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December Total: 4
Season Total: 17
PHILADELPHIA - A heart-pounding thriller only escalated in intensity when Drexel tied the game at the buzzer in regulation. But, in front of the largest and loudest home crowd of the season, the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team continued the best start in program history with its first win in the Battle for 33rd Street since 2006, 67-65, in an overtime matinee at The Palestra on Thursday.
Freshman Kara Bonenberger notched her first career double-double with a career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds in her first collegiate start. Sophomore Alyssa Baron, who leads the Ivy League in scoring, added 26 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
"That was a tremendous college basketball game," said head coach Mike McLaughlin. "It was a great atmosphere. To play in front of a good crowd, a lively crowd, it's only going to help us moving forward and in a positive direction.
"Just to play in The Palestra any day is a great thing, but with the people here and the atmosphere with Drexel being the next block over, this is what Philadelphia basketball is all about," McLaughlin added. "Both teams competed really hard and I'm just really happy we found a way to win."
Off to the best eight-game start in school history, Penn (6-2) has won six games before the month of January for the first time in the program's 42-year history. And the 2011-12 Quakers still have two games remaining before the New Year. The Quakers, who also won in overtime at The Palestra in the season opener against St. Francis (N.Y.), are 5-0 at home for the first time since the 2003-04 Ivy League championship season.
Drexel, which fell to 5-4 on the year, had won four straight meetings in the Battle for 33rd Street by double digits, including a 31-point win over the Quakers last year at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Penn led by as many as 11 in the second half. But the lead was just two with 2.2 seconds remaining. Drexel's Marisa Crane took an inbounds pass, drove the lane and barely beat the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
The team's swapped baskets at the start of the extra session until a Baron free throw gave the Quakers a 61-60 lead with 3:09 left. The score stuck for the next two minutes. But with 1:02 left, sophomore Meghan McCullough buried a deep corner jumper to put Penn up three.
Each team then hit a pair of free throws and with 15 seconds to go, senior Jess Knapp blocked the game-tying three-point attempt. Baron snagged the rebound and made both free throws to give the Quakers their sixth win in eight games.
Drexel led for all but 1:42 of the first half behind superb shooting. The Dragons were near 50 percent (10-of-21) in the opening half, but the Red and Blue never trailed by more than Drexel's initial 6-0 lead.
The teams shared buckets for most of the half until Baron and Bonenberger hit back-to-back buckets for Penn's first lead, 21-20, with 2:01 left. But the Dragons had the last bucket to take a 22-21 edge into the locker rooms.
Drexel scored two quick buckets to start the second half, but Penn remained unfazed and just three minutes in, they had the lead back, 27-26, on a deep jumper from the top of the key by Baron.
Freshman Katy Allen scored from the corner to give the Quakers a 33-30 edge before the Dragons took their final lead of regulation with five straight points.
The Quakers responded with a 17-4 run. Freshman Jackie Kates capped that stretch with a pair of free throws to give Penn its largest lead, 50-39, with 6:13 to go.
The Dragons chipped away and back-to-back threes pulled them within 56-54 with 1:04 left. That set up the dramatic finish to regulation.
Bonenberger, who added two assists and four steals in 41 minutes, started for senior Jourdan Banks who missed the game due to injury. Baron played all but one minute. Knapp had four points, four assists and seven rebounds. Kates finished with six points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
For the game, Drexel was 22-of-55 (40.0%) from the field, while Penn was 20-of-55 (36.4%). Penn entered the game No. 7 in the NCAA in three-point defense at 22.1 percent. Drexel entered ranked 22nd in the nation from beyond the arc at 36.7 percent. On Thursday, the Dragons were just 7-of-24 (29.2%).
The Quakers won the rebounding battle, 39-36, and forced 19 turnovers - well above Drexel's average of 13.9 which also ranked 22nd in the nation. Meanwhile, Penn had 14 assists and just 14 turnovers. In the last two games the Quakers have 30 assists and 26 turnovers, and are +10 in turnover margin.
After the holiday break, the Quakers will travel to the Pacific time zone for the first time since 2005. Penn will participate in San Diego State’s annual Surf ‘N Slam Classic. The Red and Blue take on UNC-Greensboro on Dec. 29 and then play the host Aztecs on Dec. 30. Tip off for both games is 2 p.m. (PST).