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12-07-21-womens-basketball-vs-st-josephs-kennedy-suttle-anna-vazhaeparambil

Senior forward Kennedy Suttle tries to get a shot off while surrounded by St. Joseph's defenders at the Palestra on Dec. 7.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Even though it’s been over 20 years since they last played each other, it seemed like Penn and Stony Brook picked up right where they left off on Friday night.

In their last matchup — which occurred in November 2001 — the Seawolves came away with a 77-56 win against the Quakers. This time around, the Red and Blue came up short yet again, although by a closer, 75-69, margin.

The loss marks the Quakers’ sixth in a row, a worrisome trend after the team started out the season at a strong 4-1, but now sits at 4-7 after falling to the Seawolves (8-1).

Right out the gate, Penn had difficulty guarding graduate student forward India Pagan, who competed this past summer for Puerto Rico in the Tokyo Olympics. Dominating on the low block, she scored eight of the team’s first 12 points en route to a 20-point performance, well above her 10.8 points per game average coming into the matchup.

Similar to the Seawolves, much of Penn’s scoring was concentrated among a select few early on. The first quarter ended with both teams tied at 19 each. Of Penn’s 19 points, 15 came from sophomore forward Jordan Obi and junior guard Kayla Padilla alone. Obi found her way down low and in the mid-range game, while Padilla was proficient — as she has been all year — from behind the three-point line, finishing with five threes when it was all said and done.

“I think whatever I can produce offensively, I hope there comes a point where we can win these games and maybe I don’t have to score as much,” Padilla said. “But I think that tonight was a good improvement; more players ended up in the double digits, especially Jordan [Obi], I think she played a really good game and is showing growth, especially going against stronger opponents.”

The struggle to defend down low persisted for the Red and Blue throughout the first half, as the period ended with Stony Brook ahead 22-14 in points in the paint. In that same light, the Seawolves came away with an 11-3 lead in second chance points during the first half, another key indicator that the Quakers had quite a bit of trouble hanging in on the low block.

Regardless, Penn was still able to push its way to some first-half leads. With just over four minutes remaining in the second quarter, Padilla — who finished with six assists total — found senior guard Mia Lakstigala on the left wing for a three-pointer. Lakstigala drilled the open look to put the Quakers up 36-31, their biggest lead of the first half.

From that point on, though, the Seawolves marched on to an 8-0 run to bring the score to 39-36, with Stony Brook leading, at the half.

This momentum swing proved to be the difference for the Seawolves, as Penn was unable to regain the lead at any point in the second half. The Seawolves’ lead got as high as 13 during the fourth quarter, and the Quakers weren’t able to bounce back in the same way they did throughout the first half.

Much of the difficulty that Penn faced came as a result of not being able to diversify its offense as much as Stony Brook was able to. Of its 69 points, Padilla, Obi, and Lakstigala combined for 59 of them, in addition to 53 of its 69 field-goal attempts.

“I think the complementary players that we have just need to score the ball,” McLaughlin said. “I mean, there were opportunities out there. You can’t have guards coming off the bench playing 14-15 minutes and not getting in the box score … that’s usually not a good formula. You usually get what happened tonight.”

Padilla — who ended up playing all 40 minutes — finished with 29 points, while Obi and Lakstigala chipped in 18 and 12, respectively. Notably on the defensive end, Lakstigala led all players with three steals on the night, and freshman forward Sima Visockaite finished with two blocks, both of which were in the first half.

The Quakers will have ample time to regroup from this six-game losing streak, as their next matchup comes on Dec. 30 at Morgan State (6-4), which is their last competition before starting conference play.

“We have a lot of work to do over the next three weeks to try to find something on the defensive side to hang our hat on,” McLaughlin said. “This team is growing and learning, I get that, but we really need to have a presence defensively, or our struggles will continue.”

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