Close call between Penn women's basketball and ’Nova
15 second-half points by Wildcats forward Laura Sweeney’s ultimately doomed the Red and Blue
January 17, 2013, 12:52 am·
Andrew Dierkes | DP
For the second time this season, Penn women’s basketball had a major conference team on the ropes in the second half at the Palestra. And just like in November against Virginia, the game slowly slipped away.
Villanova (14-2, 4-0 Big 5) pulled away from the Quakers with an early second half run, defeating the Quakers, 48-44.
Penn was in control of the low scoring affair, going on a 21-5 run starting at the end of the first half to gain an eight-point edge. However, Villanova responded with a 20-5 run of their own, taking the lead for good over the Red and Blue.
The Quakers (7-7, 1-2 Big 5) made a final attempt to overtake the Wildcats at the end of the game, cutting Villanova’s advantage to just two points in the final minute. But guard junior Devon Kane hit two free throws to seal the victory for Villanova.
“I was happy with [the performance], other than the result.” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “They are a top-10 RPI team that we had on the ropes. We had opportunities to win and I thought we played solid.”
Villanova’s comeback started with the solid performance of senior guard Laura Sweeney. After dealing with foul trouble that limited her first-half minutes, Sweeney came out with 15 points in the second half to lead all scorers with 19 overall.
The win clinches the Big 5 championship for the Wildcats. Penn had the chance to win it with wins against Villanova and Temple, but fell just short. Despite the loss, the team had a decidedly positive outlook on its performance.
“We are definitely making big strides in the Big 5,” junior guard Alyssa Baron said. “All of these games have been close so far and coming into next year, we’ll be up there.”
Baron had one of her strongest performances of the season, scoring 18 points while also leading the team in rebounds. Baron helped provide the Quakers with offense after their slow start to the game.
“Alyssa has played in this before. She has played against the best,” McLaughlin said. “She is one of the best in the Big 5 and she played really well tonight. She took responsibility on both sides of the court.”
After rebounding the ball well in the first half, the Quakers were beaten on the boards at the end of the game. Villanova had four consecutive offensive rebounds in the final three minutes that took precious seconds off the clock.
“The bottom line is, you can’t let that happen,” McLaughlin said. “They are a methodical team as it is and they broke our back by having to defend them again.”
After the Princeton loss on Saturday, the Quakers have now lost two straight for only the second time all season.
Penn now has just one more non-conference opponent, Temple, before playing its final 13 games against the rest of the Ivy League.
“Villanova has won all of its Big 5 games, so it shows that we can play with anyone,” Baron said. “We are looking to get our second Big 5 win, even though we didn’t get this one. I think it will help us heading into the Ivy League.”