Seeking its first win over Villanova since the 2001-2002 season, this was a game Penn women's basketball wanted badly.
And for nearly three quarters, it looked like the Quakers might get it. Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, Villanova had other plans.
Capitalizing on a 12-2 run to open the fourth quarter, the Wildcats pulled away late to defeat the Quakers, 60-48, on Wednesday night at the Palestra. The victory was Villanova’s (9-9, 4-3 Big East) third in a row and snapped a six-game win streak for Penn (9-5, 3-0 Ivy).
While it was a tough finish for the Red and Blue, coach Mike McLaughlin was proud of how his team battled.
“I thought in control of the game, we were very effective,” McLaughlin said. “You know, I like the way we started the game. We played the first half the right way. The first four, five, six possessions of the second half, the third quarter, I thought we were in a nice flow and then I thought we lost control.”
The Quakers’ strong play in the first half was especially noteworthy considering the Quakers were without junior guard Lauren Whitlatch. Coach McLaughlin wouldn’t comment on Whitlatch’s status, but the Bloomington, Indiana native watched the entire game from the bench in street clothes.
Whitlatch’s absence also forced Penn to break from its usual starting lineup for the first time all season. Starting in place of Whitlatch was junior guard Beth Brzozowski, making her first career start.
Brzozowski distributed the ball well, finishing with three assists, but struggled all game to find her shot. The 5-foot-8 sharpshooter finished the game with only two points on 25 percent shooting from the field.
With Whitlatch out and Brzozowski struggling, the Quakers instead looked to their usual starters for offense. The other four starters all scored more than eight points, but none of them were really able to get themselves going.
Junior guard Anna Ross continued her hot scoring early in the game with two three-pointers in the first quarter, but scored only four points in the second half. Stipanovich also played well at times, but finished with only 11 points despite her efficient shooting from the field.
And while Penn struggled offensively, it was Villanova’s three-point shooting that hurt the Red and Blue most. Led by a combined seven threes from junior center Megan Quinn and sophomore guard Adrianna Hahn, the Wildcats lit the Quakers up from downtown for 10 three-pointers.
“They come out and hit first two threes, we talk about it the whole time, but we bounced back,” McLaughlin said. “I think that was good growth. But when we didn’t score and they hit a three, that’s when it was different. Early was different than later.”
Unfortunately for the Quakers, things don’t get any easier from here. Penn’s next matchup is with a Temple squad that will be one of Penn’s toughest opponents all season. It remains to be seen if Whitlatch will be able to play in that game, but the Red and Blue will have their hands full even with her in the lineup.
“That’s going to be a track meet,” McLaughlin said. “We have to control them hopefully the best we can. Two contrasting styles and a really good basketball team. So we’ll get over this one tonight, and we’ll get ready for that one.”
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