PHILADELPHIA - For the first time since 2003-04, the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team is headed to the postseason. The Quakers will host the First Round of the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) on Thursday at The Palestra against Howard at 7 p.m.
"We're extremely excited for this opportunity," fourth-year head coach Mike McLaughlin said of the postseason berth. "I'm so proud of this team. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work and a great reflection of all their effort this season."
In its fourth season, the WBI is a 16-team tournament split into two regions. Minnesota, who qualified for the WNIT this season, is the defending champion. Penn is the No. 2 seed in the East Region and the Bison are No. 7. The winner plays the winner of No. 3 Fairfield and No. 6 St. Francis (Pa).
On Thursday, Penn meets the Bison for the just the second time in school history. Howard won the only previous meeting, 77-59, on March 4, 1978. On Saturday, Howard lost in the MEAC Championship game and finished the 2012-13 campaign at 20-11. The teams have three common opponents. The Quakers lost to Temple and Norfolk State, while Howard beat both those teams. Each team also defeated Morgan State this year (Howard did so twice).
Penn (16-12, 9-5 Ivy) finished alone in third in the Ivy standings - the program's best record and Ivy finish since the 2003-04 championship season. It also marked the fourth-highest win total in school history and the program’s fourth-highest Ivy win total of all-time.
Most recently, two-time Ivy League scoring champion, junior captain Alyssa Baron was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection, while freshman Keiera Ray was an honorable mention pick. Baron led the Quakers in scoring for the third straight year with 14.2 points per game - fourth-best in the league - and also led the Quakers in assists (3.9), steals (2.0) and rebounding (6.3). Ray, who was the first Ivy League man or woman ever named USBWA National Player of the Week, finished second on the team in scoring (11.0), assists (3.9) and steals (1.3).
Penn's last postseason game was in the NCAA Tournament against second-seeded Connecticut on March 21, 2004. That date is the latest into March Penn has ever played. The two-time defending national champion and fifth-ranked Huskies won the East Regional First Round matchup in Bridgeport, Conn., 91-55.
The only other postseason appearance in Penn's previous 42 seasons as a varsity program was a 100-57 loss to Texas Tech at the NCAA Tournament in Lubbock, Texas, on March 16, 2001. That followed an undefeated Ivy campaign and the program's only 20-win season (22-6).
Tickets for Thursday's WBI First Round matchup will be available the day of the game at the Penn Athletics and Palestra box offices. For those unable to attend, complete information on how to catch the game and a full preview of the matchup will be available at PennAthletics.com Tuesday morning.