Friday night basketball at the Palestra belonged to Penn senior forward Jordan Obi, who scored her 1,000th point as the Quakers demolished Brown, 77-56.
Obi, the most versatile player at Penn since the arrival of coach Mike McLaughlin 15 years ago, was pretty much perfect: 20 points on 4-for-4 shooting and 11-for-12 from the foul line, plus 13 rebounds, three blocks and a pair of assists. Her totals would have been higher, but McLaughlin pulled his starters early with a 30-point lead.
Obi is the 25th Quaker to hit the 1,000-point mark, and she did it faster than all but six other players, in just the third season of a COVID-shortened career. And her timing for a big game couldn’t have been better, because Penn needed this win against an ascendant Brown program that’s trying for its first ticket to the Ivy League Tournament since 2017. Penn has qualified for the tournament each year since its inception and isn’t interested in ending its season early.
When coaches and players say they don’t pay attention to the standings, don’t believe them.
“There is some discussion,” Obi conceded to reporters after the game. “Beating Brown, losing is not an option.”
“We were aware of everything, where everyone stands, but we go into every game as if it’s our last,” said Simone Sawyer, a Penn sophomore guard. Sawyer, who had a shaky start to the season, was back in the starting lineup for the first time since November and came through with three threes and three steals.
Brown and Penn came into the game obviously charged up: The frenetic first three minutes of play included an Obi block, three scrambles resulting in held balls, seven missed shots, five turnovers and just seven points scored. But then Penn started hitting its shots — 58% in the first three quarters — and Brown struggled from the field, shooting just 29% for the night. Penn led all the way; Brown was down 17-12 with under four minutes left in the first quarter, but then Penn went on a 17-point tear and never felt pressure after that.
“I thought we came out and defended really hard,” McLaughlin told reporters after the game. “They executed on the offensive end. We made shots that first quarter. I thought overall it was a great team win.”
He even had high praise for the Penn Band, which erupted in cheers when Obi hit her milestone basket and presented her with a 1,000-point banner after the game.
As for Obi, McLaughlin told Ivy Hoops Online: “She can play inside, outside. She can shoot the three. She’s a power player at times. She can handle the ball. She’s the full package. She’s a very good defender. She’s long. She’s active. She’s willing.”
Joining Obi in double figures for Penn were the usual suspects: junior Stina Almqvist (17 points, 6-for-11 shooting including 3-for-5 from three-point range, plus three assists and a pair of blocks) and freshman Mataya Gayle (11 points, 5-for-9 shooting, three steals).
Kyla Jones led Brown with 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting, and Isabella Mauricio had 11 points on 4-of-9 from the field.
Penn (11-8, 3-3 Ivies) is back in the Palestra on Saturday night against Yale (4-15, 1-5). Brown (13-6, 4-2) will try its luck at Princeton (16-3, 6-0).