PHILADELPHIA In the home opener for the University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team, the Quakers nearly pulled off the upset of Big 5 rival Villanova. However, the Wildcats prevailed, 45-43, in a game that came down to the buzzer at The Palestra Wednesday night.
When junior Sarah Bucar made a driving layup with 2:30 left in the game, the Quakers were up three, 43-40. Villanova immediately closed to within one, but the score stood at 43-42 until the final minute. With the Quakers just 36 seconds away from victory, Villanova’s Siobhan O’Connor knocked down a three from the corner for the go-ahead score.
On Penn’s next possession, Popovici and senior Carrie Biemer each missed layups under pressure, but the Wildcats gave the Quakers one last chance after missing the front end of a one-and-one. It was freshman Tyler Cumbo who got the shot, but it was too strong and went bouncing off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Bucar led the Quakers with 11 points and two assists. Biemer scored eight of her 10 points in the first half while grabbing a team-high seven rebounds on the night. Sophomore Jerin Smith added eight points and five boards.
Penn (0-2) held the lead much for much of the first half with a tenacious defensive effort and timely shooting. The Quakers held the three-point shooting Wildcats (1-1) to just 25 percent shooting from that distance in the first 20 minutes. By the end of the half, Villanova had more turnovers12than they did basketsnine.
Villanova scored the first basket of the game, but after a layup from senior Anca Popovici and a three-pointer from Bucar gave Penn a 5-2 lead with 16:47 left, the Quakers did not trail for the rest of the first half. Penn led by as many as six, 23-17 with just over a minute remaining and held a 23-22 advantage at intermission.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room shooting though and hit two quick threes to open the second half for a 28-23 lead. Penn would not go away though, clawing its way back, tying the game on several occasions and then taking yet another lead, 36-34 at the midway point.
Penn’s zone defense continued to stifle the Wildcats and the two-point advantage stuck for the next four minutes. Villanova regained the lead with a three-point bucket with just over 5:30 remaining in the game to give the Wildcats the one-point edge, 39-38.
The lead didn’t last long though as Smith knocked down two free throws on Penn’s next possession. Each team then shared free throws, and Penn’s lead was 41-40. Bucar then extended that margin to 43-40 with her driving layup at the 2:30 mark.
Penn is next in action Saturday, when the Quakerstravel to Pittsburgh to take on Duquesne. Tipoff is set for2 p.m. Penn then returns to The Palestra for another Big 5 matchup on Tuesday, takingon Saint Joseph’s at 5 p.m.