Keiera Ray and Alyssa Baron take home Big 5 honors

The accolades keep coming for Keiera Ray and Alyssa Baron.

Ray was announced as the third consecutive Penn player to receive Big 5 Rookie of the Year, while Baron took home first-team All-Big 5 honors for the third time.

Mike McLaughlin’s recruiting classes have produced for the Red and Blue recently, as Ray was following in the footsteps of Baron and sophomore forward Kara Bonenberger, who received the Rookie of the Year award the last two years.

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Mano-a-Mano: Repeat for Penn Women’s Lacrosse?

Mano-A-ManoPenn women’s lacrosse currently stands undefeated in the Ivy League with three conference games remaining. We have former senior sports editor Megan Soisson and associate sports editor John Phillips here to debate whether Penn wins the Ivy Crown this season.
Megan Soisson: I really can’t see a situation where the women’s lacrosse team doesn’t win the Ivy League. Six years of championships teaches you how to get it done.
Of course, it also puts an enormous target on your back, but I think the Quakers can handle it.
They’re undefeated so far in Ivy play and definitely hitting their stride. It won’t be easy to beat Dartmouth and Princeton, and then Brown will put up a fight in an attempt to play spoiler.
But Karin Brower Corbett is easily one of the best coaches at Penn and she knows how to win. No doubt Penn at least gets a share of the Ivy title. Winning the Ivy League tournament, however, is a different story.
John Phillips: I agree wholeheartedly about the Ivy League tournament, as we’ve seen in recent years, but I wouldn’t be so quick to write it off that they’ll take home the Ancient Eight crown outright.
The Quakers have proven vulnerable so far this season, needing to go to overtime against opponents that, in years past, Penn would have rolled.
But this isn’t one of those teams. This team is more vulnerable than any other from the last six years, and will lose at least one of its next three Ivy games.
MS: I agree this is a vulnerable team. But in conversations I’ve had with Corbett, two things have stuck out:
1) The team prides itself on being gritty and fighting and never giving up. We saw it in wins against Vanderbilt and Cornell. Though in both of those games Penn relinquished big second-half lead, the Quakers found a way to win. Which brings me to my next point…
2) Corbett’s had to instill a new attitude in her team. The current players had never lost to Drexel before this season, and they certainly had never started out 0-3.
That’s cause for a change in attitude, especially in practice. Corbett said she was considering punishment for sloppy play at practice — likely increased sprints — and since then, they’ve been better.
And John, they went to overtime against Vanderbilt, a solid non-league team, and Cornell, who was ranked No. 10 at the time. I don’t think you could say they would have steamrolled those same teams.
JP: I agree that this is a gritty team, and everything that I’ve heard makes me root that their grit wins out. But being gritty is just another way of saying that they can’t play a complete game.
Penn should have put those Cornell and Vanderbilt games away early. They said so themselves after those games. And the reason they haven’t closed is because they don’t have that one player who can put a team on her back.
MS: That’s fair, John — they don’t have one player who can put the team on her back. Erin Brennan was the go-to last year, but they’ve had plenty of time to figure things out without her.
And Lucy Ferguson is a force in the cage who’s been really coming into her own as a leader on defense. I think the Quakers are beginning to peak right now and I believe they’ll do what they need to do in order to win another championship, even if it’s shared.
JP: They’ve had plenty of time to figure things out, and yet there is still no consistency in their offense. What happens when they’re down late in a close game? Who gets the ball then?
Verdict: You’re the head honcho until someone takes the title away from you and Penn women’s lax has ruled over the Ivy League for a long time. This one goes to Megan.

Recruit Roundup: Jack Williams

We haven’t even seen the Class of 2017 step onto the court for Penn basketball, but it's already time to start talking about the Class of 2018.

Jack Williams, a junior at Chaminade (CA) High School, will make his first official visit to Penn beginning May 3.

Williams is a 6-foot-8, 185 pound power forward from West Hills, CA and has already received offers from Arizona State, Colorado and Rice.

He was originally being recruited to Arizona State by then-Sun Devils assistant coach Scott Pera, who has since become an assistant under Jerome Allen.

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La Salle representing a few former Quakers in the Sweet 16

While Penn basketball’s season came to a close two weeks ago, there is one Big 5 team keeps on going.
                                                                                                                                                               La Salle, which won a share of the Big 5 Title this season, is still dancing, having won three games to make the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The Explorers' run began in Dayton as one of the final four teams into the tournament, where they defeated Boise State to get into the main field of 64.
                                                                                                                                                                               Next up was a trip to Kansas City, where the 13th-seeded Explorers pulled out two close victories over fourth-seeded Kansas State and 12th-seeded Ole Miss.
                                                                                                                                                               But this La Salle team has some firm connections with the Red and Blue other than simply playing in the Big 5.

