PHILADELPHIA – It was a historic afternoon for the University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team on Saturday, as Head Coach Mike McLaughlin achieved his 500th career victory in a 72-67 triumph over Drexel at The Palestra.
Coach McLaughlin becomes just the 30th active Division I head coach to reach 500 career wins, reaching the milestone in his 21st season as a head coach. He holds a 500-150 career record, including a 93-89 mark at Penn (spent 14 seasons at Holy Family). He is also the fourth-winningest head coach in all of Division I, with a .770 career winning percentage.
Inside the Numbers
Junior Sydney Stipanovich led all scorers with a season-best 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting. She also hauled in nine rebounds, nearly recording her third double-double of the season. Sophomore Michelle Nwokedi did register a double-double with 11 points, and a career-high 15 boards.
The Quakers (6-2, 0-0) also received solid outings from sophomores Anna Ross (12 points) and Beth Brzozowski (11 points), who both joined Stipanovich and Nwokedi in double figures. In addition to the points, Ross also dished out a season-high seven assists, to go along with four steals.
How it happened
It was a game of runs in the first half between the Quakers and Dragons. The Quakers began the game red hot, making three of their first five shots to build an early 8-2 lead. Drexel was equally sharp to start, knocking down their fourth three-pointer of the game to take a 14-13 lead with 3:37 left in the first quarter. The Quakers would close the first frame strong, as Ross knocked down a long ball and Stipanovich finished off a lay-in to give Penn an 18-16 lead after one.
The Quakers scored the first five in the second quarter to grab a 23-16 lead. Stipanovich was on the receiving end of a nice dish from Kasey Chambers, who followed with a three-pointer. From there, it was a battle of runs – as Drexel rattled off the next eight points to take a 24-23 lead. The Red and Blue answered with a 10-0 run of their own to take a 34-23 lead with 4:17 left in the half. Stipanovich put in a pair of free throws, and Brzozowski finished off an old-fashioned three-point play in the final moments of the first half, as Penn went into the break with a 41-33 edge.
The Quakers once again extended their lead to eight, 49-41, on a Stipanovich lay-in with 4:45 left in the third quarter. Despite trailing for much of the game, Drexel would not go away. Back-to-back three-pointers from Jessica Pellechio and Kelsi Lidge provided the Dragons with a 55-53 lead with 45 seconds left in the third quarter. A pair of Brzozowski free throws sent the game into the fourth all knotted at 55.
Nwokedi erupted in the fourth for the Quakers, scoring eight of her 11 points and grabbing five rebounds (three offensive). Tied at 65, Nwokedi made four consecutive free throws to give the Quakers a four-point lead with 32 seconds left. Following a jumper from Sarah Curran to cut the lead to two with 20 seconds left, Chambers made one-of-two free throws. With Drexel in possession and threatening to tie the game, Ross came up with a vital steal for the Quakers with six seconds left. Chambers would go on to make a pair of free throws to ice the game.
It will be a quick turnaround for Penn, as the Quakers host Wagner on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. It will be the final home game for the Red and Blue, before jetting off to Hawaii for a pair of contest over New Year’s.