PHILADELPHIA - In front of a postseason home crowd at the Cathedral of College Basketball, the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team held on down the stretch to win its first-ever WNIT game, 65-58, over Hofstra on Thursday night.
Penn (21-8) advanced to play Big 5 rival Temple in the second round at The Palestra on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Owls won at Marist on Thursday to force a rematch with the Quakers, who clinched the program's first-ever Big 5 championship with a home win over Temple on Jan. 5 -- 52-50 at the buzzer.
Sophomore Sydney Stipanovichwas one of three Quakers in double figures and set an Ivy League postseason record with eight blocks (second-most in a game in school history). She also single-handedly topped the Ivy League team record for blocks in a postseason game.
How it Happened
It was a tough start for the Quakers. Just five minutes into the game senior Kara Bonenberger, the 14th-leading scorer in school history, reinjured her knee and did not return. Hofstra was up 9-4 and then led 15-10 at the 12:46 mark.
Penn answered with six straight over the next 90 seconds. Freshman Michelle Nwokedi, wholed Penn with a team-high 16 points and eight rebounds, scored inside and then senior Katy Allen added four straight points to give the Quakers their first lead, 16-15.
The lead changed hands four times over the next few minutes until Penn went on an 11-2 run. Four different scorers, including back-to-back threes from senior Kathleen Roche, put Penn up 34-26 with 1:38 left in the half. The Quakers grew that lead to 38-29 at the break.
Roche started the second half with another three and immediately propeled Penn to a double-digit lead, 41-29.
The Quakers went up 45-31 with 15:38 to play and maintained that edge until the midway point of the half.
Hofstra scored six in a row to get within 48-40 with 9:52 to play, but Penn held the Pride at bay for the next seven minutes.
Nwokedi hit a three -- Penn started 8-of-10 from three and finished 9-of-14 (64.3%) from beyond the arc -- and then Stipanovichhit a deep jumper as the shot clock expired for a 58-45 advantage with just 3:26 left.
But the Pride put on the pressure and made a big run. Penn was forced into a pair of backcourt turnovers and Hofstra scored 10 straight in just two minutes to close the deficit to a single possession, 58-55, with 1:23 to go.
Stipanovich hit a big baseline jumper on the ensuing Penn possession and Hofstra made a free throw to make it 61-56 with 38 seconds to play.
The Quakers extended their season from the free throw line as Ross made 3-of-4, and seniors Roche and Allen added one apiece to keep Penn comfortably ahead in the final 30 seconds.
Inside the Numbers
Bonenberger set the school record when she appeared in her 117th career game.
Stipanovich also passed Yale's Erica Davis for ninth-place on the Ivy League's all-time career blocks list (184). She now has 85 this season which marks the second time a Penn player has reached that many in one year -- she did it last season with 99. Also, Stipanovich now holds two of the top-five spots on the Ivy League's single-season blocks list as her 85 this year is fifth-most and her 99 last season were second-most.
Stipanovich added 12 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Roche contributed 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range. Ross led the Quakers with six assists and added seven points. Allen had eight point and six rebounds in 30 key minutes as Bonenberger's top replacement off the bench.
Penn was 21-of-49 (42.9%) from the field. Hofstra was 24-of-56 (42.9%) from the floor and 5-of-15 (33.3%) from three, but suffered from the free throw line at 5-of-13 (38.5%). The Quakers had 14 assists and an Ivy League postseason record 10 blocked shots.
The Quakers, who have won seven of the last eight at home, improved to 3-0 all-time in the postseason at The Palestra and have now won 21 games in back-to-back seasons after accomplishing that feat only once before in their history. Hofstra finished the season at 20-13.
Penn remains undefeated under Coach McLaughlin on Thursdays (6-0).
Penn will host Big 5 rival Temple on Sunday at The Palestra at 2 p.m. The Owls defeated Marist on the road, 67-54, on Thursday night.