PHILADELPHIA, PA. 3/11/2017 – The University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball clinched the regular season championship one week ago. Four days ago they celebrated that championship on the Palestra floor. In the old days Penn would be preparing for the NCAA Tournament. This is a new day.
The Ivy League has gone to a league tournament format. The top four teams are in Philadelphia over two days to earn the coveted berth to the big dance in the inaugural Ivy League Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The # 1 seeded Penn Quakers took the first step towards the title by defeating the 4th seeded Brown Bears 71 – 60 in a game that was a tussle especially in the first half. The Red and Blue knew they would have to grind out a win and did.
“We know that we have a target on our back,” said Penn forward Michelle Nwokedi. “The regular season is not the tournament. The winner of the tournament goes to the NCAA Tournament. We knew it would be a dog fight. We’ve been in these situations before and we learned from them.”
Brown trailed 33 – 32 at intermission. That lead would grow to 40 – 35 at the six and a half minute mark. Then Penn went on a 21 – 4 run to the end of the third quarter to lead 56 – 44 going into the last 10 minutes. Five Quaker players took part in that decisive stretch.
“Once we got a few stops, multiple stops, we made a few shots,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “We are not a team that gets momentum by scoring. We get momentum on the defensive end. The momentum was created by the defense.”
The Red and Blue also limited the three-point shooting of the Bears. At halftime Brown was 7 of 17 from three-point land. They would not score from beyond the arc in the third quarter, and just 2 more for the rest of the game.
Ivy League Player of the Year Michelle Nwokedi led the Quakers with 25 points and 10 rebounds recording her 14th double-double of the season and 31 in her career. She also blocked 7 shots. Ross also posted double figures with 12 points and a game-high 4 assists. Beth Brzozowski added 16 making 6 of 8 from the floor and 2 of 3 from deep. Sydney Stipanovich took down a game-high 13 rebounds.
Brown (16 – 12) had two players reach double figures scoring. Shayna Mehta had a team-high 19 points making 5 of 11 three-point field goals. Erika Steeves added 18 and took down a team-best 12 rebounds. Leading scorer Justine Graziano chipped in 10 points. The Bears are a young and growing team, and will benefit from this experience.
“We didn’t lose this game for lack of effort,” Steeves said. “Just being here, we learned a lot. Next year we will be ready to come back and get a win.”
Penn (21 – 7) goes on to play for the Ivy League Championship on Sunday.
Written By: Glenn Papazian