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January Total: 3
Season Total: 24
PHILADELPHIA - Another slow start doomed the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team against a hot shooting opponent. The Quakers clawed their way back into the game, but came up just short in the Big 5 matchup with Villanova, 57-52, Wednesday night at The Palestra.
Freshman Alyssa Baron tied a career high with 23 points as the Quakers lost for just the second time since Dec. 7 to fall to 5-7 on the year and 0-2 in the Big 5. Villanova improved to 8-8 on the season and concluded their Big 5 slate at 2-2.
For the second game in a row, it took more than four minutes for the Red and Blue to put a crooked number on the scoreboard and by that time Villanova had scored the game's first 10 points. Penn got on the board when junior Jourdan Banks hit a jumper from just inside the free throw line at the 15:59 mark. Then the Quakers scored on their next two possessions with freshman Meghan McCullough's three-pointer pulling the Red and Blue within 12-7.
Villanova was just too hot on the offensive end. The Wildcats started 9-for-12 (75.0%) from the floor and 5-of-7 (71.4%) from three. They hit back-to-back-to-back threes for a 14-point lead, 21-7, just seven minutes into the first half.
Penn's offense started clicking but Villanova kept rolling. The teams shared baskets for the next ten minutes. Penn was never within 11 and the Wildcats never led by more than 15.
But in the final minute of the half, Baron hit a three to cap a quick 8-3 Penn run and pull within 37-28. Villanova hit a free throw with one second left and went into the half with a 38-28 lead. Quite a difference from last season's meeting when the intermission score was 17-11 and Penn scored 28 total points in the game.
The visitors scored on their first possession of the second half, but an active zone defense from the Quakers kept Villanova off the board for the next five minutes. Meanwhile, back-to-back layups from senior Jerin Smith pulled Penn within striking distance for the first time since Villanova's early run, 40-34, with 14:24 to play.
The momentum was short-lived. Villanova, traditionally known for its suffocating defense, finally began to stifle the Penn offense. The Quakers went scoreless for the next seven minutes and Villanova scored the next 10 points for a 50-34 advantage at the 8:51 mark of the second half.
The Quakers didn't go away easily. They scored 10 of the game's next 11 points and were within 51-44 with under four minutes to play when sophomore Brianna Bradford converted a three-point play.
With 2:24 left, Smith hit a baseline jumper and the Red and Blue were down just six, 54-48. But despite chipping away at the Wildcats' early lead for the last 30 minutes of the contest, Baron's bucket with three seconds left to pull within five was as close as the Quakers got.
Villanova finished at a 45.8 percent clip (22-of-48) from the floor, but were held to just 3-of-12 shooting in the second half from three-point range to finish at 34.6 percent (9-of-26) from that range for the game. The Quakers also shot well, going 20-for-49 (40.8%) from the floor. Penn had 17 turnovers to Villanova's 12, but outrebounded the Wildcats, 36-24.
Baron played all 40 minutes, going 8-for-17 from the field and adding four rebounds. It was the fourth time this year that the Miami, Fla., native went over the 20-point mark. McCullough once again led the Quakers in assists with four in addition to her five points and three rebounds. Junior captain Jess Knapp had a team-best six boards as well as three assists to go along with four points. Senior Erin Power had a career-high five steals while adding three points and five rebounds.
Later this week, the Quakers take their longest road trip of the season to take on ACC powerhouse Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena. Tip off from Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday is at 2 p.m.