By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two seasons ago, the University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team, under new head coach Mike McLaughlin, won just two games.

During the 2010-2011 campaign, that win total jumped up to 11.

This season, the Quakers  continue to trend upwards under McLaughlin, now sitting above .500 (7-6) heading into Tuesday night’s Big 5 showdown against Villanova University.

One reason for Penn’s steady improvement is an infusion of young talent, like freshman forward Kara Bonenberger.  A native of Walnutport, Pa., Bonenberger has stepped right in and played very well for the Quakers: she is second on the team in scoring (9.9 points per game) and first in rebounding (6.7 per contest).

She accomplishes this while playing more than 28 minutes per game.

What were her expectations coming in as a freshman?

“You know, you always expect to play.  You just expect to do your best and have some little impact,” she tells KYW Newsradio.  “Coming in here, doing well, I guess I could say (is) just is a great experience.”

Hear Matt Leon’s full interview with Kara Bonenberger in this CBS Philly SportsPod…

Right-click to download Kara Bonenberger podcast for listening anytime

Coach Mike McLaughlin says he brought Bonenberger into the program with the idea that she would be able to make an impact in her first year.

“I expected her to contribute,” he says.  “She’s got a good body for the game, she’s got a good feel for the game.  She can score around the basket, she’s good away from the basket — she can make a 15-, 16-foot jump shot.  She’s gotten a great opportunity to compete from day one, and she has taken advantage of it.  I’m really happy where she’s at now — I think that she’s just progressing every day and I think she’s going to have a tremendous career here and she’s off to a great start.”

Hear Matt Leon’s full interview with Coach Mike McLaughlin in this CBS Philly SportsPod…

Right-click to download Mike McLaughlin podcast
Bonenberger talks about adjusting to the college game from high school:

“In the beginning it was a little overwhelming, with the shot clock and everything.  And it’s just the lot faster pace of the game and everything.  It’s something you have to get used to.  It took a couple of games.  I’m able to adjust to it, but there are still some things that you need to work on with it.”

Coach McLaughlin has a pretty good idea where Bonenberger’s game can grow:

“Mid-range game, a little bit cleaner around the box, where she has another post move or two.  I think that will come in time.  Her work ethic is good, so that shows that she is going to get a few more moves as she goes along.”

Bonenberger has already turned heads in the Ivy League, being named the Ancient 8’s “Rookie of the Week” on four separate occasions.

Penn and Villanova tip off Tuesday night at 7:00pm at the Pavilion.

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