PHILADELPHIA- Twenty wins. The first-place University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team earned the program's second 20-win season on Friday night with a convincing win over Columbia, 65-50, at The Palestra.
Penn won for the 12th time in the last 13 games to improve to 20-6 overall. With their sixth straight home win, the Quakers stayed tied atop the Ivy standings with a 10-2 league mark. Its the program's first 10-win Ivy season since 2003-04 and just the fourth time the Red and Blue have posted double-digit wins in Ancient Eight play.
Penn's post play dominated throughout. Freshman Sydney Stipanovich finished with her 10th double-double of the season and combined with junior Kara Bonenberger for 37 of Penn's 65 points and 18 of the team's 37 rebounds.
The Quakers scored on their first six possessions. Bonenberger and Stipanovich had Penn's first five field goals and the Red and Blue jumped out to an early 13-0 lead in the first three minutes.
It didn't take long for the Lions to get right back in it. Columbia scored the next 10 points and trailed by just three at the 12:02 mark.
Four minutes later, it was a four-point game, 18-14. But Stipanovich and Bonenberger scored five straight and senior captain Meghan McCullough drove for a pair of layups to cap a 9-0 run and put the Quakers up 27-14 with 4:32 left in the half.
Just before the half, McCullough added a three and sent Penn into the locker room with a 34-19 advantage.
The Quakers quickly put the game out of reach with a 16-4 run to start the second half. Stipanovich's jumper capped the run with 13:08 to play and the Red and Blue held a commanding 50-23 edge.
Penn's largest lead was 31, 57-26, after a jumper from senior captain Courtney Wilson, who played big minutes off the bench. In a season-high 17 minutes, she finished with a season-best four rebounds in addition to two points and a team-high two blocks.
Columbia (6-21, 3-10 Ivy) scored 11 straight and a 13-1 run made it 58-39 with 5:47 to play, but Penn kept the Lions just out of reach down the stretch.
Inside the Numbers
Bonenberger was 9-of-14 from the field and finished with a game-high 21 points -- her second 20-point effort in the last three games -- in addition to six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Stipanovich had 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds to become the first Quaker with 10 double-double in a season since Jennifer Fleischer in 2003-04. Stipanovich also had a pair of blocks to bring her rookie year total to 93 -- third-most in a single-season in Ivy League history.
McCullough finished with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting and added four boards, two assists, a block and a steal. Senior captain Alyssa Baron dished a game-high five assists and her three steals moved her into fifth-place on Penn's all-time steals list with 192 for her career. Junior Renee Busch had eight points and hit both her three-point attempts in 19 minutes off the bench.
Penn is now 15-0 this season when shooting better than 40 percent. The Quakers were 25-of-58 (43.1%) from the field, 4-of-10 (40%) from three-point range and 11-of-14 (78.6%) from the charity stripe. The Quakers rank third in the nation in field goal percentage defense (34.0%) and improved on that mark as Columbia was just 20-of-64 (31.3%) overall, including 3-of-14 (21.4%) from three-point range. The Lions won the rebounding battle, 42-37, but the Quakers scored 24 points off 16 turnovers and held the Lions to just nine points off their 12 miscues.
Its the final home game of the season and the careers for four Penn seniors. The Quakers will honor Kristen Kody, Alyssa Baron, Meghan McCullough and Courtney Wilson prior to tip off with Cornell at The Palestra at 8 p.m. With a win, the Quakers clinch at least second-place in the Ivy League and with it, an automatic postseason berth to either the WNIT (second-place) or NCAA Tournament (first-place). It would mark the first back-to-back postseason appearances in school history.
Fan Tweet of the Game:
Congratulations @PennWBB!!!! Stay focused!!!— PennSportPerformance (@PennPerformance) March 8, 2014
The future is extremely bright for @PennWBB - including the immediate future. #FightOnPenn @pennathletics— Chaz Howard (@Chaz_Howard) March 8, 2014
THANK YOU SENIORS! Let's aim for 61 favorites on this -- 1 for each win this Senior Class has produced! pic.twitter.com/jOfwnNXD5u
— PennWomensBasketball (@PennWBB) March 7, 2014