Don’t let the 63-53 scoreline deceive you; Penn women’s basketball took an explosive Temple squad down to the wire in tonight’s Big 5 finale. With 5:49 left on the clock, senior Kasey Chambers knocked down a clutch three pointer to give the Red and Blue a 48-47 lead, and it looked like the Quakers were ready to pull off the upset. However, the offense limped to the finish line as Temple closed on a 16-5 run.
Two big takeaways from tonight:
1. Even though the Quakers let Temple get away from them in the end, the defensive showing was one to be proud of.
The less glamorous side of basketball took centerstage for the Quakers (9-6, 0-4 Big 5) in this showdown at the Palestra, as the team racked up an impressive 11 steals and six blocks, and kept the Owls (16-3, 4-0), who average 72 points per game, mostly at bay. However, the Red and Blue’s difficulties grabbing rebounds on defense undermined the otherwise stellar performance. The Owls grabbed 19 offensive boards and were given too many opportunities for second-chance points. Still, a performance like this against a team as good as Temple should inspire tremendous amounts of confidence for the Quakers going forward into the heart of the Ivy League season.
2. When Sydney’s on, the team’s on.
Senior center Sydney Stipanovich squared off against Temple’s freshman center Shannen Atkinson, a McDonald’s High School All-American, and played one of her strongest games of the season. She scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but beyond that she constantly provided the spark when the team needed it. Some of the Quakers’ most reliable scorers of the year, such as juniors Michelle Nwokedi and Anna Ross, couldn’t get much going from the field, but Stipanovich was able to shoot an impressive 7-of-15 from the field and keep the Quakers close all through the game. Down the line, Harvard looks to be the toughest test for the Quakers, and on the Crimson’s star-studded roster is freshman Jeannie Boehm, another McDonald’s All-American who the Red and Blue will need to shut down if a victory is to be secured. Stipanovich showed tonight that she’s more than ready for the task, and can be counted on to galvanize the team.
In early December, the Owls thrashed Villanova 83-48 (the same Villanova that the Quakers lost to by a score of 60-48 just last week). Needless to say, another Temple victory wasn’t unexpected, but the inspired performance that took place in the Palestra tonight showed that the Quakers have what it takes to play with some of the best. The Red and Blue can go into Sunday’s game against Stevens Tech on Sunday with a bolstered sense of confidence, and they’ll need as much of that they can get for the matchup against the Crimson following that.
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