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PHILADELPHIA - In a game with 12 lead changes in the final 12 minutes of regulation, a youthful University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team remained poised under pressure and found a way to win in overtime of its season opener. Behind a game-high 27 points from sophomore Alyssa Baron, including nine in a critical stretch early in the second half, the Quakers topped an improved St. Francis (N.Y.) team, 70-61, Sunday afternoon at The Palestra.
Penn, which trailed by seven at intermission and by as many as nine in the second half, won its season opener for the second straight year. The Terriers, who shot better than 47 percent in the first two halves, fell to 0-1 when the Quakers held them to 1-of-9 (11.1%) shooting in the extra session.
Senior captain Jess Knapp, who is one of just four upperclassmen among the 2011-12 Quakers, had the game-tying free throw with 18.7 seconds left to send the game into overtime. She then had three blocks on three straight defensive overtime possessions while playing with four fouls for the final 13 minutes of the game.
The lead exchanged hands throughout the final minutes of regulation, but when the Quakers scored on the first possession of overtime, they never relinquished it again. As the Terriers kept missing shots, the Red and Blue kept sinking them - from the free throw line - where they were 10-of-12 (83.3%) to pull away with the win.
Knapp had seven of Penn's first 10 points as the Quakers jumped out to an early 10-4 in the first six minutes. However, St. Francis had eight of the game's next 10 points and the game was tied at 12-12 midway through the opening half.
A few minutes later, the Terriers hit a three to take their first lead of the game, 15-14. But on Penn's ensuing possession, Baron drained her first three of the season to give Penn a two-point edge again.
However, St. Francis scored the next seven and 12 of the last 15 points of the half to take a 27-20 lead into intermission.
Baron, the reigning Ivy Rookie of the Year and league scoring champion, was just 2-of-10 shooting in the first half, but was at her best when the Quakers needed her the most.
St. Francis hit four straight shots at the start of the second half, but Baron scored nine points in the first five minutes, to keep the Quakers in the game.
Trailing 37-29, Baron hit a three to start a 10-2 run. When senior captain Jourdan Banks found the bottom of the net on back-to-back possessions, it was a one-point deficit, 39-38 with 13:20 remaining.
Just a minute later, the Quakers had completely erased their nine-point deficit. Baron's foul-line jumper gave Penn its first lead of the second half, 42-41.
The one-point lead switched hands a few times before the Terriers scored five straight to take a 48-44 lead at the 7:45 mark.
But freshman Kara Bonenberger scored on two straight possessions for Penn. When she converted a three-point play with 6:10 to go, it gave Penn a 49-48 lead.
The Terriers then led 54-51, but Penn went 3-for-4 from the free throw line on its next two trips and tied the game with 2:30 left.
With 2:01 left, junior Brianna Bradford sunk another free throw to give the Quakers a 55-54 edge.
St. Francis responded with a bucket to regain the lead before Baron's mid-range jumper gave it right back to Penn, 57-56, with 49.7 seconds left.
The Terriers scored quickly to take the lead again, but Knapp was fouled with 18.7 remaining. She made one of two to tie the game and the Quakers defense held on the final possession of regulation to force overtime.
Knapp finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals as the Quakers remained unbeaten in six all-time meetings with the Terriers. Banks finished with a career-best nine rebounds in her first career start. Sophomore Meghan McCullough finished with eight points as did Bradford. McCullough and freshman Renee Busch each had a team-high three assists, while Busch's three steals led the Quakers.
For the game, St. Francis was 23-of-55 (41.8%) from the floor, while the Quakers were 23-of-64 (35.9%). Penn outrebounded the Terriers, 41-37. The Red and Blue forced 21 turnovers and had just 11 of their own.
Penn returns to action with another home game on Saturday. The Quakers match up with Rider at 3:30 p.m.
Download: 1-St. Francis.pdf