ITHACA, N.Y. - Senior captain Alyssa Baron poured in a season-high 28 points, including 16 in a dominant second half as the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team pulled past first-place Cornell, 67-57, at Newman Arena on Friday night.
Baron finished just one rebound shy of a double-double in leading the Quakers (13-5, 3-1 Ivy) to their fifth straight win. It marks the first time Penn has ever posted two winning streaks of five or more games in a single season. Cornell, who entered the game in a three-way tie for first-place in league play, fell to 11-8 on the year and 3-2 against the Ivy League. Penn is now tied with four other teams with one Ivy loss.
After a high-paced, back-and-forth affair in the opening 20 minutes, the Quakers put together an early 17-0 run and controlled play throughout the second half for the decisive road victory.
Penn entered the game ranked third in the nation in field goal percentage defense (34.0%). Naturally, Cornell shot 50 percent in the first half, including 5-of-6 (83.3%) from three-point range. However, the Quakers stayed with the Big Red throughout the stanza. In fact, after the hosts jumped out to a 7-2 lead, Penn scored eight straight behind four different scorers to go up 10-7 at the 13:32 mark.
A few minutes later, Cornell used a 7-0 run to go up 22-15 with 7:08 left in the half. But again, Penn kept up with the hot-shooting Big Red and chipped away until senior Meghan McCullough buried a game-tying three, 26-26, with 4:00 until intermission. The teams traded baskets and the lead for the remainder of the half. Cornell eventually held a 36-35 advantage at the break.
In the second half, the No. 3 defense in the nation returned to full form and held Cornell to one basket over the first nine minutes. The lead changed hands 12 times in the first 22 minutes, but never again after Baron put the Quakers on top, 39-38, with 18:14 to play. That was the start of 17 straight points for Penn - 13 of which came from Baron, who moved up five spots to 17th-place on the Ivy League's all-time scoring list.
Baron's steal - one of a game-high four on the night - led to an easy fastbreak layup to cap the run and hand the Red and Blue a commanding, 54-38 lead with 12:25 to play.
Cornell eventually broke a seven-minute drought, but never pulled within single-digits the rest of the way. At that point, junior Katy Allen hit a free throw and freshman Stephanie Cheney connected on a powerful drive and score to go up 59-45 with 7:46 left.
Moments later, as if there was any doubt it was just her night, Baron threw up a contested, one-handed, deep three-pointer in a desperate attempt to beat the shot clock. It went in as the buzzer sounded. Cornell fought to the buzzer, but proved no threat down the stretch. The final score was as close as they would get.
Inside the Numbers
Overall, the Big Red finished 19-of-53 (35.8%) from the field and 7-of-17 (41.2%) from three. Penn scored at a 40-percent clip (22-of-55) and made six of its 12 threes. The Quakers were excellent from the free throw line where they connected on 17-of-21 (81.0%). Penn forced 21 turnovers and had just 11 miscues which led to an 18-6 edge in points off turnovers. Cornell held a substantial advantage on the boards, 42-31.
Penn is 13-3 in its last 16 games and is now 12-0 this season when scoring more than 60 points ...The Quakers have had two players score in double figures in all but one game this year ... Penn is 9-0 this year when shooting better than 40 percent ... The Quakers have won three straight over Cornell and lead the all-time series, 51-19 ... Penn has posted first back-to-back wins at Newman Arena since 2004-05 ... Earlier this season, Penn set a program record with eight straight non-conference wins (second-longest overall win streak in school history).
Penn will travel to New York City following the game to take on Columbia on Saturday. If you can make it out to Levien Gymnasium, make sure to wear pink. The game will serve as Columbia's Play 4Kay game in the fight against breast cancer. Tip off is set for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen on the Ivy League Digital Network.
Fan Tweet of the Game:
— Penn Band (@PennBand) February 8, 2014