The Quakers fought all the way back, but couldn't close it out.
Penn women’s basketball’s season ended on Sunday with a 64-54 loss to Providence in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. After a flat first half, the Quakers (24-7, 12-2 Ivy) got back into the game with a 10-0 run to end the third quarter. But just like their loss to Princeton in the Ivy title game last weekend, they couldn’t seal the deal in the final stretch.
It was a defensive battle early on, as both teams struggled on offense coming out of the gate. Neither side could get a three-point shot to go down in the first quarter, and Providence (19-15, 8-10 Big East) entered the second period with a 13-9 lead. Senior forward Princess Aghayere — who finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds — kept Penn in the game early on, scoring five points in the first quarter.
On the other end, it was freshman forward Mary Baskerville who gave the Red and Blue problems in the first half. She totaled 13 points in the first 20 minutes of play and was effective in guarding sophomore center Eleah Parker, who couldn’t get into a rhythm and ended the night with six points.
After keeping it relatively close throughout the second period, Penn once again became stagnant in the last several minutes of the half. The Quakers scored just two points and became sloppy on offense in the final six minutes and five seconds.
“We just didn't get anything going; we didn't generate a whole lot of offense from our defense," coach Mike McLaughlin said. “The opportunities that we did have, we just didn't execute or finish. We didn't get the ball out in transition, and it was just a really big struggle in the first half."
The Friars took advantage of Penn’s mishaps, capping off the first half with a 10-2 run. At the buzzer, Friars' sophomore guard Chanell Williams put in a layup after a Penn turnover, making the score 29-20 in favor of Providence.
To begin the second half, it looked like the Quakers may not have had enough to get back into the game. However, they flipped a switch halfway through the quarter, jumping out to a 10-0 run. This stretch to end the quarter was started by an Aghayere and-one layup to cut the lead to eight with 4:57 left in the period. From there, senior guards Kristen Daley and Ashley Russell knocked down a pair of jumpers, and finally, two free throws by junior guard Kendall Grasela made it 38-37 entering the last 10 minutes.
That was the closest the Quakers would get. In the fourth, they stayed within striking distance, shooting better than they had in the first half. However, the Friars’ senior guard Jovana Nogic — who had a slow start to the game — knocked down a couple of deep threes to maintain a decent margin.
The Red and Blue needed a couple of stops in the final stretch to get back into the game, but they couldn't get them. Providence ultimately put Penn away with a couple of baskets from Baskerville, who extended her team’s lead to 10 with just 1:17 to go. The Quakers fouled Providence several times in order to stretch out the game, and the Friars were able to knock down their foul shots to close it out.
“Going in down nine at half and not playing very well on the offensive end, I thought wasn't the worst thing," McLaughlin said. “And then we really played well in the third quarter; we got the game right back to where we started ... and we just kind of ran out of gas late."
Penn also lost in the second round of the WNIT a year ago, with both defeats coming after the Quakers finished the Ivy Tournament as runners-up behind Princeton. With Sunday's loss, the team will be saying goodbye to four seniors — Russell, Aghayere, Daley, and guard Deja Jackson — all of whom made an appearance in Sunday's contest.
“When you evaluate the progress and the amount of wins and the achievements and growth, it's just been remarkable," McLaughlin said. “It's bittersweet in the end, but when we look back, we've achieved so much this year."