After two straight Big 5 losses, even a blizzard couldn’t hold Penn women’s basketball back.
With Penn and Temple tied at 70 and just 40 seconds left, Alyssa Baron did what she does best. The senior guard took a hand-off from Kara Bonenberger, drove hard to the lane and threw up a floater as she drew a foul, making a three-point play.
“It’s a new play that we actually put in for this game,” Baron said. “I kind of just hung in the air and was able to get it off, and she hit my arm just enough for the foul and the and-1.”
The play helped put Penn over the top, as they defeated Temple Wednesday night for the first time since 2003, 74-70.
The win also marked just the second time ever that the Red and Blue (9-5, 2-2 Big 5) have recorded two Big 5 wins in a single season. The last time that happened was 2004-05. It is all the more impressive considering every Big 5 game was played on the road and three of the other four teams are ranked in the top 50 in Ratings Performance Index.
The win followed two tough losses to Villanova and La Salle, by one and eight points, respectively. Additionally, Penn was without starting forward Katy Allen and backup point guard Keiera Ray.
Nevertheless, the Quakers got a huge lift from forward Kara Bonenberger, who scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“Kara was a beast — offensively and defensively,” Baron said of her teammate. “She was blocking shots, getting rebounds on offense. Anytime we put it in to her, she put it in the basket and was pretty much unstoppable.”
For a team that preaches defense, it was Penn’s sound offensive that kept the team in the game and within striking distance of the Owls (10-8, 1-3 Big 5).
The game started out with a fast pace, and the Quakers were led early on by Baron, who contributed to each of Penn’s first five baskets via three field goals and two assists.
And in her first career start, freshman center Sydney Stipanovich contributed with six points in the first half, as well as five rebounds and four blocks, before finishing with 17 points and 10 boards.
“Our offense was really good,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “They played us in zone, they played us in man and they trapped us. We executed really well, as well as we ever have.
“Nine turnovers against a really athletic group is an unbelievable accomplishment.”
And when Temple’s offense struck Penn with a run in the second half, the Red and Blue responded with a well-rounded attack, tying up the score and leading to the close finish.
The win marks another high point in the long-term rebuilding of the program. It was the ninth nonconference win tying the record from 1999-2000, but more importantly demonstrates the Quakers continued growth.
“As a coach, for me, to have Megan and Alyssa who were here four years ago and not even be competitive, [to now] winning two and having a chance to win the two others is a remarkable accomplishment for them,” McLaughlin said.
And even as campus remains shuttered, hidden from the cold, the Quakers head into Saturday’s matchup with the New Jersey Institute of Technology heating up, just in time for the Ivies.
“I definitely enjoyed not having class today and yesterday, me being from Miami, not really used to the snow,” Baron said.
“It did prove actually to be a good thing with a win at Temple.”