Women's basketball coach Pat Knapp discourages looking at the past,
but one has to wonder how many close losses would have swung Penn's way
had senior forward Ashley Gray not been ruled ineligible to compete
Clad in business attire, Gray spent the first 12 games cheering on
her teammates from behind the bench. Now, suited up in red and blue,
the 5-foot-11 player is the dominant force behind the Quakers' recently
"She has the capability to score down low," Knapp said of Gray, who
scored a career-high 21 points versus Columbia on Saturday. "She really
has a knack for the backboard and the finger roll."
Averaging 11.5 points in her first three games, Gray provides the
Quakers with a third scorer to complement her classmates, guard Joey
Rhoads and forward Monica Naltner - and a presence underneath the
"She gets the offensive rebounds with reckless abandon," Knapp added.
Gray already has seven offensive boards in three games.
Despite the impressive numbers, however, the Penn faithful should not expect any shakeups in the starting lineup.
"I know she is confident coming off the bench," Knapp said. "You
can't underestimate that spark off the bench. Also, she might not be in
30-minute-per-game shape right now."
The Scoring Revolution
Entering the Ivy League schedule, Rhoads and Naltner were virtually Penn's only scorers.
Finally, their fellow starters heeded Knapp's pleas to step up.
Maggie Burgess, Lauren Pears and Anca Popovici combined for just 101
points in the Quakers' first 11 games. In the past four contests, the
same trio posted 82 points.
Knapp specifically highlighted Popovici's recent performances, whose
presence in the starting lineup has been questionable most of the
"She ripped [Manhattan] up," Knapp said. "They started playing zone because of her penetration and her cuts to the basket."
Penn's coach also praised the play of sophomore Kelly Scott off the
bench. Scott has added 24 points of her own in the past quartet of
games, including a decisive field goal late at Manhattan to seal the
A 'Big Red' Flame
Teams can often pinpoint a defining moment in their
season. Come March, Penn may cite Friday's humiliating collapse versus
Cornell as that moment.
"I don't like to dwell in the past, but the Cornell game was a bad
loss," Knapp said of his team blowing a 16-point lead in the second
"We told our players that we really have to focus in on the second half," he said. "And the only way we can do it is practice."
Rather than folding, the Quakers reeled off two big victories.
The 80 points Penn put up against Columbia the next night were the most in the Knapp era.
After overcoming an 11-point deficit at Manhattan, Penn finally
proved it can come from behind and use that momentum to play strong
down the stretch.