Turn Back the Clock: March 26, 1979

In 1979, Penn enjoyed its one and only Final Four appearance, of course making an improbable run before falling at the hands of Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the national semifinal.

But that wasn’t the end.

Until 1981, the NCAA Tournament featured a third-place game for the two teams that lost in the Final Four. So despite a crushing 34-point defeat against the Spartans, the Quakers had to stick around in Salt Lake City to face DePaul.

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Quakers Notemeal: Penn v. Cornell (M. Lax)

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Andrew Dierkes/DP File Photo
Senior attack Tim Schwalje easily leads the Quakers with 21 points this season.

Here is a new feature for the Buzz called Quaker Notemeal, where we'll cycle through some important statistics heading into an upcoming Penn sporting event. The first Quaker Notemeal will go over some key numbers that may decide Saturday’s Penn-Cornell men’s lacrosse matchup.

One- Always good to focus on number one, right? In this case, an important thing to look out for will be end of game situations. This season, the Red and Blue have three wins by two goals or less, including two one-goal victories.

On the other hand, Cornell’s only loss this season came in a one-goal affair against Bucknell on Wednesday, as the Big Red gave up a game-winning goal with exactly one minute to play. If the game is close at the end, Penn may have a slight edge over No. 2 Cornell.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Princeton women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart

-via ivyleaguesports.com

-via ivyleaguesports.com

Princeton clinched its fourth consecutive Ivy League title at Jadwin this past weekend. The Tigers have had a strong run during coach Banghart's tenure and will head to the NCAA Tournament once again, trying to pick up their first postseason victory in Banghart's time with the Tigers. I spoke with Banghart about where she saw her team heading into the tournament and the upcoming Penn-Princeton season finale.

Daily Pennsylvanian: Your team clinched the Ivy League bid over the last weekend. What can you say about your senior class now having won the last four Ivy League titles and now preparing for their fourth NCAA Tournament?

Courtney Banghart: It’s hard to put into words. We always say here that within greatness lies consistency and I give them all the credit in the world for how they’ve remained consistent over a four-year period. Especially with that Saturday night in the Ivy League as the great equalizer, you play through midterms and play through all of that, it is remarkable. It is remarkably rare and it is really hard to do, so all of the credit to the kids.

DP: A lot of brackets have you projected right around the 8-9 matchup in the first round of the NCAA Tournament similar to last season. What can you say about where you think your team ends up and about possible first-round matchups?

CB: What I would say about the bracketology is that I went to one of those mock committee meetings a couple of years ago to learn more about it and what I would say about the bracketology this time of year is what happens when a hurricane comes in or a blizzard comes in. It turns everyone into a weatherman and everyone has their idea of when work should be cancelled, when roads should be closed, but really there are only those who are educated to make those decisions or just those who are making the decisions.

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Scouting Report: Yale

Oh, you again? Last month, Penn played a hard-fought game with the Elis but lost, 68-59. Yale took a 10 point lead late in the second half before a 9-0 run engineered by freshman Tony Hicks brought the Quakers within one point. But the run was not enough as the Bulldogs pulled away behind a clutch three from senior guard Austin Morgan and took the game by nine.

What have you been up to? Yale is coming off its biggest win of the season, as the Bulldogs upset then first-place Princeton yesterday, 71-66. The win completes the season sweep for Yale over the Tigers since the Elis also defeated Princeton the day after their first matchup with Penn. In the three weekends after the sweep of Princeton and Penn, Yale has split its six games, with wins against Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth. After losing at Columbia last weekend, the Elis took advantage of a shorthanded Cornell squad and won 79-70 in Ithaca.

Leading the way: Yale’s signature this season has been a truly balanced lineup, with 10 players averaging at least 4.5 points per game, and 12 players getting over 13 minutes of court time per contest. In the Elis' last three games, Morgan has led the way, putting up double figures in each contest. Sophomore Matt Townsend has played well in the post for the Bulldogs, averaging 13 points per game in Yale’s last four Ivy matchups. But one Yale forward has been cold in recent games, and that is freshman Justin Sears. Sears had 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench in the Bulldogs’ first game against Penn, but he has scored just a combined eight points in Yale’s last three games.

SIZING IT UP

Scoring: YALE- Both teams struggled at times offensively in the first matchup at the Palestra, but Yale has proven to be the more consistent offensive team this year. The Bulldogs are second in scoring offense in the Ancient Eight and have put up at least 70 points in four of their last six games. They have surpassed 70 points in 11 games this season, compared to just four times by the Quakers.

