Historic Win for Women's Basketball over Big 5's La Salle, 45-40

Postgame Interviews w/Coach McLaughlin and Jess Knapp

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PHILADELPHIA - Behind the efforts of its Ivy League-leading defense, the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team outlasted La Salle, 45-40, Wednesday night at The Palestra and earned the program's 400th all-time win and the first over a Big 5 opponent since 2004.

With the historic victory, the Quakers improved to 6-8 on the season and 1-2 in the Big 5. It snapped an 0-for-24 skid against Big 5 opponents that dated back to a win over Saint Joseph's at The Palestra on Dec. 1, 2004, and also marked Penn's first win over La Salle, which fell to 5-13 on the season and 0-2 in the Big 5, since a home victory on Nov. 23, 2004.

With the score tied at 37-37 with 1:49 remaining in the game, the Quakers pulled down a pair of offensive rebounds before junior captain Jess Knapp connected on a put-back for a two-point lead.

After the Explorers missed a three, freshman Alyssa Baron was intentionally fouled on a layup attempt. She made both technical free throws. When the Quakers inbounded the ball, Baron was fouled again and sunk two more free throws for a 43-37 lead with 35 seconds to play.

La Salle was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three to close the deficit to 43-40 with 10 seconds to play. However, sophomore Brianna Bradford calmly sank both of the ensuing free throws for the Quakers to seal the five-point win. It was the first victory for Penn over the Explorers since 2004.

For the seventh straight game, the Quakers held their opponent under 60 points. But neither team was able to find the bottom of the basket early on. Through the first five minutes, the two teams combined to go 2-for-9 from the floor with a total of five turnovers.

Near the halfway point of the first half, Penn had just five points - all from Knapp. Luckily, during that stretch, Penn's defense (which ranked 27th in the nation in points allowed entering the game) had held La Salle to just seven points on 3-of-12. So when Baron hit a three, the Quakers led 8-7.

La Salle continued to struggle against the Quakers defense. The Explorers took a 9-8 lead, but went scoreless for the next eight minutes and did not make a field goal over the last nine minutes of the half.

Meanwhile, Bradford knocked down a three and Baron followed that with a driving layup for a 13-9 Penn advantage. Then senior Erin Power and Bradford each hit layups. Baron followed with a fastbreak layup of her own to cap an 11-0 run and give the Quakers a 19-9 edge in the final minute of the half.

Penn led 21-11 at intermission, as it held the Explorers to a paltry 3-of-26 (11.5%) from the field. At halftime, La Salle had nearly as many turnovers (nine) as points (11).

Knapp started the second-half scoring to give Penn its largest lead of the game, 23-11. La Salle went on a 12-4 run over the next 5:41 and closed to within four, 27-23.

Penn then scored the next five and went up nine, 32-23. With eight minutes to play, the Red and Blue lead was 34-27.

At the 4:32 mark, La Salle hit a three to pull within 34-32, but Baron converted a three-point play on Penn's ensuing possession to get the lead back to five.

Moments later, La Salle hit another three to get back within two. Then, with 1:49 to go, an Explorer layup tied the game at 37-37.

Baron, Knapp and Bradford combined for 41 of Penn's 45 points. The freshman had a team-high 17 points, while Knapp added 13 and Bradford had 11. Senior captain Caroline Nicholson had a big day in the Big 5 victory with a career-high 10 rebounds to lead the team. Power was second with eight, followed by Knapp's six rebounds. Freshman Meghan McCullough had a game-high four steals, while Baron was tops among the Quakers with three assists.

La Salle finished the game under 20 percent from the field (11-for-58), including a 4-for-19 (21.2%) performance from beyond the arc. The Quakers outrebounded the Explorers, 49-41, and shot at a clip of 29.6 percent (16-of-54). Both teams had a myriad of turnovers with the Quakers committing a season-high 25 to La Salle's 19.

One more non-conference game remains for Penn. The Quakers host Temple in a matinee at The Palestra on Saturday. Tip off is at 2 p.m.

Download: 14-La Salle.pdf