PHILADELPHIA - First place is on the line on Friday night against the Crimson. The winner remains atop the Ivy League standings, but Penn (16-5, 6-1 Ivy) hasn’t won at Harvard (17-5, 7-1 Ivy) in nearly a decade—suffering several heartbreaking losses in the process. Then on Saturday, the Quakers will be at Dartmouth (3-19, 0-8 Ivy) to take on the Big Green, who are still in search of their first Ivy win. Both games start at 7 p.m. and can be seen on the Ivy League Digital Network.
Catching the Games
If you can’t make it out to support the Quakers on the road, you can watch both games on the Ivy League Digital Network at IvyLeagueDigitalNetwork.com. Live stats can be found on Friday at GoCrimson.com, and at DartmouthSports.com on Saturday. Live twitter updates (@PennWBB) are also available throughout each contest. A complete recap and box score can be found at PennAthletics.com shortly after the conclusion of each game.
In the Series vs. Harvard/Dartmouth
*A hornet’s nest awaits the Quakers in Cambridge. Penn has not won at Harvard since 2004, and the nine-game losing streak has been marred by several blowouts (six losses by double digits) and a recent trio of heartbreaks—at the buzzer in 2008 (63-32) and in 2010 (55-52) and in double overtime in 2011 (88-84). Penn has won two of the last three against Harvard, but both of those came and home and the Crimson lead the all-time series 49-23.
*Against Dartmouth, Penn trails the all-time series, 42-28. But the Quakers have won five straight in the series and six of the last seven, including a 71-53 win at The Palestra less than three weeks ago (Jan. 31). Dartmouth’s last win in the series was Feb. 4, 2011 (68-65 in Hanover).
About the Crimson
*Harvard has won four straight since its loss at Penn on Feb. 1. The Crimson also won four straight prior to that and are unbeaten at home for the second straight season. Harvard hasn’t lost at home since 2012—a string of 21 straight wins.
*Harvard ranks second in the Ivy League in scoring at 73.1 points per game. The Crimson are also second in field goal percentage (.436) and three-point percentage (.363). Harvard boasts the league’s top offensive rebounding unit. Defensively, the Crimson are third in field goal percentage defense, three-point defense and blocked shots.
*Christine Clark leads the Ivy League in scoring with 16.7 per game. Temi Fagbenle (12.1 ppg) and Erin McDonnell (10.1) also average double figures for the Crimson. Fagbenle is the league’s best rebounder with 9.4 per game, while Melissa Mullins ranks fourth at 6.4. Ali Curtis has a team-high 60 assists and 27 steals, while Fagbenle is second in the Ivies with 33 blocks.
About the Big Green
*Entering the weekend, Dartmouth has lost seven straight after a mid-January win over NJIT. Two of Dartmouth’s three wins came at home and the Big Green lost by just six to Columbia on Saturday at Leede Arena. Though that remains their lone Ivy contest within single digits.
*Dartmouth is last in scoring in the Ivy League and its has been in part due to three-point struggles. They shoot an Ivy-low 28.5 percent from beyond the arc. But defend it well—fourth in the league. The Big Green are also fourth in steals, but rank near the bottom of the Ivies in rebounding.
*Freshman sensation, Fanni Szabo has averaged a team-high 15.0 points per game, good for fifth in the Ivies. Lakin Roland also averages double figures (11.1 ppg) and leads the team with 6.0 rebounds per game. Szabo leads the Ivy League with 2.4 steals. Nicola Zimmer averages a team-best 3.3 assists and Tia Dawson leads the Big Green with 13 blocks this season.
On the Clock
Our favorite new series continues this week with freshman Sade Gibbons (and a late guest "appearance" from senior Alyssa Baron) on the clock...
Rising in the Records
Senior captain Alyssa Baron is the only player in school history with 1,600 career points and 300 career assists. She is 11 points from becoming the third Penn player 1,700 career points. See pages 19-20 of the game notes for a complete breakdown of where she ranks among these and many other categories in the Penn and Ivy League all-time record books.
Sydney Stipanovich is third in the nation (and tops among freshman in the NCAA) with an Ivy League-leading 82 blocks in 21 games—that’s more than every Ivy League team other than Princeton’s 84, and more than the entire rosters of Brown and Darmouth combined. The next closest Ivy player is Harvard’s Temi Fagbenle with 33 blocks in 22 games. In addtion, Stipanovich has already set the school’s single-season blocks record and surpassed the 20-year-old mark by double digits with seven games still remaining. Prior to this season, no Penn player had ever recorded eight blocks in a game, but Stipanovich has done so three times this year. One week after setting the school record at eight, she broke her own single-game mark with nine blocks against Harvard on Feb. 1—third-most all-time in an Ivy League game.
A Career in a Year
Just 22 games into her rookie campaign, Sydney Stipanovich ranks fifth all-time on Penn’s all-time career blocks list. She is tied with Jewel Clark, who had 82 rejections during her stellar four-year career (2001-04), and trails current teammate Kara Bonenberger, who is fourth all-time at Penn with 89 blocks. Only three Quakers have ever reached 100 career blocks.
Fourth in the Nation
Only three teams in the nation are tougher to score on than the Quakers. Penn ranks sixth in the nation in field goal percentage defense. The Quakers allow opponents to shoot at just a 34.1 percent clip—which is bettered only by top-ranked and undefeated UCONN, who leads the nation and holds the opposition to 31.1 percent, Texas (33.7%) and Hampton (34.0%). The Quakers rank just in front of No. 5 South Carolina (34.2%).
