But Penn was already playing tournament-level ball Saturday night. Eleah Parker dominating the low post: Check. Kayla Padilla raining down threes and blowing past defenders: Check. Great ball control and sharp passing from point guard Kendall Grasela: Check. Sharp shooting and all-around sharp play inside and out from Phoebe Sterba: Check. Strength off the bench: Check. Ferocious defense from everybody: Check and mate.
When the Penn women have their whole game working, they’re hard to beat. On Saturday night at the Palestra, Harvard couldn’t come close.
Three weeks after losing to Harvard by seven in Boston, the Quakers (17-5, 7-2) scored the game’s first 12 points and never looked back in the 70-48 victory. Four Quakers hit double figures.
Harvard (14-9, 5-5) has lost three in a row and is in danger of missing the Ivy League Tournament in its own gym. (Someone should ask coach Kathy Delaney-Smith how she feels about that possibility. Not me: I’m chicken. But someone should.) The Crimson probably need to win at least three of the last four games on their schedule to knock Columbia or Yale out of the way.
Parker had 10 points and 10 rebounds, her fifth double-double in seven games — all of them Penn victories, and that’s no coincidence. Padilla, who has been running hot and cold, is hot again, and her 23 points came mostly on six threes; she was 7-for-17 overall and added five assists. Sterba and forward Tori Crawford added 10 points apiece. Grasela, who took all of three shots and two free throws and sank them all, had her usual half-dozen assists.
It’s not that Harvard was suddenly incompetent, it just didn’t have the firepower to answer Penn. Jeannie Boehm, Harvard’s senior big, collected 11 rebounds but couldn’t get past Parker and Crawford, going just 2-for-12 from the field. The Crimson desperately needed hot hands but managed to shoot just 25% from the floor; Tess Sussman did well on midrange jumpers and collected 10 points, and first-year hopeful Lola Mullaney matched that total — but on miserable 3-for-17 shooting. Maggie McCarthy kept the Crimson semi-respectable by hitting 3-for-3 from three.
The Quakers were way beyond respectable; they were the team they were supposed to be this year and often haven’t been. They were the team they have to be if they’re ever going to beat Princeton — and what do you know, they travel up to Jadwin to play Princeton on Tuesday night. Tune in for the likely preview of the Ivy tournament championship game.
The Quakers are home next weekend against Yale and Brown; Harvard will be home against Columbia and Cornell.