PRINCETON, N.J. – Shine those dancing shoes!
For the second time in three seasons, the University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team will play in the NCAA Tournament after completing the season sweep of archrival Princeton and claiming the program’s fourth Ivy League championship via a 62-60 win at Jadwin Gymnasium.
Penn (24-4, 13-1 Ivy League) will now await the NCAA Selection Show, which will take place Monday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Information on Penn’s Selection Show Party will be available in the coming days.
In a game befitting of such stakes, the Quakers answered a late Princeton charge with anAnna Rosslayup and foul shot to take a 58-56 lead with 1:45 to play.
With less than 20 seconds to play, Penn forced a jump ball off a defensive stop executed byKasey Chambers who jumped a drive attempt. Princeton (23-5, 12-2) was forced to foul, and Chambers calmly hit both free throws to give Penn a four-point cushion.
The Tigers hit on a second-chance bucket from Michelle Miller with 9.4 seconds to play, but again they were forced to foul Chambers and she again made good on her shots. A Princeton bucket with 0.8 seconds left set the final score.
A determined Penn team fought through early adversity to build a 14-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers came out firing on their home court, scoring the game’s first two buckets on Alex Wheatley layups. Lauren Whitlach would answer for the Quakers with a three-pointer and then a pair of free throws to give Penn its first lead at 5-4. The lead would change hands twice more before the end of the first quarter, but a 9-2 Penn run to close the first period have Penn a lead it would only lose control of twice – each time answering to retake the lead on the very next possession.
In fact, despite the slim final margin of victory, Penn held the lead for 32:36 in the game. Compared to just 5:39 of time played with the lead by Princeton – and 3:21 of that was racked up by Princeton building a 4-0 lead before fans had finished filing in.
The 9-2 run for the Quakers to close the first quarter started a sequence where the Tigers would go ice cold from the floor. Princeton would go 9:12 of game play without a field goal, and Penn would turn an 8-5 deficit into a 19-14 lead before Princeton’s Taylor Williams would score a layup with 5:44 left in the second half.
That Williams bucket spurred the Tigers on a 6-0 run to take a 20-19 lead with 3:09 to play in the second quarter. The Quakers would double up their opponent over the final stretch of the first half, 12-6, to take a 32-26 lead into the break. A Whitlach three pointer and a pair of Anna Ross three-point plays – one conventional followed by a layup and foul with 11 seconds left in the quarter, sent Penn into the break with momentum.
Penn continued to roll out of halftime, extending its lead to nine, 37-28, midway through the third quarter – a lead that would be Penn’s largest of the night.
There was no reason to expect the Tigers to wilt on their home floor, but whenever it seemed like Princeton would find some life, the Quakers would shut the door.
First, it was Michelle Nwokedi doing work down low. Just past the midway point of the third period, Princeton had a brief 9-2 run to get back within two. Nwokedi called for the ball in the paint, and went up and under her opponent for layup with 3:04 to play in the third. She would go back to that well two more times before the quarter ended, utilizing the glass on back-to-back trips to make sure Penn exited the third quarter with the same six point lead it entered with.
In the fourth quarter, a shot from Kasey Chambers all but signaled the end for Princeton and had Penn fans knowing that the night was theirs.
With just under six minutes to play, Penn was trapped on the perimeter as time wound down on the shot clock. Chambers picked up her dribble due to the pressure, but leaned to the right and heaved an underhand shot just before the shot clock expired.
If that miracle heave didn’t deflate the hopes of the Tigers – and a brief sprint to a one-point lead with 2:01 remaining shows the Tigers did not go quietly – then the and-one from Ross with 1:45 to play and Penn’s ice cold veins at the free throw line were the final nails.
For the game, Penn was 16-for-18 from the free throw line. In the fourth quarter, Penn was 8-for-9, including makes on its last eight attempts.
Penn had four players in double figures, led by Ross who had 18 (including 7-for-8 from the free throw line) and Nwokedi who had 17.
Sydney Stipanovich was the lone Penn starter not in double digits in scoring, but was a menace on the defensive end with five blocks and three steals. She had only three rebounds – but each was on the offensive end.
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