PHILADELPHIA - For just the second time in school history, theUniversity of Pennsylvania women's basketball team topped Saint Joseph's and started 2-0 in Big 5 play. A dominant second half led to an impressive 65-51 victory over the Hawks at The Palestra on Tuesday night.
Penn (4-3, 2-0 Big 5) is now the only remaining unbeaten in Big 5 play and needs just one win in its final two Big 5 games (vs. Temple on Jan. 5 and vs. Villanova on Jan 21) to claim its first-ever Big 5 title. The Quakers, who have won three straight Big 5 games for the first time in school history, also tied the school record for most Big 5 wins in a single season and have now won two city conference games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history.
How it Happened
Saint Joseph's (3-6, 2-1 Big 5) scored first and led throughout the first half. But the deficit was never more than six. The Hawks lead was 10-6 after six minutes when senior Katy Allen hit a pair of free throws and freshman Michelle Nwokedi tied the game with a driving layup at the 11:01 mark.
Five straight Penn turnovers resulted in an 8-2 run for the Hawks, who had won 38 of the previous 39 meetings. The Quakers, however, regrouped and whittled the deficit to 22-19 at the half.
Penn then opened the second half with a score on seven straight possessions. Five different players scored, including a pair of buckets from senior Kathleen Roche and sophomore Sydney Stipanovich. That stretch resulted in a 15-4 run and a 34-26 lead within the first four minutes of the half.
Saint Joseph's responded with four straight, but Stipanovich, who finished with her second double-double of the season, combined with Allen to answer with back-to-back buckets and a 38-30 lead with 12:22 to go.
Senior Renee Busch took over from there. She hit three straight threes for the Quakers to ignite a 13-4 run and give the Red and Blue a 51-36 lead with just 5:29 to play.
The Hawks chipped away and eventually got within nine, but there was just 1:11 to play. At that point, Melanie Lockett, Roche and Stipanovich combined to go 8-for-8 from the free throw line to put the game away.
Inside the Numbers
Head Coach Mike McLaughlin tied the school record for most career Big 5 wins. The Quakers are now 50-9 (.847) in his tenure when scoring more than 60 points, including 23-1 over the last two seasons (only loss to Texas in the NCAA Tournament).
Penn, which earned its first-ever win over Saint Joseph's at The Palestra, was 22-of-45 (48.9%) from the floor, including an impressive 14-of-22 (63.6%) in the second half. The Quakers are now 35-1 over the past three seasons when shooting better than 40 percent from the floor. Penn missed all four three-point attempts in the first half, but were 4-of-8 (50.0%) in the second stanza.
The Quakers held Saint Joseph's to 22-of-70 (31.4%) from the field and 5-of-14 (35.7%) from three-point range. Penn's bench outscored the Hawks, 19-4 and the Red and Blue also held a slight rebounding advantage, 38-36.
Stipanovich posted her 12th career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Busch finished with 11 points and four boards in her first start since Feb. 2, 2012. Allen came off the bench to contribute eight points, six rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes. Lockett added seven points, while Roche finished with nine and three assists. Freshman Anna Ross had a team-high four assists and added five points.
School work will take precedent for the next 10 days or so as Finals start at Penn. The Quakers won’t hit the court for another game until Dec. 20 when they take one of the shortest road trips in all of college basketball. Penn players and staff will walk to Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center on the north side of 33rd street for the annual Battle of 33rd Street with the Dragons. Tip off is set for 2 p.m.
Fan Tweet of the Game
IT'S AN AM-BUSCH! @PennWBB going strong with 3s sunk by Busch!— Penn Band (@PennBand) December 9, 2014