PHILADELPHIA - All four seniors played crucial roles for the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team in a 72-64 win over Columbia on Senior Day at The Palestra Saturday night. It marked the second straight weekend sweep for the Quakers at The Palestra.
Penn (9-18, 6-7 Ivy) has now won six of its last nine Ivy League games and with the fourth straight home win, the Quakers have vaulted into fourth place in the Ivy League standings. Columbia finished its season with a record of 13-15 overall and 6-8 in the Ivy League.
The Quakers jumped out to a huge lead early on as the seniors combined for the team's first 11 points. Senior Carrie Biemer, who had a game-high 25 points, started the scoring, followed by a backcourt steal and layup by senior Anca Popovici. Senior Kelly Scott then hit a three-pointer off of an assist from senior Katarina Lackner. Scott later added a free throw and after a Biemer three-pointer went through the hoop, Penn led 11-5 just five minutes into the game.
The Quakers were only getting started at that point. Junior Caitlin Slover hit back-to-back baskets to put Penn up 10 and though Columbia closed to 18-9 at 13:08, Penn scored 11 in a row for a 29-9 advantage halfway through the first half. In all, Penn had outscored Columbia 22-4 after the Lions were within 7-5. The run, which featured two Biemer threes and a three by junior Sarah Bucar on three successive possessions, gave the Red and Blue its largest lead of the season.
Several mini-runs dominated most of the rest of the half. Columbia regrouped to score seven straight and were back within 13 just two minutes later. However, Penn scored five straight to push the lead back to 36-18 with 6:45 to go in the half. The quick burst was countered with eight straight from the Lions and they were back within 10 at 36-26 with 4:31 left.
Two minutes later, the Lions sunk a three and had cut the Quakers' edge to single digits, 38-30. Sophomore Jerin Smith's layup was followed by two consecutive Bucar jumpers to get Penn up 44-32, but Columbia closed the gap to 44-35 at the half.
Coming out of the locker room, Columbia wasted no time in erasing much of the deficit. The Lions hit threes on each of their first two possessions and were within three at the 19:05 mark. Penn wasn't shaken though, battling basket for basket with Columbia for the next 10 minutes. During that time, the lead was never more than seven, but the Lions were never any closer than three.
Penn was up just four, 55-51 with 9:32 to play when Biemer knocked down a jumper from the corner and Smith banked one home after the Quakers broke Columbia's game-long press. The consecutive scores gave Penn an eight-point edge with 7:42 left in the game.
The lead was still eight with 5:12 to go after Slover stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for the layup. After forcing a turnover, Smith hit another jumper and after coersing yet another turnover, Biemer knocked down a jumper for a 68-56 lead at the 3:45 mark.
Just over a minute later, Columbia was down just four, 68-64. The Lions' full court press had its most successful stretch of the game to get the lead down to just two possessions. However, the press wouldn't be a problem the rest of the way. Penn hit some free throws and held the Lions scoreless for the last 2:37.
Every Quaker that played scored as Penn shot 68-percent in the first half, including 7-of-10 from three-point range. All for seniors got the starting nod and did not disappoint. Scott finished senior day with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists. Lackner added two points and two assists to her five rebounds. Biemer is all alone in seventh-place all-time in threes as her three makes on Saturday gave her 123 for her career. Popovici led the team in steals and made the only shot she attempted.
On the defensive side, the Quakers held their third straight opponent under 35-percent shooting from the floor. Penn has won each of those games and all seven of the games in which they have accomplished that this season.
The four seniors, who were each honored before tip-off Saturday, will play in their final game in the Red and Blue on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. against arch rival Princeton at The Palestra.
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