They fought back, but it wasn't enough for the win.
After battling all game long, Penn women's basketball suffered a tough loss Friday night, falling 55-52 to Harvard in Cambridge.
With the loss, the Red and Blue (17-7, 8-3) broke a nine-game winning streak dating back to 2013 against the Crimson (15-9, 7-4 Ivy), who took a big step toward qualification to the Ivy League Tournament with the victory.
For most of the first half, it was all Harvard. The Crimson stretched its lead to as many as 15 points at 29-14 before Penn got going on offense. A dominant 16-0 run which lasted over nine minutes on both sides of the halftime break rocketed the Quakers into a 32-31 lead with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter.
It was back and forth for much of the second half, with the lead changing hands four times in the third quarter alone. The teams were deadlocked at 41 entering the fourth quarter, but Harvard kept the Quakers off the scoreboard for six of the game's final eight minutes, allowing the Crimson to pull away down the stretch.
In the final two minutes, Penn was able to narrow Harvard's lead to three points twice with two three-pointers from seniors Lauren Whitlatch and Anna Ross, but it struggled to stop the Crimson's offense when it mattered most. In the end Harvard pulled out the win behind senior Taylor Rooks, who had a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds to propel the team.
Although the Quakers outrebounded the Crimson 44-39, they struggled offensively throughout the game, shooting 34% on the night. Additionally, Penn committed 15 turnovers to Harvard's 11, leading to 15 points for the Crimson compared to just six for the Quakers on the other end.
From behind the three-point line, the Red and Blue were unusually off the mark, only making six of their 20 attempts from beyond the arc, and with all of the baskets coming from three players. Fast breaks were another area where Penn could not compete, failing to convert any points compared to Harvard's 12.
Freshman Eleah Parker's 14 points led the Quakers, who still sit in second place in the Ancient Eight, but will look to rebound from this loss Saturday at Dartmouth.
Senior Michelle Nwokedi came into Friday night averaging nearly twelve points per game, but couldn't get the shots to fall on offense with just six points from 13 field goal attempts. Her efforts were not futile though, as she still managed to contribute 11 rebounds to lead the team off the glass.
The Red and Blue are currently one game ahead of joint-third place teams Harvard and Yale and two games above Dartmouth in fifth, so each of the final three games still has huge implications to determine which four teams will make it to the conference tournament at the Palestra in two weeks. The Quakers still have the Big Green and the Bulldogs on their schedule, however, so while they are favored to make the playoffs, their destiny is ultimately in their own hands.
Now it's time to see how much fight Penn has left.
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