NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Penn’s women’s basketball team finished 12-2 in the Ivy League this season and won a share of the championship. The Quakers celebrated when they clinched the title, and when they arrived at the Ivy League Tournament on Friday they were introduced as champions. Their overall record was 22-5, the Ivy’s best, and they ranked No. 16 in the nation in defensive efficiency.
Yet the whole seems a little less than the sum of its parts. Because Princeton swept Harvard and Penn didn’t, the Quakers are the No. 2 seed, and will play a No. 3 seeded-Crimson squad (16-11, 9-5) that beat the Quakers once, took them to overtime twice, and lost those matchups with Princeton by four and three points, respectively.
The Tigers, meanwhile, will play a No. 4-seeded Cornell team that finished 6-8 in conference play and 12-13 overall.
Perhaps it’s worth stepping back and recalling that in the preseason, Princeton was the overwhelming favorite. Penn tied the Tigers with a team whose regular rotation has just one senior. And with four Ivy League titles in six years now, the program’s standards have become as high as what the men have long had.
“We feel like a champion — more importantly, they [the players] do,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “They know what it takes. They’ve felt that shining moment they should get as an athlete. … We understand that this could go either way, and we’re OK with that. But it does feel like we are a champion, the way we grew as a team.”
The shining moment came two years ago when Penn last went to the NCAA Tournament. And certainly, the Quakers’ win at Princeton to start conference play sent a resounding message — especially since the Tigers beat the Quakers by double-digits three times last season. But there’s a lot of work to do if Penn wants get back to the big dance.
Both Penn-Harvard matchups this season have been tight. Harvard won the season’s first matchup in double overtime, 80-72, on Feb. 16 in Boston. On March 1, the Quakers won at the Palestra in one overtime, 75-70.
The games are still fresh in the mind of Eleah Parker, Penn's leading scorer (15.6 points per game) and rebounder (8.9 per game).