PHILADELPHIA - A historic season opener almost ended with a historic victory, but the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team lost a late lead and fell, 57-50, to No. 14/12 Duke at The Palestra on Friday.
Under the new NCAA rules, this was the first game in program history played in quarters instead of halves, and Penn (0-1) nearly earned the program's first-ever win over a Top 25 opponent. The Quakers led by as many as six with 6:55 to play, but the Blue Devils (1-0) used a 14-0 run to escape The Cathedral of College Basketball with a win.
How it Happened
The game started off slowly for both sides, with only a single shot made in the first five minutes as the Quakers trailed 4-0. Junior Sydney Stipanovich finally got the Red and Blue on the board as the first quarter crossed the halfway point, hitting a mid-range jumper. The first frame ended with the Blue Devils holding an 11-4 lead.
In the second quarter, both teams found a little life, despite Penn’s struggles from three. The Blue Devils maintained their seven-point advantage for most of the half, until the Red and Blue broke through, down 16-8. Sophomore Beth Brzozowski hit a three with 5:55 left in the first half, followed by three free throws in four attempts from Nwokedi to make it 16-14.
Duke’s Erin Mathias netted the Blue Devils two more, but senior Kasey Chambers was quick to respond for the Quakers, making a jumper to bring the Red and Blue back within two.
The half closed as the Blue Devils went on a five-point run to make it 23-16, but Penn was ready to take advantage of all four quarters.
Despite shooting 1-of-18 from three-point range in the first half, the Red and Blue refused to give up the long ball. Sophomore Lauren Whitlatch opened up the third quarter with three treys in the first five minutes to get the Quakers within 27-25.
Duke went on an 8-0 run, before Brzozowski got Penn back on the board with a three-pointer at the midway point in the quarter. Thirty seconds later, Whitlatch hit another long-range off a Brzozowski pass, before sophomore Michelle Nwokedi knotted the game at 35 with 3:46 left in the third quarter. The Quakers weren't done yet, scoring six of the last eight points and taking a 41-37 lead into the final period.
Neither team could find the basket to start the fourth quarter, with the score holding at 41-37 before the Blue Devils broke the scoreless drought over two minutes in, sinking a pair of free throws. The Red and Blue responded with four straight thanks to freshman Princess Aghayere converting her free throw on an old-fashioned three-point play and Nwokedi sinking one of two attempts with 6:55 to play. That gave Penn a 45-39 lead.
From there, Duke managed to take control of the game, rattling off 14 unanswered points to take the 53-45 lead with 1:45 left. Whitlach got Penn back on the board with yet another three-pointer with 38 seconds left, bringing the Quakers within five at 53-48. But it would not prove enough.
The Quakers start the season off-and-running, with three games on tap in five days to open the year. Penn travels to Baltimore on Sunday to take on UMBC before hosting Lafayette on Tuesday.