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March Total: 7
Season Total: 40
PHILADELPHIA - An incredible effort erased an 18-point deficit against the Ivy League's top team, but the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team fell short against Princeton on Senior Day at The Palestra, 60-44.
Tuesday's matinee matchup marked the season finale for each of these two rivals. Penn finished the regular season at 16-12 overall and 9-5 in Ivy play to finish alone in third in the Ivy standings. It's Penn's best record and Ivy finish since the 2003-04 championship season. Princeton finished 22-6 overall and 13-1 against the Ancient Eight.
Princeton jumped out to a 22-4 lead over the first 13 minutes. Penn was just 1-of-15 (6.7%) from the floor at that point. But the Quakers battled back. Over the next 20 minutes, the Red and Blue outscored the NCAA Tournament-bound Tigers 32-13 to take the lead with under nine minutes to play.
That stretch started innocently enough. Junior captain Alyssa Baron, who finished with her fourth career double-double, made a jumper to get within 15, 24-9, at the 5:55 mark. A few minutes later, she made another jumper in the paint to make it a 12-point game, 28-16. Then as the half wound down, senior captain Brianna Bradford - playing in her final regular season game at The Palestra - dished to Baron on a fastbreak to cut Princeton's advantage to 30-20 at intermission.
Penn's defense was the driving force toward eliminating the rest of the deficit. Princeton entered the game with the league's highest scoring offense, but the Quakers didn't allow a single point over the first 5:30 of the second half.
Meanwhile, the Red and Blue scored 10 straight to tie the game. Sophomore Katy Allen hit a three and freshman Keiera Ray added a layup and then a three. When Baron sunk a pair of free throws with 14:48 to play, it was all tied up 30-30.
Princeton scored the next three, but Baron responded with a jumper and after a defensive stop, sophomore Kara Bonenberger pulled down an offensive rebound and dropped in the putback for Penn's first lead of the day, 34-33, with 10:26 to go.
After a Tigers bucket, Ray drove the lane and put the Quakers up 36-35 with 9:12 remaining. However, Penn went scoreless over the next four minutes and the Ivy champions capitalized. Princeton scored 12 straight to go up 11. Over the next several minutes, the Tigers pushed that lead to 56-40 with just 3:08 left.
That 16-point deficit would be the final margin. Baron finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Ray came off the bench to contribute 10 points and five rebounds. Junior Courtney Wilson tied a career high with four blocks and added five points and four rebounds.
Princeton was held to just 37 percent shooting (22-of-59), but Penn was just 17-of-59 (28.8%). The Quakers made just three of their 22 three-point attempts (13.6%). Princeton held a slight edge in the rebounding batttle, 44-42.
The regular season finale also served as Senior Day for captains Brianna Bradford and Katie Davis, who each started for the first time in their careers. The duo were a part of the largest single-season turnaround in school history as sophomores and the program's best-ever 10-game start as juniors. This year, Katie and Bri helped lead Penn to its fourth-highest win total in school history and the program’s fourth-highest Ivy win total of all-time. They are the first class in program history to improve their win total every season.
Now the Quakers wait to find out if they are postseason bound for the first time since 2003-04 and the third time in program history. Penn is on the bubble for two postseason tournaments. The Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) and the Women's NIT. The brackets will be announced late Monday night, March 18, following the NCAA Tournament selections.