Close, but no cigar.
In its final Big 5 tilt of the season, Penn women's basketball just couldn’t keep up with Temple’s size and athleticism, falling by a score of 63-53. The score doesn’t do Penn justice, as the Red and Blue held a lead as late as 4:47 in the fourth quarter. The Quakers (9-6, 0-4 Big 5) finish winless in Big 5 play on the season, failing for the first time in five years to win a game in the mini-conference.
The Owls’ sheer athleticism proved too much for the Red and Blue to handle. Temple (16-3, 4-0) smothered Penn on defense, playing physical and getting in the Penn guards’ faces. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Quakers couldn’t keep Temple off the glass, spoiling an otherwise solid defensive effort. Penn let up 42 rebounds, including 19 offensive rebounds that helped prolong Temple’s possessions. It didn’t help that senior center Sydney Stipanovich, one of Penn’s leading rebounders, got into foul trouble early, forcing her to sit key minutes in the first half.
“I thought we defended them really well, we just couldn’t keep them off the glass,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I thought we had to play them in zone, and we did, but we were going to give up rebounds, and that’s what ended up happening.”
This was best exemplified in the second quarter, where the Quakers were held pointless for nearly five minutes while Temple compiled seven offensive rebounds, including three on the same possession. Despite all of this, the Quakers only entered the half down by six points.
The Red and Blue came out hungry in the third quarter. After six early points from Stipanovich, the Quakers cracked down on defense, holding Temple to just four points in the last seven minutes of the quarter. Despite several chances to take the lead, Penn ended the quarter trailing by just one.
But the luck ran out in the fourth. After the teams traded buckets and the lead up until midway through the final period, Temple started to put the game away. Offensive rebounds were the killer, as the Quakers could not keep the Owls off the glass, and the deficit became too much for Penn to come back from. The Red and Blue didn’t help their own cause, missing several opportunities to claw back into the game.
“It’s deflating,” McLaughlin said. “We had stretches of four layups in a row at a critical time, we had inside position, but it’s basketball.”
Despite the loss, there were plenty of bright spots for the Quakers. The defense buckled down and played stingy, highlighted by senior guard Kasey Chambers’ seven steals. Junior guard Anna Ross continued her excellent stretch as a facilitator on offense, racking up eight assists, and freshman Phoebe Sterba and sophomore Princess Aghayere both made important contributions.
The Quakers will have one more shot to regain their momentum when they take on Stevens Tech (8-7) in their final non-conference game of the season this Sunday. A Division III program, the Ducks have a star guard in graduate student Kaitlyn Astel, who is averaging over 17 points and seven rebounds per game. However, the game represents a perfect opportunity for the Red and Blue to come out hungry and get back on track before getting back to the Ancient Eight.
“We’re going to be ready for Ivy play next Friday and Saturday,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll have a couple of days of practice, get ready for Sunday, and we’re going to be in Ivy week next week ready to go.”
Even though they couldn’t pull off a win in the Big 5, McLaughlin and his team know there are bigger targets for the squad, and they can take the next step towards the Ivy tournament this Sunday.
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