KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - An encouraging effort from the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball put a big, early scare into the fourth-ranked Lady Vols, but Tennessee pulled away to top the Quakers, 97-52, at Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday night.
In the season opener for both teams, the Quakers started three underclassmen, including freshman Anna Ross, who was one of four Quakers to make their collegiate debut in front of the orange-clad crowd of 9,706.
The Quakers (0-1) scored right off the tip when senior Kara Bonenberger's turnaround jumper put Penn in the lead in the first 21 seconds. A few minutes later, sophomore Melanie Lockett's steal and layup gave the Red and Blue a 7-6 edge. And after a bucket from the Lady Vols, Ross drove aggressively to the hoop and scored her first collegiate basket for an early, 9-8 lead over the SEC powerhouse with 15:10 to play.
Tennessee (1-0) went on a quick 7-0 run to get the crowd into the game, but the Quakers were unfazed in front of the large crowd that also included a national audience on the SEC Network.
Penn responded with its own 7-0 spurt with back-to-back buckets from Bonenberger and a go-ahead three from senior Kathleen Roche. With that, the Quakers led the fourth-ranked team in the nation, on the road, 16-15, at the second media timeout.
And Penn actually extended that lead. Freshman Beth Brzozowski recorded her first collegiate points for an 18-17 advantage and then a jumper from sophomore Sydney Stipanovich gave the Quakers a 20-17 edge at the 11:05 mark.
However, the eight-time national champions began to take control of the game. They held the Quakers without a basket for the next five minutes and scored 14 unanswered to go up, 31-20.
A jumper from senior Katy Allen ended the drought, but Ross had Penn's only other field goal over the final six minutes. The Lady Vols capitalized with a 30-5 run and led 47-25 at the break.
Stipanovich swatted away all of her game-high six blocks in the first half and finished one shy of the matching the record for most blocks by an opponent at Thompson-Boling Arena -- a record last set by Brittany Griner.
Tennessee, which has made every NCAA Tournament, including a No. 1 seed in Penn's bracket last season, then scored 19 of the first 22 points of the second half to lead 66-28.
Penn was able to match the Lady Vols over the last 14 minutes until Tennessee scored the game's final 10 points for its largest lead -- the final margin.
Inside the Numbers
Brzozowski was the only Quaker in double figures with a team-high 11 points. She also led the team with four assists in 20 minutes off the bench. Ross finished with six points and a team-best seven rebounds, while Bonenberger and Stipanovich each scored nine for Penn.
The Quakers filled out the starting lineup without Alyssa Baron's name for the first time since March 9, 2010 - a span of 1,711 days. Baron graduated as the school's second all-time leading scorer and started all 116 games of her career.
Penn was 20-of-61 (32.8%) from the field and 5-of-13 (38.5%) from three, while Tennessee was 40-of-83 (48.2%), including 5-of-12 (41.7%) from three. The Quakers had 11 assists on those 20 baskets and 16 turnovers.
Regardless of the outcome in Knoxville, the Quakers will have plenty to celebrate when they come home. The program, Athletic Department and University will commemorate the 2013-14 Ivy League championship team with a banner unveiling ceremony prior to the start of the home opener against Big 5 rival La Salle on Nov. 19. A pregame reception with light refreshments will be open to the public from 5:15-6 p.m. in the Assembly Room in Hutchinson Gymnasium. It will feature an appearance from the team, including several returning graduates from the title team, a few words from Coach McLaughlin and members of the administration as well as a 2013-14 highlight video. Prior to the game, the Penn Sports Network will broadcast a 30-minute pregame show on ILDN.tv which will include interviews with the returning graduates, the highlight video and a live showing of the banner unveiling. The first 200 fans at the reception/game will receive a free 2014 Ivy League championship Penn rally towel.
Fan Tweet of the Game:
@PennWBB This team makes me proud to be from Penn! Stick together. Improve every day. Great season ahead.— Fred Wakelin (@FredWakelin) November 15, 2014
Download: Penn at Tennessee (11-14-2014).pdf