PHILADELPHIA -It was a banner night all around for the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team. The Quakers unveiled the 2013-14 Ivy League championship banner prior to the game and then dominated Big 5 rival La Salle, 57-29, in the home opener at The Palestra on Wednesday night.
Penn matched the school record for the fewest points allowed in a Big 5 game, originally set in a 65-29 victory over Temple on Jan. 17, 1995. It was also Penn's largest Big 5 win since that victory nearly 20 years ago, and the last time a Penn team held any opponent under 30 points. In addition, the Quakers have now won three straight over La Salle for the first time in school history -- the program's first three-game win streak over a Big 5 team since 1980-82 (Temple).
Playing underneath the new championship banner, Penn (1-1, 1-0 Big 5) set the tone from the start. Senior Kathleen Roche hit a three off the opening tip and the Quakers scored the first nine points of the game.
La Salle, which had more turnovers (15) than points (13) in the first half, scored the next four, but Penn went on a 14-4 run to go up 23-8 midway through the opening half. Roche and senior Kara Bonenberger each had four points in that stretch and the Quakers were well on their way to a Big 5 victory -- marking the first time the program has won a Big 5 game in three straight seasons since 1999-02.
Sophomore Sydney Stipanovich scored the last two points of the half to put Penn up 29-13 at the break. Stipanovich, who finished with her 11th career double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds, then scored Penn's first nine points of the second half. Her baseline jumper with 13:04 to play gave the Quakers a 38-17 edge.
The lead grew to 22 after a steal and fastbreak layup from freshman Anna Ross put Penn on top, 43-21, at the 9:35 mark.
La Salle (0-2, 0-2 Big 5), which had scored 72 points at Temple on Friday before losing at the buzzer, was never closer than 20 the rest of the way as the Quakers won their eighth straight home game -- the program's longest winning streak at The Palestra in 13 years.
Inside the Numbers
Penn held the Explorers to 11-of-50 (22.0%) from the floor, including 0-for-11 from three-point range. It was the third time in the Coach McLaughlin era in which Penn did not allow a three-pointer. Meanwhile, the Quakers were 20-of-55 (36.4%) overall and 4-of-15 (26.7%) from three. Penn outrebounded the Explorers, 45-35, and forced 23 La Salle turnovers.
Ross finished with a game-high four assists and three steals, while senior Renee Busch came off the bench to contribute a pair of points and match Ross with a game-high three steals. Freshman Michelle Nwokedi scored seven late points on 3-of-3 shooting, while junior Keiera Ray added six points off the bench. Roche finished with eight points and five rebounds, while Bonenberger had six points and five boards in addition to two steals, two blocks and three assists.
It was Penn's first game at The Palestra since earning the Ivy League title in the season finale at Princeton in March -- an 80-64 triumph ina de facto Ancient Eight championship game. Just prior to tip off, the 2013-14 Ivy League championship team was honored prior to the unveiling. Meghan McCullough, who started every game at point guard for last year's title team, returned for the ceremony. The other three graduated seniors recorded video messages for the occasion.
A quick trip to Annapolis. The Quakers will take on Navy Saturday at 7 p.m. Penn has never won in four trips to Annapolis and is 2-5 all-time against the Midshipmen. The first meeting between these programs since 2009 can be seen for free on the Patriot League Network.
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