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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Rallying from a 17-point second-half deficit, the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team was down just three with under three minutes to play, but Virginia held on to win on their home floor, 54-45, Sunday afternoon at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlotteville, Va.

From the start, it was clear the Quakers were not intimidated by their ACC counterparts and thrived on the energetic atmosphere of 3,506 fans, which included a strong contingent of Quaker faithful behind the Penn bench.

Penn (5-8) kept the Cavaliers off the board for the first 2:37 and held the ACC powerhouse to just one field goal over the first 4:28. Meanwhile, freshman Meghan McCullough scored the game's first basket with a running layup and freshman Alyssa Baron gave Penn a 4-2 lead three minutes in.

However, Virginia (11-8) got going and scored the next nine points. Sophomore Brianna Bradford and junior Jourdan Banks broke the string with back-to-back baskets to pull Penn within 11-8 with 11:58 remaining in the half.

Midway through the first half, Penn trailed by only three after a pair of free throws from McLean, Va., native Kristen Kody. But the Cavaliers held the Quakers without a point over the next 4:25 and went on a 9-0 run.

Penn responded with six of the next eight and trailed 24-16 with one minute remaining in the opening half. After a Virginia bucket and Penn miss, McCullough chased down a fast break, stole the ball from behind, and went coast-to-coast to sink an off-balance contested layup. The effort pulled the Quakers within eight, 26-18, at the half.

Baron scored on Penn's opening second half possession and it was a two possession game, 26-20. But the Cavaliers scored 11 of the next 12 and led 37-21 just two minutes into the half.

It was 40-23 and Virginia looked like it would coast to its 9-0 home record against non-conference opponents this season. But behind another huge second half off the bench from Bradford and a strong defensive effort, the comeback was on.

Virginia, who has been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three years, didn't score a point against the Quakers defense for nearly eight minutes. And with Baron on the bench, Bradford scored seven straight points for the Quakers and had Penn down just 42-30 after her steal and pull-up jumper from the free throw line with 12:59 to play. 

Two minutes later, senior Erin Power hit two free throws and it was a 10-point game.

The Virginia lead continued to dwindle. Following a Cavaliers free throw, Bradford and Baron each hit layups and Kody followed with a mid-range jumper to get Penn within five. Virginia called a timeout and the Quakers hustled to their bench to a standing ovation from the Quaker faithful. In all, it was a 15-3 run and the Red and Blue trailed just 43-38 with 7:48 to play.

Virginia once again tried to pull away and was up nine, 47-38, with 6:28 to go. But junior captain Jess Knapp hit hit a three, Power muscled in a layup and Baron followed with a runner of her own to pull the Quakers within three, 48-45, with 3:12 remaining.

Virginia kept the Quakers off the board the rest of the way and sunk free throws down the stretch to win by nine, 54-45.

Baron led the Quakers with 13 points, followed by Bradford's 11. Knapp and Power led the team with eight rebounds apiece, while Knapp also led the team with three assists. Every player that saw time for the Quakers either had a point or a rebound. Penn also played without senior Jerin Smith, who missed the game due to injury.

Penn forced a season-best 24 Virginia turnovers as the Quakers finished with a season-high 14 steals. Knapp, Power and Banks led the Quakers with three steals apiece. The Quakers shot under 25 percent (7-for-29) in the first half, but shot nearly 40 percent (11-of-28) in the second half and 18-of-57 (31.6%) for the game - which was better than Virginia's 38.1 percent (16-of-42).

The Quakers, who were outrebounded, 41-33, were just 1-of-15 (6.7%) from three-point range. Virginia was not much better at 11.1 percent (1-of-11) from three. The Quakers, who boast the top defense in the Ivy League, had more points in the paint, 28-24; had more points off turnovers, 25-18; had more fast break points, 6-2; and outscored the Virginia bench, 19-6.

Two more non-conference games await the Quakers next week as they host Big 5 rivals La Salle and Temple. Tip off with the Explorers is at 7 p.m. Wednesday night and at 2 p.m. against the Owls Saturday afternoon at The Palestra.