You know the old joke: “I was watching a fight last night and a hockey game broke out.” The winter break version is:
“We went on a vacation to Hawaii and a basketball game broke out.”
I am not going to grumble about hardworking athletes and coaches who look forward to taking a few days in the winter sun around a basketball game or two. I know perfectly well how lovely West Philly can fail to be in late December and early January. I guess Coach Mike McLaughlin could try scheduling a couple of challenging home games over winter break instead, but he’d have no fans at the Palestra, few willing opponents and a mutinous bunch of Penn players. And if he gave everyone two weeks off instead, he’d risk a very harsh return to reality when Princeton dropped by to start the Ivy season (Jan. 11 this year).
All right, I am a little peeved that Ivy Hoops Online didn’t come through with a plane ticket so I could cover this road trip. And it’s not that I really wanted a few days of glorious sunshine and relaxation, but now I’m unable to tell you the important details you deserve to know. For instance: Did the Penn coaches once again get matching Hawaiian shirts to wear? What colors did they pick for the Dec. 31 game at the University of Hawaii, and what colors for Chaminade two days later? Can McLaughlin actually tan, or does he just scorch the top layers off his skin and hope for the best? What color shirt goes best with sunburn?
All I can really tell you is the boring stuff. A basketball game did break out, but barely: Penn beat Hawaii, 70-55, holding the home team to 37% from the field (29% from deep). Penn’s usual starters plus forward Tori Crawford played the bulk of the minutes. This one was meant to be a bit of a challenge, and the Quakers missed 13 of their first 14 shots to spot the Rainbow Wahine a 9-3 lead. Then Penn reverted to form, led at the quarter and had a 14-point lead at the half. Four Penn starters hit double figures, led as usual by first-year guard Kayla Padilla at 23 points.
To call the event at Chaminade a basketball game would be overly generous. Chaminade is a Division II school with a losing record (2-9 now), and it’s just not going to compete with a mid-major team whose only loss is to Duke. Suffice to say that Penn got 34 points in the paint vs. Chaminade’s four, and that Penn got 53 points from its bench vs. Chaminade’s zero. (Penn gave court time to 15 players, all of whom took at least one shot; 12 Quakers scored.)
Sophomore guard Mia Lakstigala scored 15 points in 13 minutes on 5-for-7 shooting. If you must know the final score, it was — no, forget it, you do not need to know the final score. Anything less than a 30-point margin would have been a surprise, and this was nowhere close to a surprise.
The pretend basketball game was one thing; the Quakers know they have real basketball games dead ahead, against Princeton and then at Villanova and at Temple. And the coaches won’t be wearing Hawaiian shirts anymore, either.