PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team is preparing for the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.
The Quakers are the #10 seed in the Lexington Region and in the first round they will take on the #7 seed Washington in College Park, Maryland on Saturday.
Penn (24-4) earned an automatic berth in this year’s field by winning the Ivy League. The Quakers clinched the championship with a thrilling win over Princeton to end the regular season.
“We’ve worked really hard to get to this point,” Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin tells KYW Newsradio. “We played one of our better games at the right time (against Princeton). Very rewarding. Now we have an (NCAA Tournament) opponent, we have a location and it’s time to re-shift our goals a little bit and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Listen to the entire interview with Penn’s Mike McLaughlin:
Penn is led by a pair of talented front court players in sophomore forward Michelle Nwokedi and junior center Sydney Stipanovich. They combine to score 27 points and pull down 20 rebounds a game. They also have both blocked 76 shots this season.
Washington brings a 22-10 record into Saturday’s first-round game.
“They’re really talented,” McLaughlin says. “Power 5 school. Play in one of the top leagues, Pac-12 is one of the top leagues in women’s basketball this year. They’ve also played a tremendous schedule. Led by one of the best guards in the country. Averages (26.2) points a game Special player. She scores multiple ways, so we’re going to have a challenge with her. They’re big up front. But we’ll be ready.”
That guard McLaughlin refers to is Kelsey Plum. In addition to her scoring average, Plum also leads the team in assists (122). She shoots 35% from three-point land and 90% from the free throw line. And she gets to the line a lot, eight times a game.
In addition to Penn, Princeton also got into the field as an at-large team. The Tigers are an #11 seed in the Sioux Falls Region and they will play West Virginia in the first round. This is the first time the Ivy League has had two teams in the NCAA Tournament and McLaughlin says that’s a very good thing.
“I’m glad the Ivy got two teams in because I think it shows that people understand the level of play here,” McLaughlin says.
In Penn’s last NCAA Tournament appearance, back in 2014, they put a real scare into a talented Texas team before falling, 79-61. That game was also played in College Park, Maryland.
Penn and Washington are set to tip off at 4:00pm on Saturday.