NEW HAVEN, CT 3/16/2019 – The University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team won their semifinal game against the Harvard Crimson in dominating fashion 91 – 62. By virtue of the victory Penn will play Princeton for the Ivy League crown and a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“I am really proud, but we have a long way to go,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “I told the team let’s enjoy this, but when the clock turns to tomorrow we have to shift quickly. We have massive challenge in front of us tomorrow.”
This was the highest offensive output for the Quakers this season. The team started fast and never let up. Penn was clicking on offense and the defense held Harvard in check. The numbers tell the story. In the first half the Red and Blue shot 17 of 31 (54.8%) and made 5 of 11 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile the Crimson were limited to 8 of 31 from the floor (26%) and 3 of 8 from three-point land. Penn led 43 – 25 at halftime.
“We came out really strong on both ends of the floor,” said McLaughlin. “We made shots early and our defensive intensity was tremendous. We played at a high level against a really good basketball team. We competed and on offense we played as well as we have all year.”
In the second half the Quakers snuffed a hope of a Harvard comeback by expanding their lead winning the third quarter 22 – 14. Defense was the key.
“In the second half we came out like we did at the beginning of the game,” Russell said. “We felt like it was zero to zero and knew they would come at us from all angles. We had to make sure our defensive intensity was as it was in the first half, and making sure we were locked in the entire game.”
For the game Penn converted 54.4% of their attempts (31 – 57) and were 23 of 29 from the line. Harvard was limited to 20 of 70 shooting (28.6%).
Russell led the Red and Blue in scoring with 20 points converting 8 of 12 from the field and handed out 4 assists. She was the mainstay for the team.
“I thought Ashley was special tonight,” McLaughlin said. “She was really clean with the ball and made really good passes. I never had anyone who has the on button more.”
Princess Aghayere recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Eleah Parker added 14 points along with Michae Jones, who was 12 of 13 from the free throw line.
Katie Benzan was the only double figures scorer for Harvard who had 12 points, 9 in the second half.
“We knew that their zone was long and tough,” Benzan said. “We prepared by moving the ball in and out. Unfortunately the first shots did not fall.”
It will be Penn and Princeton for the championship for the third straight time. Maybe that is the way it should be? This is a huge opportunity for the Quakers.
“This is the moment we have been waiting for all season,” Parker said. “Our motto is ‘one more’ and it’s been one game at a time. Just to get a chance to win the Ivy League championship, the tournament, and go to the NCAA, we are just super excited to have this opportunity.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian