In this week’s Mano-a-Mano, Associate Sports Editor Steven Tydings and Sports Editor Ian Wenik discuss whether Penn women’s basketball can stay in the Ivy League title race this weekend by defeating Dartmouth and Harvard.
Steven Tydings: Whether you focus on their strong defensive numbers or their impressive 3-2 start to Ivy League play, you can’t help but see that Penn women’s basketball has improved significantly this year.
That being said, this weekend is going to be extremely tough on them. Two of the teams ahead of them in the standings, Harvard and Dartmouth, come into the Palestra and each come in having won at least five of their last six games.
So I struggle to see how Penn can take both games.
Ian Wenik: I actually think that the Quakers have a great shot at sweeping both games this weekend, but the formula for victory must begin with the interior size of junior forward Courtney Wilson.
At 6-foot-3, Wilson has a size advantage over every player on Harvard or Dartmouth’s roster, save for the Crimson’s Temi Fagbenle. If the Quakers can establish a strong post presence with Wilson early, they can develop an inside-out kind of game that revolves around passes to the wings through the high post.
If Penn can get something like that going, then watch out.
ST: The matchups down low will certainly be key in both contests. Despite Courtney Wilson’s height, the Red and Blue are the ones behind the eight ball in the front court.
Harvard and Dartmouth have had great success rebounding the ball, ranking second and third respectively in rebounding margin in the Ivies.
And despite having a strong sophomore campaign, forward Kara Bonenberger has had one key weakness in her game: fouling. She has averaged four fouls a game in Penn’s last four Ivy contests. If she is taken out early by foul trouble, Penn will likely struggle.
IW: I think the Quakers have made extensive progress on the boards, though, as demonstrated by them outrebounding Brown by a 39-29 margin in their shellacking of the Bears on Sunday. If they can box out effectively and avoid getting into an early deficit, I think good things will happen.
Another key for the Quakers will, as usual, be the play of Alyssa Baron. The junior was unstoppable this past weekend, dropping 19 points against the Bears on 6-12 shooting. If she can keep her shooting touch going, I don’t think that either Harvard or Dartmouth will be able to muster up much of a response.
ST: But there is a question of which Baron the Quakers get: the one that scored 19 against Brown, or the one that put up just four points against Yale. If she duplicates her Yale game, Harvard and Dartmouth become much tougher to beat.
IW: I feel like the Yale game is just an aberration. Remember, Baron averages 14 points per game. You might get a four-point clunker every once in a while, but for the most part, Baron is good for double digits, night in and night out. I don’t see why she can’t keep that up.
Verdict: Steven takes this one. While Penn matches up well against Dartmouth, coach McLaughlin has not defeated Harvard in his tenure, making a split in this weekend’s games likely.