PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team begins its 42nd season in the Ivy League on Saturday afternoon with a matchup against arch-rival Princeton. The Quakers will be looking for their fifth-straight victory thanks to a 2-0 trip to Hawaii over the New Year’s break. Penn last defeated the Tigers in 2014, en route to winning the program’s third Ivy League crown.
Catching the Game
As is the case with all conference matchups, fans can watch the game against the Tigers on the Ivy League Digital Network. Live Twitter updates will also be available via @PennWBB. A complete recap and box score can be found on www.PennAthletics.com shortly after the conclusion of the game.
Vs. Princeton, 77th Meeting (Princeton leads, 53-23)
In a series that dates back to the 1974-75 season, Penn is 23-53 all-time against the Tigers. The Quakers last defeated Princeton in the 2013-14 season finale (Princeton’s last Ivy loss), a victory that allowed the Red and Blue to capture the Ivy League title. Princeton, however, has won 13 of the last 14 games in the series.
Princeton - Quick Snapshot
A year after completing a perfect 30-0 regular season, the Tigers are 11-3 so far in 2015-16. All of Princeton’s victories have come by double digits, including seven wins by more than 20 points. Most recently, the Tigers are coming off dominant triumphs over Marist (77-44) and Hampton (79-55).
*Michelle Miller (13.9), Annie Tarakchian (13.2) and Alex Wheatley (12.6) have led the way, each averaging in double figures. In fact, the trio produces over 50 percent of the Tigers’ offensive production and is shooting a combined 46 percent from the floor (244-of-440). Princeton is currently receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
Last Time Out
The Quakers made it an undefeated trip to the “Aloha State” with a 64-54 win over the University of Hawaii last Sunday. Sophomore Michelle Nwokedi poured in a game-high 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Fellow sophomores Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowski also reached double figures with 15 points apiece, which marked a career-best for Brzozowski. Defensively, it was a block party for Sydney Stipanovich, who swatted away seven shots.
*Trailing for most of the game, Hawaii cut the Quakers’ lead to just three with 2:03 remaining. Penn remained composed, and iced the victory from the free-throw line. The Quakers made 12-of-14 from the charity stripe in the final quarter, including a stretch of eight straight in the final 1:15.
Head Coach Mike McLaughlin now has 503 victories in his career, sitting as one of just 30 active DI head coaches with at least 500 career triumphs. Following a storied career at nearby Holy Family in which he racked up 407 wins (fastest coach to ever reach 400), McLaughlin is 96-89 in six-plus seasons at Penn. In addition to the quantity of victories, McLaughlin has also kept the losses to a minimum, as he currently holds the fourth-highest winning percentage (.770) of all active Division I head coaches.
The Quakers will begin a string of three-consecutive Big 5 contests on January 18th. The Red and Blue will “travel” to take on La Salle for a 7 p.m. tip. Penn has won the last three battles against the Explorers.
The Quakers have earned three-consecutive Ivy League Co-Player of the Week awards -- the most recent coming on Monday. Michelle Nwokedi snagged her second recognition of the season following a pair of dominant performances across the Pacific. The sophomore averaged 19.5 points, 16.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 steals in wins over BYU-Hawaii (73-41) and the University of Hawaii (64-54). Against the Seasiders, Nwokedi grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds, to go along with 19 points, four assists and four blocks. Two days later, she scored 20 points, including 17 in the second half.
Nwokedi now has a team-high six double-doubles this season, and has grabbed at least 15 boards in three of her last four contests. She currently stands as the only player in the Ivy League that is averaging a double-double, sitting tops in the league in rebounding (11.1), and fourth in the conference in scoring (16.1 ppg). She also leads the Ancient Eight in blocks per game, swatting away 2.9 shots per contest.
Brzozowski off the Bench
Although the Quaker bench has been relatively quiet this season, Beth Brzozowski has provided a much-needed spark of late. In fact, the sophomore guard put in a career-best 15 points in the victory over Hawaii last Sunday. Brzozowski was especially lethal from the free-throw line, making all six of her attempts. She has reached double digits in three of her last four games, and is averaging 4.0 assists over that span.
Like classmates Nwokedi and Brzozowski, sophomore Anna Ross also put together a productive trip to Hawaii. The shifty guard averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 steals, and 3.0 assists over the two contests, and has now put in double-digit points in three of her last four efforts.
With still three non-conference contests left, the Quakers are just one victory shy of the most non-Ivy wins in a season in program history. Penn still has three games against the Big 5 remaining (La Salle, Temple, Villanova) -- all on the road -- and all within eight days of each other. The Quakers fell to Saint Joseph’s, 50-46, to open Big 5 play on December 8.
Michelle Nwokedi (2.9) and Sydney Stipanovich (2.7) rank 1-2 in the Ivy League in blocks per game, and are the main reason that the Quakers lead the conference in blocks. The duo has combined for more blocks (62) than six TEAMS (all except Brown) in the Ivy League.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Defense, which has been a staple of Mike McLaughlin teams over the years, is once again a strength for the Quakers this season. The Red and Blue currently rank 5th in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 50.3 points per game this season. They also pace the Ancient Eight in blocks per game at 6.5. Last season, Penn ranked No. 3 in the nation with 6.6 blocks per game, seventh in the NCAA in field-goal percentage defense (.348), ninth in the country in scoring defense (53.5 ppg) and 31st in three-point defense (.281).
Sydney Stipanovich also sits in the Penn record books in the double-doubles’ category. With her 16-point, 15-rebound effort against Navy, she moved into a tie for 9th all-time with 18 career double-doubles. She now has 19 in her career -- 10 as a freshman, six as a sophomore, and three in the early going this season.
Quaker Quick Hits
*Sophomore Lauren Whitlatch scored 17 points against Wagner, her highest output since pouring in 18 on opening night against Duke. She now has scored double digits in two of her last three games.
*The Quakers hold a 18-1 record over the last three seasons when Sydney Stipanovich has grabbed 10+ rebounds.
*Sophomore Beth Brzozowski ranks sixth in the Ivy League in three-point field goal percentage, making the long ball at a clip of 39 percent (14-for-36).
*Penn scored a season-high 50 points in the first half against Wagner on December 21.
*Penn’s point total (46), second-half point total (20), and points off the bench (2) were all season lows against Saint Joseph’s on December 8.
*Sophomores and juniors have accounted for over 93 percent of the offense for the Red and Blue this season.
*Penn has won 38 consecutive regular-season games when putting at least 60 points on the scoreboard.
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