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December Total: 2
Season Total: 15
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It was a daunting task for the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team, but it was an encouraging effort. The Quakers played on the road against one of the nation's best and held with No. 3/3 Notre Dame throughout the second half. But the Fighting Irish showed why they're a favorite to return to the National Championship game for the second straight year with a 69-38 victory over Penn Friday night in front of 8,463 fans at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.
"I thought tonight was a great experience for our team," said head coach Mike McLaughlin. "It was two prestigious universities and that was one of the reasons we wanted to play.
"The Ivy League and Notre Dame have great academic requirements that our kids go through to get into our universities," McLaughlin added. "Some of you don't understand how difficult it is. Our girls are competing everyday as non-scholarship players, and to come out here in this environment, I think it was a good opportunity to experience this great atmosphere. That was our biggest goal, to come out and compete, look Notre Dame in the eye, and I thought we certainly did that. They represented the University of Pennsylvania very well tonight."
Penn, which came into the game with the best start in program history, is the only Ivy League team to ever play at Notre Dame. The Quakers fell to 4-2 on the year, while the Irish improved to 6-1, with their only loss to No. 1 Baylor.
It was quite an impressive defensive effort for the Quakers.
* Only No. 6/7 Duke and Penn have held Notre Dame under 80 points this season. The Fighting Irish averaged 82.5 points per game entering the contest.
* The Quakers also held Player of the Year candidate, Skylar Diggans to two first half points en route to her lowest output of the season. Her eight points were 12 below her season average.
* In addition, Notre Dame was a season-low 1-for-12 (8.3%) from three point range. The Fighting Irish shot just 37.9 percent - only Duke held them to a worse percentage - and they entered the game with an average at 45.5 percent.
The Quakers got on the board early as sophomore Alyssa Baron drained a three after the Fighting Irish put up the first four points.
Ten straight from the Fighting Irish made it an 11-point deficit and it was the same after a nice drive and layup by sophomore Kristen Kody with 12:14 to play until half.
The deficit swelled to 32-7, but over the last 26 minutes of the game, the Quakers held with the Big East favorite. It was just a 37-31 Notre Dame advantage the rest of the way.
Three straight buckets helped swing the momentum as senior Jourdan Banks made a layup in traffic and freshman Katy Allen scored back-to-back buckets to make it 34-13. The Irish led 40-15 at the break.
Notre Dame inched its lead to 56-23 over the first six minutes of the second half, but Penn played bucket-for-bucket with Notre Dame, which has been to the Sweet 16 in three of the last four years, the rest of the way.
The Quakers defense had the home team flustered at times and the offense started to find a rhythm.
In between two buckets from Baron, freshman Kara Bonenberger, who led the Quakers with nine points and seven rebounds, had five straight points.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame scored just nine points over the last eight minutes of play.
Offensively, eight different Quakers combined for 10 assists on the team's 15 baskets. Penn was outrebounded by the much larger opponent, 49-34, but had six blocks to Notre Dame's one. Bonenberger and Baron each had two blocks apiece.
Penn will get some much needed rest. After three games and two long road trips in the last six days, the Quakers are off until Saturday, Dec. 10 when they host Army at The Palestra at 7 p.m.