A team that’s talented, deep, disciplined and versatile will usually find a way to beat you. And a team that has Eleah Parker is well on its way to beating you in any case.
The Penn junior center from Charlotte, N.C., is 6-4 and powerful, with a nice shooting touch from almost everywhere but the foul line. She can go around you, over you and through you. Though she seemed tentative and fatigued for much of the first half of the season, she has returned to form the past few games, and she has rarely been better than Friday night in Providence, where Penn (14-5, 4-2) stopped Brown (7-13, 1-6), 85-73. The win was Mike McLaughlin’s 600th as a head coach.
Penn can beat you outside, as it beat Cornell last weekend, when senior guard Phoebe Sterba knocked down six threes toward 21 points; against Brown, Sterba went cold and got into foul trouble, finishing with just four points. It can beat you with Kayla Padilla’s dazzling array of outside shots and drives, and she had 11 points in the first quarter; but she fell off to finish with a mere 18, a thoroughly average outing for her.
But Brown couldn’t do enough to counter Parker and Penn’s inside game: She went 12-for-17 for 26 points, four blocks and a whopping 17 rebounds, and sophomore forward Kennedy Suttle came off the bench for 13 points, two blocks and 10 rebounds. Senior point guard Kendall Grasela, who usually leaves the scoring to others, finished just shy of the team’s third double-double, with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The inside line won the game for Penn: a 40-14 edge in points in the paint and a 21-5 edge in second-chance points. Penn also wins with the discipline that makes it one of the NCAA’s leaders for fewest turnovers and fewest fouls. Penn scored 18 off turnovers, to five for Brown, and won the game at the free throw line, 27-5.
So how was this game even close? Because Brown is an exciting, high-scoring team with some serious shooters.
Senior guard Justine Gaziano led with 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting, and junior guard McKenna Dale almost hit the triple double with 21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. But Brown isn’t as tall, as deep or as versatile as Penn; at some point the outside shots stopped falling. And Brown doesn’t have its own Eleah Parker.
Brown will host Princeton on Saturday, while Penn travels to New Haven to face Yale.