Death, taxes, and Penn women’s basketball having trouble with Saint Joe’s.
Tuesday evening, the Quakers fell at home to the Hawks, 57-53, in the first Big 5 matchup of the year for the Red and Blue (1-3) as they fell to 2-40 all-time against Saint Joseph’s (1-3).
The Quakers opened things up where they left off on Friday: with a Lauren Whitlatch three-pointer. Whitlatch, coming off a career-high 24 points at Rhode Island, was good for just six on Tuesday, all of them from three.
A quick start wasn’t sustainable, however, as the Hawks’ ball movement around the perimeter consistently enabled them to find the open man — they shot .615 from the floor in the opening quarter. Penn entered the second frame down 18-14, just in time for Saint Joe’s to go on a 6-0 run.
It wasn’t one end of the court or the other that did the Quakers in. A combination of shooting struggles and difficulty getting offensive boards made things difficult early for the Red and Blue.
Finally, four minutes into the second quarter, a Whitlatch three got Penn back in business.
Michelle Nwokedi, second-leading scorer in the Ivy League, didn’t get on the board until midway through the frame — and for every shot Nwokedi and the Quakers made, it seemed like the Hawks found an easy three or put-back.
Thanks to her 5-for-7 performance at the charity stripe, Nwokedi recorded her third double-double on the year with 11 points and 11 boards — as senior center Sydney Stipanovich led all scoring with 16 — but all told it was a cold night shooting for the junior forward, going 3-for-15 from the floor.
“If the ball doesn’t go in the basket, I think we have to learn that one can’t turn into two possessions, then three possessions,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We need to mature as a basketball team.”
After falling behind, 33-21, Penn was able to close out the half on a 5-0 run, but it marked the third time in four games this season the Quakers found themselves trailing at the break.
When the second half started off quietly, junior guard Anna Ross made it 36-32 with her second trey of trey of the game. Although they held Saint Joseph’s to just seven third-quarter points, Penn wasn’t able to get closer than four, and they entered the final quarter down, 40-34.
Shooting woes have plagued the Red and Blue all year, and it was a 5-for-27 effort between the second and third quarters that doomed them on Tuesday. Nonetheless, Penn entered the fourth quarter in striking distance of the Hawks.
Again, it was the four-point barrier the Quakers seemed unable to overcome. Whenever the Red and Blue could get within four, Saint Joe’s found a little separation. Stipanovich kept Penn in the game, scoring eight in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough. The Quakers went down nine with 2:46 to play and couldn’t make up the deficit.
“It’s the Big 5. Every game is like a championship game, and coming out here we wanted to play with heart and do our best,” Nwokedi said. “Being down nine, it wasn’t a big deal for us, it was just, ‘Dig deeper. Find a way.’ So, we tried.”
Although Penn made it a game — making it a two-point contest with 16 seconds left thanks in part to six points from Ross in the final minute — the Hawks went 8-for-10 at the free throw line down the stretch, sealing the third-worst start for the Quakers in the Mike McLaughlin era.
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