BIMINI, BAHAMAS — In the end, they were just too much.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets harried and swarmed Penn women’s basketball in the first game of its tropical trip to the Junkanoo Jam. The Quakers matched every punch the tournament’s reigning champions threw, until eventually they ran out of steam and fell, 69-55.
Penn (1-2) kept the game within five or six points for almost the entire game, and even led for a few minutes, but the Yellow Jackets (6-0) — who are receiving votes in the AP Top-25 rankings poll — went on two crucial runs in the second half that ultimately forced the Quakers out of the game.
The first came at the start of the second half. Down by just one point at halftime, 36-35, the Quakers came out in the third quarter only to be stunned by an aggressive 10-0 run by Georgia Tech.
They managed to claw their way back into the game by the end of the quarter but were ambushed once again at the start of the fourth. What was a four-point game with ten minutes left became a 15-point game with five remaining. In the end, it proved too much.
"I thought defensively, we were really good against a really good team,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I was proud of that, but we just went through a few lulls at the beginning of the third quarter and fourth quarter. It was just too much to overcome.”
2016 Junkanoo Jam MVP Francesca Pan led the Yellow Jackets with another MVP-worthy performance, notching 17 points and constantly harrying Penn while on defense. Pan’s scoring effort was matched, however, by Penn’s rookie guard, Katie Kinum.
The freshman dropped a career-high 17 points to go with three assists in an almost single-handed attempt at times to keep her team in the game. Her first three field goal attempts were all contested three pointers that she drained. Though her efforts were in vain in the end, she still enjoyed the game of her career to this point.
“It felt really good,” Kinum said. “It was a really good environment, and I knew [my teammates] had my back, so that coming in to get my chance, so I knew I was ready for it.”
Kinum’s classmate and starting center Eleah Parker also gave a strong performance. In the first half, Parker put up 12 points, including 10 of Penn’s first 12 of the night. She also led the Quakers in rebounds with seven in what was an off night for the Philadelphians on the boards.
Matching Parker for points — and almost for rebounds — was senior captain Michelle Nwokedi. Otherwise, the Quakers had a relatively quiet night. They were out-rebounded by a margin of 44-35, and at halftime, the Yellow Jackets had almost twice as many offensive rebounds as defensive. The second-chance points the ACC powerhouse earned from those rebounds, and the turnovers they forced out of Penn, ended up being the difference-makers.
The Quakers will face off against Missouri State — who lost to No. 8 Baylor 100-58 in the first game of the day — on Friday night at 7:45pm. The winner will take third place in the Junkanoo Jam and leave the Bahamas with its head held high, if nothing else.
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