WNIT previews: Penn vs. American, Harvard vs. Drexel

First Round (The Palestra, Philadelphia)
Penn (23-6, 12-2 Ivy, Regular Season Co-Champions) vs American (22-10, 16-2 Patriot, Regular Season Co-Champions)
Friday 7:00 p.m., Penn Athletics Facebook

The Quakers will have their hands full with the Patriot League co-champs, which boats one of the nation’s best offenses in addition to a strong defense.

Penn is top 15 in defensive two (37.6 percent) and three point (27.2 percent) shooting, while the Eagles are top 100 from two (46.1 percent) and top 50 from three (35.7 percent).  In addition, the Red & Blue are top 50 in defensive free throw rate (13.9 percent), and American is top 35 at getting to the free throw line (14.0 percent free throw rate), as well as top 60 in converting (73.9 percent).  Where Penn holds a definite advantage is near the rim, where they not only have a 14.6 percent block rate (No. 6), but they have a 68.9 defensive rebounding rate (No. 132) and American only secures 23.1 percent of available offensive boards (No. 339).

On offense, the Quakers are slightly better than average from two (45.8 percent) and just below average from three (30.9 percent), while their free throw shooting is definitely below average (65.4 percent).  The Eagles will counter with a middle of the road two point (43.8 percent) and strong three point (29.3 percent) defense.  On the offensive glass, Penn is 33rd in the nation with a 37.3 percent rate and American has a defensive top 100 rate of 69.7 percent.

Less than a week after having to battle Bella Alarie, Eleah Parker (15.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg) will again be challenged by a strong forward, Cecily Carl.  Carl is the Patriot League Player of the Year and she averaged 17.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.  6’0 guard/forward Elina Koskimies, second on the team with 10.9 points a game, as well as being second team All-League and a member of the All-Defensive team, will battle Princess Aghayere (12.7 ppg and 7.0 rpg) a second team All-Ivy member.

In the back court, point guard Kaitlyn Marenyi (11.6 points, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals) and rookie shooting guard Jade Edwards (6.7 ppg) will be challenged by Ashley Russell (10.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 4.1 apg) and Phoebe Sterba (9.1 ppg and 2.4 made three pg).

In a half court contest between two evenly matched teams, similar to the first two games against Harvard, Penn may need to rely on their key reserves, Michae Jones (4.5 ppg) and Tori Crawford (2.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg), to be the difference.  However, if the Quakers can use their rim protecting advantage to get out in transition and prevent the Eagles from getting their defense set, the Red & Blue stand a good chance at getting their three point shooting into the mid-30 percent or higher and make it more like their third game against the Crimson.

A Penn win will propel the Red & Blue into a second round game against Providence, which beat Hartford 71-54, on Thursday night.

First Round (Lavietes Pavilion, Cambridge, MA)
Harvard (16-12, 9-5 Ivy) vs Drexel (24-8, 14-4 Colonial Athletic Conference)
7:00 pm Friday, ESPN+

After their disappointing semifinal performance against Penn last Saturday, the Crimson will try to get back to their winning ways against Drexel.  Like their 33rd Street neighbors, the Dragons play excellent defense and are number one in points allowed (49.9 ppg).

Harvard is known for their three point shooting, and this year’s team is top 30 in total made threes with 9.3 made baskets per game on 32.7 percent shooting, but the Dragons are tops in the land with a 23.6 percent three point defense.  Facing a great three point defensive team, Harvard may need to look to its two point shooting, as they make twos at 47.2 percent (No. 70, nationally), while Drexel limits teams to 43.6 percent (No. 132).

Katie Benzan (14.2 ppg, 3.4 made threes per game, 35.4 percent shooting), Madeline Raster (11.5 ppg, 1.8 made threes) and Sydney Skinner (10.4 ppg, 1.9 made threes) will attempt to improve upon their 6-21 (29 percent) mark from last weekend.  If not, then they will need Jadyn Bush (10.9 ppg), Jeannie Boehm (8.0 ppg) and Rachel Levy (5.6 ppg) to stay out of foul trouble, continue their dominant offensive rebounding rate (37.1 percent; No. 39) and score down low.

When Drexel has the ball, the Dragons shoot 45.4 percent from two and 28.6 from beyond the arc.  With Harvard’s 29.8 percent defensive three point shooting number, the Dragons will try to get the ball to junior forward Bailey Greenberg (17.5 ppg and the CAA Player of the Year), as much as possible.  The bigger, deeper and more physical Crimson front court will try to continue their inside the arc dominance (39.8 percent defensive two point shooting) to stop the 5′ 11″ forward and only Drexel double-digit scorer in this probable low-scoring game.

A Harvard victory would send the Crimson into a second round game against the winner of Georgetown-Sacred Heart with a potential third round game against Penn.

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