LL Cool J would say “don’t call it a comeback,” but that’s exactly how to describe Penn women’s basketball dramatic win on Saturday.
After falling behind by 19 points in the first half, the Quakers fought all the way back to topple Drexel in the final seconds at the Palestra, 46-44. In this edition of the Battle on 33rd Street, senior guard Alyssa Baron drained the jumper with 2.6 seconds left to complete the improbable comeback.
After Baron’s clutch two-pointer, the Dragons’ Rachel Pearson put up a desperation trey that did not fall, finishing off a 21-point turnaround.
Last season, the Red and Blue (5-2) were trounced in their matchup at Drexel (4-7), losing 77-50 across the street at Daskalakis Athletic Center.
And in the early going, it looked like Penn was due for more of the same at the Palestra.
The Quakers played from behind for the entire first half. Neither team jumped out right after the opening tip, but Drexel’s offense turned it on halfway through the opening half. In a five-minute span, the Dragons went on a 15-4 scoring run and led the Quakers, 26-7, with 4:33 left in the half.
But Penn’s offense came alive in the last four minutes to begin closing the gap. A 10-0 run by the Red and Blue cut the deficit to just nine points at the half, 26-17.
In the final half, the Red and Blue looked for their secret weapon – freshman center Sydney Stipanovich –to create some momentum. Stipanovich had a big game, posting a double-double with a game-high 14 points and 19 rebounds. The freshman fought through a potent Dragons defense to lead Penn with 10 points in the last 20 minutes alone.
Penn started out the second half quickly, scoring four early points before Drexel responded with a few free throws.
Later in the half, junior guard Kathleen Roche sank a trey just at the right time, putting the Quakers back into the game, down just two points, 32-30.
Led by the shooting efforts of Roche again, the Quakers went on a run to take a 37-36 lead.
However, the Dragons wouldn’t let Penn run away. They created a handful of turnovers to take back the lead, putting Penn behind, 44-39, with just 2:28 to play.
But just when the Red and Blue needed them most, Roche and Stipanovich came through with a three and a two, respectively, on consecutive possessions to tie the score at 44-44 with 1:31 to go.
And after both team’s exchanged misses, Penn called a timeout with just 14 seconds to go, holding the ball for a final shot to set up Baron’s late heroics.
Despite the game-winning jumper, Baron struggled from the field, going 2-for-15 shooting while notching seven points and 10 rebounds.
And with seven minutes of playing time, sophomore guard Keiera Ray made her season debut, adding a point and an assist to the winning effort after missing Penn’s first six games with a knee injury.
The Quakers will look to build on their five-game win streak when they fly south for the winter to take on the Miami on New Year’s Day.
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