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Scouting Report: Brown Edition

Familiar Foe: A month ago, Penn picked up its second Ivy League victory against these same Brown Bears at the Palestra. Miles Cartwright led the way with a career-high 28 points, while Tony Hicks added 15 as the Quakers won 71-48 in a rout.

Since We Last Met: After the loss to Penn, Brown was struggling, as the squad had started out 2-4 in Ivy play. And it didn’t get much better soon after, as the Bears proceeded to lose two of their next three, including a close three-point loss to Cornell. But coach Martin and the Bears have turned it around, having won three straight heading into the matchup with Penn in Providence. The first two wins, which came against Dartmouth and Cornell, came by a combined 28 points, but Brown needed a little more work for a road victory against Columbia at Levien Gymnasium. After a late Lions rally tied the game at 58, the Bears inbounded near midcourt with 1.1 seconds remaining. They ran a play that looked to be designed for junior guard Sean McGonagill to get the final shot, but instead set a back screen for Tucker Halpern to hit a buzzer-beating three pointer to sink Columbia.

Leading the Charge: So if Brown is playing well, the question becomes, thanks to who? The Bears are heavily reliant on their starting five since the team only played eight players in its recent road trip to Cornell and Columbia. That starting five – McGonagill, Halpern, Rafael Maia, Cedric Kuakahmensah, and Matt Sullivan – have been the keys to Brown’s winning streak, each averaging over 25 minutes a game on the season. McGonagill, who is fourth in the Ivies in points and assists per game, has been strong in the three-game stretch, averaging 11.7 points and 3.3 assists per contest. Halpern had a game-high 22 points against Cornell and Sullivan has put up at least 16 points in each of the three wins. Maia and Kuakahmensah have been strong in the post, averaging 9.3 and 6.6 rebounds per contest, respectively.

Sizing it up:

Scoring: PENN- Neither Penn nor Brown has been particularly impressive at putting the ball in the basket this season, ranking sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Ivies in scoring offense. And while Penn put up 75 points to beat Harvard last week and has the recent offensive surge of Tony Hicks, Brown has two of the top four scorers in points per game in the Ancient Eight while also having had its own 84-point outburst against Cornell. This one is pretty even, with a slight edge to Penn based on the 71 points the Red and Blue registered in the first meeting.

Rebounding: BROWN- While Darien Nelson-Henry looked strong down low against Harvard, the Quakers now face a much better frontcourt team than the Crimson. Maia and Kuakamensah are first and second respectively in rebounds per game in the Ancient Eight, and the Bears are second in offensive rebounds. Additionally, Brown is third in rebounding margin, while Penn is dead last.

Beyond the Arc: PENN- This is a close one statistically, as the two teams are within two points of each other in three-point percentage. But the Quakers displayed in the first meeting that they can hit treys very well, going 9-for-15 from three-point range. And the Quakers have weapons off the bench to make long-range jumpers, including Dau Jok and Patrick Lucas-Perry.

Bench: PENN- Speaking of the bench, this category is all Quakers. While the Red and Blue had just nine points off the bench against Harvard, their reserves can absorb a lot more minutes than Brown’s small three-man bench. With players like Jok, Lucas-Perry and Greg Louis, the Quakers can give their starters a spell while still providing quality minutes, something Brown doesn’t always get outside of their starters.

Defense: BROWN- The Bears have only allowed their opponent to score 70 points or more three times in conference play, and have held their past three opponents to 57.7 points per game. On the other side of the court, the Quakers have struggled defensively, ranking seventh in scoring offense, while allowing Harvard to drain 10 shots from beyond the arc Saturday.

Tony Hicks honored with second straight Ivy League Rookie of the Week

Different week, same award.Tony Hicks

For the second consecutive week, Tony Hicks was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week after putting up a combined 47 points in Penn's two games against Dartmouth and Harvard over the weekend.

Hicks led all players in scoring for the third and fourth straight games. He put up 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting in Friday night's loss to Dartmouth. The freshman guard also went 6-for-6 from the free throw line and helped Penn take a lead late in the game.

On Saturday night, Hicks was instrumental in the Quakers' upset of then first-place Harvard, as he scored 24 points while dishing out five assists. Those assists helped fuel a strong game from fellow-freshman Darien Nelson-Henry, who added a career-high 20 points against the Crimson.

Hicks has now scored 95 points in the last two weekends for an average of 23.8 points per game. In Penn's 11 Ivy contests, he leads the Red and Blue with 15.6 points per contest.