PHILADELPHIA - There was no letdown for the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team on Sunday. The Quakers arrived in Philadelphia just 12 hours before tipoff after a series of travel issues, but dominated from start-to-finish in a 79-49 win over Norfolk State at The Palestra.
The Quakers matched a program record with their seventh straight non-conference win. The win streak also matched the second-longest overall in school history. At 7-2, the Red and Blue tied the best nine-game start in program history.
Shortly after posting the program's first-ever win over an ACC opponent in dramatic fashion (67-66 at Miami), the Quakers were stranded in South Florida due to inclement weather in the Northeast. Penn had to bus to Fort Myers, fly into Atlantic City and then bus to Philadelphia where they arrived early Sunday morning - nearly two days after they were scheduled to return.
But the short turnaround proved to be inconsequential as the Quakers posted an impressive effort on both ends of the floor. Offensively, 12 different Quakers found the scoring column in Penn's highest scoring game of the year. Defensively, the Quakers tied a single-game team record with 11 blocks - all of which came from the duo of freshman Sydney Stipanovich and junior Kara Bonenberger.
Junior Kathleen Roche got the Quakers started with a pair of threes in the opening minutes. That gave Penn an early 8-5 edge.
The Spartans trailed 12-10 at the 13:41 mark, but Penn dominated from that point on. The Quakers finished the half on a 28-5 run which was sparked by sophomore Keiera Ray, who was playing in just her third game since returning from injury and finished with a game-high 16 points in just 13 minutes. Ray quickly converted a three-point play and moments later, hit a more convential three for a 20-10 lead.
Stipanovich then scored five straight points and converted on a three-point play of her own for a 25-11 lead just past the midway point of the half.
Norfolk State (5-8) made its only field goal over an 11-minute span to pull within 12. However, Penn scored the next 10 points behind four different scorers to go ahead 35-13 at the 2:22 mark. Penn extended that advantage to 40-15 at intermission - the largest halftime lead under fifth-year head coach Mike McLaughlin.
The half was convincing for a team that had plenty of reasons to turn in a lackadaisical effort. It also left little doubt to the outcome.
Penn carried its enthusiastic play into the second half. The lead was up to 30 within 90 seconds and it hovered around that mark throughout the half.
Penn used its bench extensively in the second half, but there was certainly no drop off. Throughout the final eight minutes, the Red and Blue played without any upperclassmen, but the lead never dropped below 25 points.
During that time, freshmen Sade Gibbons and Jackie Falconer each recorded their first collegiate points. Sophomore Brooklyn Juday hit a pair of free throws for her first points of the year. Freshman Stephanie Cheney finished with a career-high eight points on 4-of-4 shooting. Freshman Melanie Lockett added five points and sophomore Rayne Connell had a pair.
In all, 53 of Penn's 79 points came from its bench. Bonenberger led all starters with 10 points and had four rebounds to go along with her season-high five blocks. Stipanovich had 15 points, eight rebounds and a career-high six blocks - one off the school record and tied for the third-most in a single-game in program history (Bonenberger also had six in a win over Dartmouth last season). Penn has finished with 11 blocks two other times in program history with the last such occasion against Lafayette on Jan. 20, 2004.
Penn had 20 assists on 25 field goals as 12 Quakers recorded as assist, led by Meghan McCullough's four. McCullough also led the team with three steals as Penn forced 16 turnovers and held Norfolk State to 29.2 percent (19-of-65) shooting. Twelve Quakers also had at least one rebound as Penn pulled in 46 to 38 from the Spartans.
The 30-point win marked Penn's largest margin of victory since Jan. 10, 2005 (68-33 at Lafayette) as the Quakers shot 45.5 percent (25-of-55) from the floor.
Next, Penn travels to Morgan State for a 5 p.m. tip off in Baltimore on Wednesday. Three days after that, the Quakers open Ivy play against Princeton at The Palestra (3 p.m.)—the first game of a doubleheader with the men's teams.