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Penn women's win streak snapped by archrival Princeton

01/16/2023, 8:30pm EST
By Jared Leveson

Jared Leveson (@jared_leveson)

PRINCETON, N.J. — Some things change, while others stay the same. 

Penn’s lack of execution on both ends combined with Princeton’s stout defense and balanced offense overwhelmed the Quaker women for a majority of the contest. The Tigers comfortably bested their rival 55-40 at Jadwin Gymnasium on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Penn’s 10-game winning streak and perfect Ivy League record were snapped, while its losing streak to Princeton got extended to seven games. 

Penn coach Mike McLaughin (above, in December) and the Quakers had their 10-game win streak snapped on Monday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Penn’s offense faltered in their 15-point loss because too much weight got placed on Kayla Padilla and Jordan Obi. The Quakers struggled to find a third, fourth, or fifth scoring option to elevate the pressure placed on Penn’s stalwarts.

“(Padilla and Obi) are the focal point of what we do,” Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin said after the loss. “I didn’t think we had enough outside of them two that scored the ball, obviously the results are what they are… but certainly we needed more contributions off the bench, too much pressure on both of them to score. 

“First time in a while we haven’t been balanced and (we) paid the price.”

The 6-foot-1 Obi led all scorers with 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Padilla finished with 15 points, 13 of which came in the first half. The senior captain shot 5-of-17 from the field. Padilla and Obi combined carried the load offensively, shooting 33 of Penn’s 48 field goal attempts, but their inefficient nights were indicative of a day where the Quakers just couldn’t produce enough offense to beat their archrival. 

Penn (12-6, 4-1) was fired up for its first matchup against Princeton (12-5, 3-2) and the Quakers jumped on the Tigers early, going on 8-2 run to start the first quarter, Padilla and Obi scoring all eight points.

But after that, everything slowly started going downhill for the Quakers. 

Third year head coach Carla Berube’s Tigers flipped a switch midway through the first quarter going on a 13-2 run, giving Princeton a 15-10 advantage after one.  

Penn’s offense struggled to find any rhythm and consistency as Princeton dominated the remainder of the game and never relinquished the lead.

The Quaker’s lack of another scoring option was a glaring issue. Mandy McGurk (five points) and Michaela Stanfield (two points) were the only other names besides Padilla and Obi that got listed in the scoring column against Princeton. 

McGurk, a senior guard from West Chester, Pa. only attempted seven field goals and did not score until the 8:50 mark in the third quarter and Stanfield’s bucket came with under a minute to play in the fourth. 

Penn’s imbalanced offense was unusual for them as it did not occur during the Quakers’ 10-game win streak and undefeated start to Ivy League play. 

McGurk scored 28 points in a 74-53 win over Brown on January second. Floor Toonders finished with 12 and 11 points in wins over Brown and Columbia, respectively. Freshman guard Simone Sawyer, scored 24 points in wins versus La Salle and 13 points against Cornell. 

Toonders and Sawyer attempted three field goals combined and did not score Monday afternoon. Stina Almqvist and Sydnei Caldwell who are averaging 4.3 and 3.5 points per game, respectively, failed to provide scoring from the bench too. 

The bottom line; however, is that Penn’s offense could not find the bottom of the net, shooting 14-48 (29.2%) as a team from the field. 

The game got away from Penn in the second quarter. Padilla scored all seven points for the Quakers on 2-15 (13.3%) shooting compared to Princeton’s 16 points on 7-15 (46.7%) shooting. Penn trailed Princeton 31-17 at halftime. 

The second quarter was the game’s turning point.

“I thought it was,” McLaughlin said. “I think we came out and made five of our first six, or first seven, and then we went flat there for a while. We went into the locker room limping a little bit. 

“They (Princeton) executed, we didn't, and we were chasing the game from that point on.” 

Penn opened the game with a 1-2-2 full court press, hoping to speed up Princeton’s offense, force them into unsettled sets, and score points off turnovers. The press caused some problems for Princeton early on. 

However, the defending Ivy League champions settled down and picked apart Penn’s press.McLaughlin veered away from the full-court pressure beginning midway through the second quarter and regrets not sticking with the 1-2-2. 

“I thought we had early success,” McLaughlin said. “They started to kinda pick us apart a little bit. We probably should’ve went back into it at some point. We never did.”

“We certainly should have done that (the press) more because that was our best offense. We tried to put more pressure on the ball late and we didn't have enough.” 

Penn’s defense created opportunities for the Quaker’s to mount a second-half comeback despite McLaughlin’s decision to reign in Penn’s full-court press. But the offense could not execute in the defensive-to-offensive transition. 

Both teams finished with similar turnover numbers, Penn had 20 and Princeton 19; however, the Tigers made the Quakers pay for their turnovers. Berube’s squad scored 18 points off turnovers compared to Penn’s three points from Princeton’s errors. 

“We had opportunities to score there and they did a good job in transition defense,” McLaughlin added. “We didn't run the right lanes. We hesitated (going) down the floor. One of the things we had to do is not play in half-court (offense) the entire time against them and ultimately that’s what happened.”  

“We had opportunities to try to score and (we) didn't capitalize.” 

Penn’s offense stalled against Princeton’s half-court defense and the Tigers’ offense took advantage. The Tigers shot the lights-out as they ran their half-court offense and worked for high percentage shots.

Princeton went 22-of-54 (40.7%) from the field and 7-of-16 (43.8%) from 3-point land. Madison St. Rose (15), Julia Cunningham (11), and Kaitlyn Chen (10) led a three-pronged attack for the Tigers. St. Rose did most of her damage from behind the arc, while Cunningham and Chen found great looks from backdoor cuts, mid-range jumpers, and transition finishes.

“They did a lot of dribble-handoffs and a lot of high ball screens, pulling our post out,” McLaughlin said about Princeton’s offensive success. “Schematically, I thought they did a really good job.”

“They exposed us.” 

Penn returns to play on Saturday, Jan. 21, with a home game against Yale (10-8, 4-1).

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