DURHAM, N.C. – The University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team (0-1) saw double-doubles from Michelle Nwokedi and Sydney Stipanovich but were plagued by Duke’s quick start as they fell to the Blue Devils (2-0) 68-55 on Sunday afternoon in Durham, N.C.
Nwokedi and Stipanovich teamed up to combine for 38 points and 23 boards in Sunday’s season opener. Nwokedi led all point-scorers on the on the day, registering 24 tallies off of 50% shooting from three-point range (3-of-6) and 8-18 total (44%) from the field. Anna Ross added six assists, five rebounds and seven points Lauren Whitlatch and Kasey Chambers combined for four points, five rebounds and three assists.
“I said to the team that I’m really proud of them. This was probably as bad a start as we could ask for and they didn’t put their heads down and we tried to grind it away possession by possession," said head coach Mike McLaughlin. "I’ve seen games like that turn into something really lopsided. It was a tough start when they hit a three and an inbound and an-one, especially in this environment for our team, but overall I thought we clawed back and I thought our post play was terrific tonight. It’s a learning experience for us; we had some possessions that we’d like to have back, but I’d like to give them credit."
HOW IT HAPPENED
Duke’s opening run proved to be the difference-maker as they jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first 1:43 of the game. The Quakers would go on to outscore the Blue Devils 41-39 over the next three quarters until the final six seconds of the contest.
Nwokedi broke the Penn drought at the 7:37 mark and added four points to cut the deficit at 13-4, but the Red and Blue had to chip away at the lead through the remaining minutes and closed the stanza 12 points back at 26-14. Penn did most of their damage from the paint, getting 10 points from the lane but struggled with 6-for-18 shooting from the field. Stipanovich grabbed six of her 12 boards in the stanza with three each coming on both ends of the floor.
Both teams lagged in the second quarter, each managing just nine points apiece. The Quakers held the advantage at the start when Stipanovich connected on a jumper to close the gap at 26-16 and saw trey’s from Ross and Alexis Glasgow to get within seven at 30-23 with 5:07 on the clock, but 11 straight missed shots prevented the Red and Blue from getting any closer.
The Blue Devils took a 35-23 edge into halftime anchored by Lexie Brown, a transfer from Maryland, who had 13 first half points.
The Red and Blue came out of the locker rooms with renewed energy and rattled off two field goals, including one from behind the arc by a wide-open Nwokedi to cut the lead to just to seven 1:45 into the third quarter at 35-28.
Nwokedi and Stipanovich worked both ends of the court, totaling six rebounds and four points in the third, but Duke had an answer for every Penn run and saw their lead inch back up to 13 before the frame ended with a 50-39 advantage for the hosts.
The Quaker duo continued their 1-2 punch in the fourth quarter, and back-to-back Nwokedi trey’s and two jumpers by Stipanovich put the Red and Blue within 10 with under two to play. Duke’s hot hands were tough to match, however, as the Blue Devil’s shot 58% from the field going 7-12 in the final 10 minutes of action and closed for the final of 68-55.
Penn shot just over 30% on the afternoon (20-of-65) while Duke was 25-of-61(.410) on their attempts.
The Quakers return to action for the 2016-17 home opener on Wednesday, Nov. 16 when they host Binghamton at The Palestra. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.
-Today’s game marked the second-straight year Penn has squared off with Duke for the season-opener
-Today’s performances marked the 29th double-double in Sydney Stipanovich’s career and the ninth for Michelle Nwokedi.
-It was the third all-time meeting between Penn and Duke and the first return to Durham, N.C. since the 1984 season for the Red and Blue.