Throughout the season, the women’s basketball team believed it could compete with anyone despite a record that indicates otherwise.

Saturday night, those feelings were finally vindicated; the Elis (6-19, 3-9) handily defeated the University of Pennsylvania (12-12, 6-5) 75-63 at the Palestra.

The result was even sweeter for two reasons: the Bulldogs recovered from yet another heartbreaking defeat to Princeton to put together their best performance of the season. And the victory gave coach Amy Backus her elusive career victory No. 200.

“All along, we knew we were capable of playing with everybody in the league,” Backus said. “We certainly have had situations where we haven’t been at full strength, but our team has really pulled together, and we played our best basketball of the season against Penn.”

With a reconfigured lineup once again — starting point guard Tory Mauseth ’05 missed both games to attend a funeral in Washington — the Bulldogs pounced on the Quakers from the start and did not relinquish their halftime bulge.

Bonnie Smith ’04, who scored 26 in a losing effort the previous night, put up 23 and grabbed 10 rebounds Saturday. Morgan Richards ’05 scored 18.

The Bulldogs secured an extra boost with the surprise return Brynn Gingras ’04. The team’s floor general and starting point guard the past three seasons had missed eight games after fracturing her thumb trying to taking a charge against Brown Jan. 25. She was expected to miss the season’s remainder. But after a doctor’s unexpected clearance Friday morning, Gingras jumped back into the rotation.

“This season has been extremely frustrating personally, because coach [Backus] was really looking at me to take the role as the leader of the team, and that’s so difficult to do when you’re not able to play,” said Gingras, who came off the bench and played shooting guard to limit her ball handling with her hand still in a cast. “It’s hard to feel somewhat part of the team when you can’t practice, and you’re off doing your own thing. But this weekend, the team adjusted well to me coming back.”

With Mauseth absent and Gingras assuming a new role, Julie Cohen ’04 played the point. Off the ball, Gingras immediately asserted herself. On her first touch against Princeton, she went straight to the hole and scored while drawing a foul.

Gingras’ return boosted morale.

“People had to change their roles a little bit,” Lindsay Page ’05 said. “Tory [Mauseth] is very good at stopping point guard penetration in our transition defense, so our guards had to adjust, and the one and two players had to figure out who to pick up. But having Brynn [Gingras] back in the lineup was great. Just to have her presence on the floor helped out.”

Against Princeton (9-16, 4-7), the Bulldogs put themselves in position to avenge their triple-overtime 94-92 defeat to the Tigers Feb. 15 but could not hold a nine-point second half lead, falling 74-71.

Christina Phillips ’04, who had a double-double (12 points and 13 rebounds), hit a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to pull the Elis within one. But she could not repeat; her buzzer-beating attempt from behind the arc was off target.