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EASTON, Pa. - Its certainly been a happy New Year so far for the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team. The Quakers began the 2011 calender year with a 59-52 road win over Lafayette Sunday afternoon at Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Pa.
Penn, which has not lost since Dec. 7, notched its first three-game winning streak since the end of the 2008-09 season to improve to 5-5 on the year. This is the latest in a season that the Quakers have been at .500 since the 2004-05 campaign. Lafayette fell to 6-8 overall.
Lafayette was in control early. The Leopards scored the first four before junior Jess Knapp converted a layup off an interior pass from senior Erin Power for Penn’s first bucket at the 16:11 mark. The Leopards then scored the next six for a 10-2 lead.
However, behind senior Jerin Smith’s efforts off the bench - she tied a career high with 16 points, the Quakers battled back. Smith had eight points for Penn during a 12-4 run that was capped by her steal and breakaway lay-up to tie the game at 14-14 with 7:08 remaining in the half.
Knapp gave Penn its first lead of the day, 18-17, with a driving lay-up at the 5:03 mark of the opening half. Two minutes later, another Knapp lay-up gave Penn a 22-20 lead.
Freshman standout Alyssa Baron was hobbled by injury throughout the game and was held scoreless until she converted a big three-point play with seven seconds left in the half. The play stopped a 7-0 Lafayette run and pulled Penn within two, 27-25, at intermission.
A little more than two minutes into the second half, Lafayette led 32-29, but back-to-back buckets by Smith and a mid-range jumper from freshman Meghan McCullough gave the Quakers a 35-32 lead with 14:20 to play.
The Leopards broke a near five-minute scoring drought with a three to pull within 36-35, but Penn scored the next four to gain a 40-35 advantage with 11:33 remaining.
But the Quakers went the next five minutes without a field goal and were heavily relying on their defense to keep them in front. It worked until the 6:36 mark when the Leopards converted a three-point play to regain the lead, 42-41.
Penn responded in a big way. On the Red and Blue's ensuing possession, Smith gave the Quakers the lead back with a turnaround jumper from inside the paint and sparked the eventual game-winning run. Penn scored 12 straight points and when McCullough drained a step-back three as the shot clock wound down with 2:44 left, Penn led 53-42. The Quakers struggled from the free throw line (40 percent on 10-of-25 shooting), but made enough to hold off Lafayette.
In addition to leading the team in scoring on 8-of-15 shooting, Smith had four rebounds, one block and a career-best four steals. Knapp had a near double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds as well as three assists and three blocks. Power set a career high with a team-high four blocks while adding nine rebounds, two assists, a steal and five points. McCullough played a team-high 36 minutes as she scored 13 points, dished a team-best four assists and gathered a collegiate-best six rebounds. Freshman Courtney Wilson and junior Jourdan Banks played key minutes during Penn's early first-half comeback and combined for seven rebounds.
The Quakers, who broke a three-game losing streak to their in-state rivals and overcame a halftime deficit to win for the first time since 2008-09, held Lafayette to 31 percent shooting from the field (31-of-68), and just 9.1 percent from beyond the arc (1-of-11), while forcing 19 turnovers by the Leopards. Penn was 23-of-66 (34.8%) from the floor, had 13 assists and just 13 turnovers.
Penn opens Ivy League play on Saturday when they visit arch rival Princeton at Jadwin Gym. Tip off is set for 6 p.m.
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