January Total: 1
Season Total: 22
PHILADELPHIA - Without senior captain Jess Knapp, the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team just couldn't find the rhythm that had led it to the best start in school history, and the Quakers fell to NJIT, 52-48, Wednesday night at The Palestra.
The Quakers lost at home for the first time this season against a non-conference opponent to fall to 7-5 on the year. NJIT has now defeated Penn in both all-time meetings between the schools to improve to 6-10 this season.
No team led by more than six at any point. Penn trailed 51-48 with seven seconds remaining and had a chance to tie the game. But junior Katie Davis' three-point attempt was heavily contested and it fell short. NJIT iced the game with a free throw with two seconds left.
NJIT jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the first four minutes. But the Quakers went on a 12-2 run behind two freshmen and a sophomore. Freshman Katy Allen converted a three-point play and sophomore Kristen Kody sandwiched two buckets between five points from freshman Renee Busch.
But the defenses owned the last 11 minutes of the half. Six minutes later, both teams had added just two baskets apiece. Then over the last five minutes of the first half, the Quakers could only add one more bucket. But the second-best scoring defense in the Ivy League kept the Red and Blue in the lead at intermission, 21-19.
Penn forced a turnover and Allen made a lay-up within the first 34 seconds of the second half. But Penn didn't score again until the 11:52 mark. NJIT scored 10 straight in that time for a 29-23 advantage.
Sophomore Alyssa Baron, who finished with a game-high 17 points, then broke the drought with back-to-back buckets to pull the Quakers within two, 29-27.
A few minutes later, a lay-in from sophomore Meghan McCullough and a mid-range jumper from freshman Kara Bonenberger had Penn within one, 35-34 at the 8:41 mark.
It looked as though the youthful Quakers, who have won two overtime games already this season, may just pull out another close one down the stretch.
However, NJIT never relinquished the lead. Penn tied it twice in the next few minutes, but with the score notched at 41-41, NJIT scored six of seven to take control with 2:47 left.
Penn trailed 50-45, but got the game-tying opportunity after Baron and Bonenberger combined for three made free throws and NJIT missed one of two with 10 seconds left to leave the Quakers with just a three-point deficit.
Penn outrebounded NJIT, 48-32, and forced 18 turnovers. But the Highlanders were 20-of-46 (43.5%) from the floor. Penn was just 17-of-61 (27.9%) overall and 2-of-17 (11.8%) from three-point range. The Quakers also struggled from the charity stripe where they were 12-of-23 (52.2%).
Kody had a standout game for the Quakers. She came off the bench to set a career-high with seven rebounds, added a season-best five points and recorded the first two blocks of her career.Bonenberger nearly had a double-double with eight points and a game-high and career-high 13 rebounds. Busch scored in double digits for the second time in her young career with 10 points in addition to five rebounds.
Knapp missed her second straight game after suffering an injury in the Surf 'N Slam championship game against San Diego State on Dec. 30.
Three more Big 5 games remain before Ivy weekends get underway. All three games are in the home gyms of Penn’s Philadelphia rivals. The Quakers are at St. Joseph’s Saturday in a matinee at Hagan Arena. Then they take on Villanova of the Big East at The Pavilion at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Temple at McGonigle Hall at 3 p.m. Jan. 21.