PHILADELPHIA -At the midseason Ivy League women's basketball teleconference Wednesday morning, University of Pennsylvania head coach Mike McLaughlin answered questions about the current state of the program. The Quakers are the defending Ivy League champions and recently clinched a share of the Big 5 title for the first time in program history.
Good morning, Trevor, thanks for having me. I’m excited for this group. We are a little different than we were a year ago with the loss of some graduates at the one and two positions. We need different ways to score without Alyssa Baron, but we’re very competitive. We have a really driven group of young ladies and we’re getting max effort from them at all times. We’ve also played a difficult non-league schedule to prepare us for league play. So we’re excited. The younger players are developing, we’re playing three freshmen in the rotation, and we see growth in them each day. We have strong leadership in a senior class that’s played a lot of basketball. They’re very, as I said, driven, good leaders. They represent the program the right way, so I think we have a lot of things going our way, and this group wants to be good, so our effort is consistent. You know, we struggle at times to score, which has held us back a little bit, but I see an area of improvement on that. We’re excited as we finish non-league play and get into league play at the end of the month.
Coach, congratulations on Penn’s Big 5 title, first in program history. Talk about what the achievement means for the program, for your players, and for you.
Well, for the program, it’s great. The Big 5 is a huge deal across the city of Philadelphia and even the region and the country in many respects. You know, it’s just an unbelievable team, and we came close last year -- we won two and lost two tight ones -- and this year we found a way to win the first three. But it’s a great thing for the program. I think the interesting thing is that we have a lot of kids that are not from the area and we explain the Big 5 in the recruiting process to them and to get them here and to see what they were able to achieve, I think that’s pretty special. For me personally, being a Philadelphia person that understands the tradition of the Big 5 and what it means to so many people -- most importantly those that came before me at Penn. I think it’s pretty special time for us to be able to achieve what this group has done. I’m pretty excited about that.
(Question from Holden McGinnis, Daily Pennsylvanian) What do you think of the job the two freshmen point guards Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowski have been doing this year?
Thanks for calling, Holden. I think they’re doing well. They’re at a tough position to learn. There are so many parts to the game that you need to know and learn, sometimes you just flat-out have to experience it. But I’m happy with the improvement they’re making. Anna Ross in particular is a very confident kid. She believes that she should be out there every day and she’s shown pretty good progress as we go into league play. And Beth is progressing. She has periods where she has to learn how to pace the game to get her teammates involved consistently, but they’re a key to what we’re doing. They’re combining to play 40 minutes and it’s an important position, but I like the direction they’re both heading.
(Question from Mel Greenberg, Women's Hoops Guru) I was just looking at RPIs last night and the conference RPI, for this time in the year, is high, I have never ever seen that. Obviously the Princeton record feeds into that, your schedule feeds into that, but you get the idea across the board every weekend, there aren’t any gimmes this year. You’re going to have to show up for every game.
The improvement, you look at numbers, and numbers mean only certain things, but you’ve seen what the teams in our league are doing in non-league play is terrific. I know, for me personally, I’m pulling for every team outside of when we play them. I love our league. Having played Princeton last week and watching them, they’re terrific, I think it’s great for our league. I think they’re really going to have a special year. I think that everyone, every game, is going to be a battle. And we look forward to it. We know it’s going to be a challenge and it’s a special league for that reason. Anyone can win any given night. And with respect to that we all love the camaraderie we have within the teams. It’s one of the best leagues out there and we’re proud to be a part of it.
Speaking of that Princeton team, it was a tough loss on Saturday, your team rebounded from a similar loss last season to win the Ivy League title. What would you need to do this year to repeat last year’s success?
You know, they set the bar really high. We open up with a tough one at Dartmouth and Harvard. We just have to stay the course. We have to show progress every day. We’re going to have to make the next one the most important, and hopefully we’re going to have success. You know, we went out there prepared to play them and at times we were able to play with them. But they score the ball so efficiently and they go through periods of the game where they score five, six consecutive possessions and it really puts you on your heels. Hopefully this group learns from that as we head into Dartmouth-Harvard weekend and I know that we are going to have to be consistent for 40 minutes to have success in our league.