It isn’t always pretty.
Coming off of a big win over Princeton last weekend, the Quakers came out flat against La Salle before fighting off a late comeback en route to a 78-68 win on Martin Luther King Day. Junior guard Kasey Chambers had her best game of the season, scoring 13 of her career-high 18 points in the fourth quarter to go along with eight rebounds and six assists.
“I thought the big play there was they got a three, we got to the foul line, made the first one and then Kasey got a big offensive rebound,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I thought Kasey was tremendous.”
The Quakers (11-2) are in the midst of a three-game Big 5 stretch before returning to conference play in late January. The win over the Explorers (3-15) gives the Red and Blue their first Big 5 win of the season, after a four-point loss to Saint Joseph’s in early December.
In the first quarter, Penn couldn’t find the bottom of the net. Shooting just 2-for-19, the Quakers stayed in striking distance of the Explorers with impressive defense, blocking six shots.
“We definitely got outplayed in the first quarter. They out-willed us, they went after the ball a lot harder than we did,” McLaughlin said. “We turned it around and had one of our better quarters of the year.”
As soon as the second quarter began, the team looked entirely different. Penn put together one of its best quarters of basketball this season, dominating the Explorers from the start and jumping out to a 10-point halftime lead.
In one sequence, sophomore guard Anna Ross dished the ball from one corner to the other, triggering a drive from Ashley Russell for the freshman’s second basket of the game. In another, a series of slick passes found sophomore Lauren Whitlatch open from deep as she went 2-for-4 from beyond the arc in the quarter.
Despite Penn’s momentum coming out of the second quarter, La Salle never gave in. The Explorers outscored Penn 15-12 in the third quarter, before the fireworks began in the fourth.
As the fourth quarter progressed, the pace quickened, with Penn scoring 16 points over one three-minute stretch as both teams shot effectively and made numerous trips to the line.
Sydney Stipanovich continued an impressive stretch of play with a team-high 21 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. The junior forward’s strong performance is nothing unusual, as she’s earned Ivy League Player of the Week honors in three of the past four weeks in the midst of a six-game win streak for the Quakers.
The game was an uncharacteristically high-scoring one for Penn, which has topped 78 points just once this season — putting the team in a situation which doesn’t particularly suit a squad more comfortable in low-scoring defensive battles.
Over the course of the next week, Penn will take on its final two non-conference opponents: on the road against local rivals Temple and Villanova. The Quakers still remain in contention for the Big 5 title, which the team won a share of last season.
But the Big 5 event on everyone’s mind is the upcoming men’s basketball doubleheader at the Palestra on Wednesday, with a game between La Salle and Temple followed by a Penn-Saint Joseph’s finale.
“I want them at that game on Wednesday night. Sometimes they don’t get to celebrate the Big 5 because we don’t have the same crowds and intensity,” McLaughlin said.
“I do want them to capture that and see what it’s about a little bit.”
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