PHILADELPHIA - A Big 5 postseason rematch lived up to the hype in a Sunday matinee at The Palestra. However, theback-and-forth affairended in season-ending heartbreak for the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team in a 61-56 loss to Temple in the second round of the WNIT.
Penn, which finished 21-9 on the year, earned the program's first-ever Big 5 title and won 20 games for just the third time in school history (second straight season). The Quakers also reached the WNIT for the first time and earned a school-record third-straight postseason appearance.
How it Happened
It was a Big 5 battle from the start. The first matchup between these teams came down to the wire as the Quakers won 52-50 on Jan. 5 to earn a share of the Big 5 title. The second matchup mirrored the first in pretty much every way other than the final result.
Penn made the first two shot attempts and led 5-0 in the first minute, but after that, it was all defense from two teams who know each other well.
Aside from two Temple free throws, neither team scored for six minutes. Eventually the teams broke the scoreless spell and traded buckets before the Owls went on a quick 8-0 run to lead 12-9 at the midway point.
Penn played without senior Kara Bonenberger, who missed the first game of her career after suffering a season-ending injury early in the first round win over Hofstra. Freshman Michelle Nwokedi tried to make up for her absence. She finished with her eighth double-double of the season and scored the game's next six points to start a 9-0 run and put Penn in front, 18-12 with 6:24 left in the half.
Temple scored 10 of the next 12 to go on top by two, but Penn countered with a 7-2 run to close the half and take a 27-24 lead into the locker room.
There were seven ties and nine lead changes in the game, and most came in the second half. Temple scored the first six points to go up three, but five in a row from Penn had the Quakers up two.
That was a trend. Temple went back up 34-32 with 12:38 to go when Penn went on a 9-0 run. Freshman Anna Ross had five points in that span and sophomore Sydney Stipanovich hit a jumper to put Penn on top, 41-34 with 8:15 to go.
However, 64 seconds later, it was a one-point game again after back-to-back Temple threes.
Penn pushed its lead to 46-42, but the Owls answered with seven in a row and led 49-46 with 3:04 to play.
It was a four-point deficit, 53-49 with 1:45 left when senior Katy Allen drove the lane, scored, was fouled and converted the three-point play to make it a one-point game, 53-52, with 1:16 to go.
Temple hit two free throws, forced a miss, and hit two more free throws to go up 57-52 with 27 seconds remaining. Penn never had the ball with a chance to tie again.
Inside the Numbers
It was the first game Penn played without Bonenberger on the floor since March 8, 2011. She played in all 117 games of her career (a school record) and had started 92 in a row since Feb. 25, 2012.
Penn finished 20-of-56 (35.7%) from the field, including 3-of-7 (42.9%) from three. Temple was 21-of-53 (39.6%) overall and 8-of-18 (44.4%) from three.
Nwokedi finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and three assists in 38 minutes. All of Penn's starters played at least 30 minutes in Bonenberger's abscence.Stipanovich added 13 points, five rebounds and a game-high five assists, while Ross was also in double figures with 10 points.
As for the seniors, Allen finished with five points, four rebounds and a team-high two steals, while Roche had seven points and another three in her final career game. She finished sixth all-time at Penn with 155 career three-pointers.Busch came off the bench and added four points in 14 minutes for the Quakers.
Four senior captains -- Katy Allen, Kara Bonenberger, Kathleen Roche and Renee Busch -- will graduate as the all-time winningest class in school history. They won 74 games, which included the first Big 5 title in program history, an Ivy League championship and NCAA appearance in 2013-14 and the first three postseason wins in school history.