and Blue accomplished this in the third weekend of Ivy play.
The Quakers were able to get that win behind a defense that limited the Big Red to 26.7% shooting (12 – 45), and forced 21 turnovers. Cornell converted just 2 of 13 three-point shots. The Quakers made 19 of 52 shots for 36.5% . In the last three wins in the Ivy League for Penn they gave up 31, 32, and 33 points in those games. The 33 points scored by Cornell was their lowest point total of the season.
“Positionally, we were very good off the ball,” Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin said about the Penn defensive effort. “I thought we closed out on the three very well. It was a solid defensive effort the whole time.”
Penn held a 28 – 16 halftime lead, and were not complacent. The Red and Blue scored the first seven points of the second half to move ahead by 35 – 16. The lead would grow to as many as 21 points.
The Quakers out-rebounded Cornell 39 – 32, and had a 15 – 9 edge in offensive rebounds. This led to 13 2nd Chance Points for Penn to 1 for Cornell.
Junior Forward Jess Knapp and Freshman Guard Alyssa Baron led Penn in scoring with 10 points each. Knapp and Senior Center Caroline Nicholson each had a team-high 6 rebounds. Senior Guard Erin Power contributed 6 assists.
In the 2009 – 2010 campaign Penn won just two games. The team has won eight games which represents a win differential of six games. The best turnaround in school history is seven games. The Red and Blue did that in the 1997-98 season and in 2006-2007. The major benefit of the transition is that the team expects to be in each game.
“They believe they can compete,” McLaughlin said. “They don’t think they can, they know they can, and believe. That’s progress from last year. They are getting better.”
Penn meets Columbia on February 12 and looks for a weekend sweep. The Quakers improve to 8 – 12 on the season and are 2 – 4 in conference. Cornell is now 5 – 16 overall and 2 – 5 in the league.
The Red and Blue bounce back from tough losses in their last two games. The progress is from week to week with more basketball to play.
“This is a long process, and I want the team to enjoy the run and total it up at the end of the year,” said McLaughlin.
Key Run of the Game
Penn took a 28 -16 lead into halftime. Coming out in the second half Penn scored the first 7 points to move to a 35 – 16 lead. The largest Penn ead was 21 points.
Key Stat of the Game
Defensively Penn held Cornell to 26.7% shooting (12 – 45) and forced 21 turnovers in the game.
Key Players in the Game
For Penn – Jess Knapp with a team-high tie in points with 10 and rebounds with 6.
For Cornell – Forward Clare Fitzpatrick with 6 points and 2 rebounds.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
Penn Senior Forward Jerin Smith converted a follow-up basket at the 1:22 mark to give Penn a 48 – 29 lead.
Thoughts and Musings
Much has been said about the improvement in the Penn team from the previous season. The team and coaching staff are aware of the numbers, and want to think about their progress at the end of the season. That will be the proper time to reflect.
To analyze the steps forward in-season look to the players and how they upper classmen and freshmen have come together. McLaughlin believes it is how the upper classmen accepted and taught the newcomers that resulted in better play.
“The upper classmen were great toward the freshmen,” McLaughlin said. “They knew some of them were good enough to play right way, and they handled that great. They have meshed great. I give all the credit to the upperclassmen really embracing them. They want to win, too. I give credit to the upper classmen in helping the transition.”
In the previous season the wins were not there, and at times they were not able to compete. However, they stayed together as a team, rooting for each other, and being there for one another. Penn has more games to play, and it will be a long road. They have to get better. A foundation has been laid by the coaching staff, and the players have bought in to the process.
For the Red and Blue one can see a road being constructed, not a road being closed.
Written By: Glenn Papazian