Penn also ranks in the Top 10 in the NCAA in blocked shots. The Quakers, who broke the single-game team record with 12 blocks against Yale on Friday, are eighth in the country with an average of 5.9 per game. Penn is also one of the most disciplined teams in the country as the Quakers have committed the 12th-fewest fouls among 343 Division I schools. Among individuals, and in addition to Stipanovich’s No. 3 ranking in blocks, senior captain Meghan McCullough ranks among the Top 50 in the nation with an Ivy League-best assist-to-turnover ratio of +2.00.
As the saying goes, defense wins championships, and it has led the Quakers to the top of the Ivy League at the midway point of the conference season. In addition to the NCAA’s fourth-ranked field goal percentage defense and the eighth-most blocks in the country, Penn is 21st in the nation and tops in the Ancient Eight in scoring defense, allowing opponent’s just 57.2 points per game. Penn also leads the league in three-point field goal percentage (29.1%).
Penn finished the non-conference season ranked last in the Ancient Eight in three-point percentage at 27.2 percent (64-of-235). But in Ivy League play (seven games), the Quakers lead the league at 41.8 percent (41-of-98) from beyond the arc, including 10-of-18 (55.6%) in Saturday’s win over Brown. That’s due in part of the hot shooting of juniors Renee Busch (7-of-9; 64.3%) and Kathleen Roche (7-of-11; 57.9%) who are first and second, respectively, from three-point range in conference play. In addition, senior Alyssa Baron is 7-of-12 (44.4%) from three and has averaged a league-high 18.6 points per game in Ivy play. Sydney Stipanovich’s 4.9 blocks per game are more than any Ivy League team has averaged in conference play.
Penn is 16-3 in its last 19 games ... The Quakers are 10-0 in the months of December and February ... The Red and Blue are 10-1 this year when Renee Busch makes a three and 5-0 when she connects on more than one ... At least two Quakers have scored in double figures in all but one game this year ... Sydney Stipanovich’s six double-doubles this year are the most in a season at Penn since Jennifer Fleischer finished with seven in 2005-06 ... Penn has won 23 of the last 24 games when outrebounding its opponent ... The Quakers are 12-0 this year (and 30-1 over the last three seasons) when shooting better than 40 percent ... Penn has reached 70 points in eight games this year (only reached that number nine times during Coach McLaughlin’s first four seasons) and is 17-1 under Coach McLaughlin when scoring more than 70 points (only loss in double overtime, 88-84, at Harvard in 2011).
Prior to this season, Penn had just one winning streak of eight or more games in its entire history. The Quakers now have two this season. The 2013-14 Quakers took hold of the second-longest winning streak in program history with a school-record eight-game non-conference win streak earlier this season. Prior to this year, the only other eight-game winning streak in program history came in 2000-01 when the Quakers went 22-6 and won their last 21 regular season games.
Also last weekend, the Quakers clinched their second straight winning season. Last year, the Quakers snapped a string of seven straight losing campaigns and finished 18-13. The last time Penn posted back-to-back winning seasons was 2003-04 (17-11) and 2004-05 (15-12). In addition, Penn’s 34 wins in the last two seasons is the most in a two-year span since 2000-01 (22-6) and 2001-02 (12-15) seasons. The program’s best two-year stretch was 40 wins between 1999-00 (18-10) and 2000-01 (22-6).
Magic Number: 60
The statistic that may most indicate a Penn win or loss? 60 points. Since head coach Mike McLaughlin took over at Penn, the Quakers are 42-8 (.840) when they score 60 points, including 15-0 this season. In comparison, the Quakers are just 18-68 (.212) when they’ve scored less than 60 points under Coach McLaughlin, including 1-5 this season. The trend continues defensively. Over the last four seasons, the Red and Blue are 12-46 (.207) when allowing more than 60 points. But when holding opponents under that number, the Quakers hold a healthy winning record of 48-30 (.615).
Tough Start, Tough Stretch
Though the Quakers started 0-2 and dropped three straight in mid-January, they all came against some tough competition. All five have at least 15 wins and three are ranked or receiving Top 25 votes. In all, Penn’s five losses have come against teams with a combined record of 94-27 (.777).
Two Penn Wins Would...
... mark a 10-game winning streak—second-longest in school history.
... first eight-game Ivy win streak since 2002-04 (10 in a row) and first in a single-season since 2000-01 (14-0).
... be the first 8-1 start in Ivy play since 2003-04 team went 8-1 en route to the Ivy title.
... be the first back-to-back Ivy winning seasons since an eight-year stretch from 1997-98 to 2004-05.
... mark a four-game sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth for the first time since 2000-01.
... make the Quakers 18-5 overall and 8-1 in Ivy play.
A Penn Win Would...
... be the first at Lavietes Pavilion in 10 years or mark the second three-game winning streak at Leede Arena.
... give the Quakers back-to-back 17-win seasons for just the second time in program history (1999-01).
... make the Quakers 17-6 overall and 7-2 in Ivy play.
Two Penn Losses Would...
... mark the 10th straight at Harvard and snap a five-game winning streak against Dartmouth.
... make the Quakers 16-7 overall and 6-3 in Ivy play.
... be less good than two wins.
Penn swept a pair of Ivy rivals at The Palestra to extend its winning streak to eight games. The Quakers topped Yale, 62-50 ,on Friday night behind some key second half threes from junior Renee Busch. Yale closed to within four with 7:57 left, but Busch hit two threes and Penn pulled away. The following night, Penn overwhelmed Brown with an early 19-0 run and led by 28 at the break. Sydney Stipanovich picked up her sixth double-double of the year and the Quakers cruised to a 78-51 win.
The four-game road swing continues. Penn will make its second trip through New England in as many weeks. The Red and Blue are at Brown (Feb. 28) and Yale (March 1).