WNIT recap: Penn and Harvard move on with wire-to-wire wins

Penn (23-6) 64 vs. American (22-11) 45

In a game between the regular season co-champions of the Ivy and Patriot Leagues, the Quakers dominated all facets of the game and ran away with a 64-45 victory. Penn jumped out to a 16-5 lead after one quarter and stretched it to 23 with just under a minute to go in the first half.  American scored the first seven points of the third quarter to make it a 41-24 game, but that would be the closest they would get.

The Red & Blue flipped their usual offensive script by hitting 43 percent (9-for-21) from beyond the arc and 85 percent (11-for-13) from the free throw line, while only making 41 percent of their two pointers.  Ashley Russell and Phoebe Sterba led the three-point barrage with a combined 7-for-15 (47 percent) effort.  Overall, Russell totaled 18 points, while Eleah Parker added 17 points (7-for-12 shooting) and Sterba put in 15.

On the defensive side, Penn forced American into contest threes all night long.  As a result, the Eagles, which entered the game with a 35.7 percent success rate from three, only made 24 percent.  Cecily Carl, the Patriot League Player of the Year, did make four of 10 three-pointers, but the rest of the team only converted one of 11.  Keeping the Eagles away from the hoop allowed the Quakers to limit their opponents into 36 percent two point shooting and a 71 percent defensive rebounding rate with Parker leading the team with 12 defensive boards (17 total).

Penn will now travel to Providence for a second-round game against the Friars from the Big East Sunday at 4 p.m.

Harvard (17-12) 69 vs. Drexel (24-9) 56

Harvard, the Ivy League’s most prolific three-point shooting team, put on an offensive clinic over a Drexel team that arrived with the nation’s best three-point shooting defense.  In the first 20 minutes of Friday night’s contest, the Crimson made eight of 12 from beyond the arc, with Katie Benzan making four of five. Despite the hot outside shooting, Harvard found itself only up 10 at the break, 36-26, since it allowed the Dragons, one of the country’s weakest three-point shooting teams (28.6 percent), to hit six treys at 35.3 percent.

The teams cooled off in the second half and brought the game more to the interior, where Harvard was able to use its size and depth to its advantage.  The Crimson opened a game-high 14-point lead two minutes into the third quarter, but Drexel went on a 13-2 run to make it a three-point game, 44-41, with four minutes left in that frame.

Last Saturday, Harvard had no response to an early Penn run, but this game would be different.  The team used four layups and a mid-range jumper to get the lead back to double digits, 54-44, with 9:40 left in regulation.  From there, the Crimson were sent to the line and made 9 of 10 to seal the win.

On the night, Harvard shot 44 percent overall, 48 percent from three and 90 percent from the line.  Drexel, meanwhile, only hit 34 percent overall, 30 percent from outside the arc and 63 percent from the free throw line.

The Crimson’s 69 points was a season high allowed by Drexel, which only permitted a nation-low 49.9 points per game.  They had four players in double digits with Benzan leading the way with 18 points.  Madeline Raster registered 14, Jadyn Bush scored 12 and Sydney Skinner put up 10.  Benzan also dished six assists, while Bush grabbed 13 rebounds (two offensive) and Raster added seven rebounds and five assists.  Defensively, they kept the ball out of the hands of Bailey Greenberg, the CAA Player of the Year.  Greenberg entered the game as the only Dragon in double figures with 17.5 points per game, but she finished Friday’s contest with eight points on 4-for-15 shooting (0-for-6 from three).

With the victory, Harvard moves to the second round, where the team will host Georgetown on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

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