Women's Basketball Wins First-Ever Big 5 Title!


In the 36-year history of the Big 5, the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team had never won the city conference championship. Until Monday night.

In a thrilling finish at The Palestra, senior captain Renee Busch hit a game-winning three with 25.1 seconds remaining as the Quakers defeated Temple, 52-50, to earn the program's first-ever Big 5 title.

How it Happened
Moments after Temple hit a three to tie the game at 48-48 with 53 seconds remaining, Busch was open from beyond the arc at the top of the key. She missed. Her shot bounced off the back iron and into scrambling arms of Penn and Temple players alike. The ball trickled to the ground where senior captain Kara Bonenberger dove on the floor to cause a tie up and a jump ball.

Penn held the possession arrow and drew up another play for Busch. She found herself open at nearly the same exact spot. She didn't miss. The crowd, Penn bench, and surely all the alumni watching, erupted as Busch knocked down what is now the most memorable shot in Penn's Big 5 history.

Temple missed a three and then fouled senior captain Kathleen Roche, who made one free throw to push the lead to 52-50 with 4.0 seconds to go. Temple sprinted the ball down the floor and got off an unbalanced, contested three at the top of the key that never made it close.

And the Quakers were Big 5 champions for the first time.

Temple (7-9, 1-3 Big 5)actually led for the majority of the game. After a 5-5 start in the first two minutes, the Owls scored the next eight to go up 13-5 at the 12:18 mark. Penn (7-4, 3-0 Big 5)responded with seven quick points from four different scorers. Keiera Ray's free throw had the Quakers within 13-12 at the 10:33 mark.

Six minutes later, the Penn deficit was just two, 20-18, when sophomore center Sydney Stipanovich converted an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Red and Blue their first lead of the day, 21-20 with 3:16 left in the half.

However, the Owls scored six of the last seven points to give the visitors a 26-22 advantage at the break.

Roche tied the game, 27-27, early in the second half with her third three of the game. But once again, the Owls countered. And quickly. Six points in just over a minute gave Temple a 33-27 lead with 17:22 remaining.

The Quakers and Owls matched baskets over the next eight minutes and Penn trailed 40-36. Roche then stole a pass and pushed the ball down the floor where she pulled up and drained a mid-range jumper. On the next possession, freshman Anna Ross found Roche open for three in transition to give Penn a 41-40 lead with 8:32 to play.

Penn led 43-42 with 7:21 left and the pressure mounted. Neither team scored until a Temple free throw tied the game three minutes later. The Owls briefly took a 45-43 lead with 2:49 to play, but Roche converted a three-point play on the ensuing possession to put Penn up, 46-45.

Stipanovich scored inside to make it 48-45 with 1:11 left, but Temple tied it less than 20 seconds later. That set up the late-game heroics.

School Records
Penn set six school records on the night.

- First Big 5 championship in program history.
- First 3-0 start in Big 5 play.
- Most Big 5 wins in a season.
- First four-game Big 5 winning streak.
- Head Coach Mike McLaughlin's school-record seventh career Big 5 win.
- Four straight seasons at .500 or better in non-conference play for the first time.

Inside the Numbers
Penn (7-4, 3-0 Big 5), which defeated Temple at home for the first time since 1999 and has now won back-to-back games over the Owls for the first time since 1994-95, is the only unbeaten team remaining in Big 5 play. Regardless of what happens in their final Big 5 game -- against Villanova at The Palestra on Jan. 21 -- the Quakers have clinched at least a share of the Big 5 championship.

Stipanovich finished just shy of a triple-double with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks. She is the only player in school history with eight or more blocks in a game. A sophomore, she has now done that four times.

Bonenberger was just shy of a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.

Roche had her best game on one of the program's biggest nights. She finished with a career-high and game-high 22 points, which included 4-of-7 (.571) shooting beyond the arc, four rebounds and two assists.

Ross led the Quakers with a career-best six assists -- she has had four or more in six straight games now. She also pulled in a career-best seven rebounds.

Busch finished with six points as the Red and Blue were 17-of-56 (30.4%) in a highly defensive game. One of the biggest storylines throughout was the gaudy free-throw shooting. Both teams were 50 percent from the charity stripe. Penn was nearly as good from three at 6-of-15 (40%).

Meanwhile, Penn's defense held the Owls to 20-of-70 (28.6%) overall and 3-of-15 (20.0%) from beyond the arc. Penn had 17 turnovers to Temple's nine, but the Quakers had 12 assists on 17 baskets and the Owls had just four helpers. Both teams finished with 49 rebounds.

Up Next
A matchup with undefeated and nationally-ranked Princeton. The No. 22 Tigers are the first Ivy League team to be ranked in the Top 25 and are off to the best start in Ivy League women’s history at 16-0. Their last regular season loss? To the Quakers in the de facto Ivy League championship game on March 11 at Jadwin Gym. The rematch will take place at the same location in a doubleheader with the men’s teams. The women tip off at 2 p.m., followed by the men at 5 p.m. As is tradition, Penn and Princeton mark the first Ivy League games of the season.


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