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Now-senior guard Kayla Padilla drives past Harvard players during last season's game at the Palestra on Jan. 29. Credit: Kylie Cooper

The city of Philadelphia operates on Eastern Standard Time, three hours earlier than San Francisco’s Pacific Standard Time. But as the team traveled to the Golden City, it was Penn’s women’s basketball who fell behind.

San Francisco defeated the Quakers in a 73-65 matchup on Monday afternoon, the first clash in a far-flung West Coast road trip. The loss was Penn’s fourth in a row, dropping the group to 1-4 on the season. While the Quakers poured in perhaps their best offensive performance of the year, matching their season high in points with 65 and shooting 34.3% from three, their defense was ultimately not enough to contain San Francisco’s lethal attack.

The Dons were spearheaded by guard Ionna Kramili, who torched the Quakers for 35 points with an unreal 8-13 clip from beyond the arc. Penn held a 10-point advantage at halftime, but five threes from Kramili in the third quarter helped erase the advantage, setting the stage for a fourth quarter in which San Francisco did just enough to earn the victory. The performance was reminiscent of another Bay Area sharpshooter, the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry, who plays his home games just 20 minutes from San Francisco’s War Memorial Gym.

“You’re going to see really good players at this level, kids that can do something really special,” Pen coach Mike McLaughlin said of Krimili’s impact on the game. “This kid can shoot the ball from 30 feet and in. I think we did a really good job of trying to take the ball out of her hands. We weren’t successful. You have to be able to slow down a kid like that.”

Despite the defeat, Penn received solid contributions from two of its guards, one a very familiar name, and one a promising newcomer. Though she struggled from the field with 6-17 shooting, senior Kayla Padilla finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Freshman Simone Sawyer nailed six threes for 18 points in easily the best game of her young career. But neither was enough to overcome the Dons’ offensive onslaught, which took several different forms throughout the game.

Playing in its home stadium (and timezone), it was San Francisco who struck first. The Dons got to the basket early and often, hammering the Quakers in the paint and jumping out to an 11-3 lead, with all but one of their baskets coming at the rim. That bruising style was in stark contrast to the Quakers, who found most of their early offense from the perimeter, with 12 of Penn’s 15 first-quarter points coming from threes.

But as the game waged on, those stylistic differences did not persist, and neither did San Francisco's advantage. 

The Quakers' defense tightened up around the rim during the second quarter, and they began to find more of their own success in penetrating toward the basket. This helped Penn open up a 22-4 run during the second period, capped by a triple from Sawyer that gave the Quakers a 36-23 lead with 2:35 to go in the first half.

But a 46-point second-half explosion was enough to deliver San Francisco the victory, featuring a few memorable moments along the way. With a minute to play in the third quarter and the score knotted at 45, Krimili pulled up on the fastbreak and nailed a contested three, completing the Dons’ comeback and making her the all-time leader in threes made in program history. It was a fitting coronation in a dominant performance, and the Krimili inferno reduced Penn’s lead to cinders.

The teams continued to trade baskets until the game’s dying stages, at which point San Francisco’s Jasmine Gayles stepped in for her own big-time moment. With 4:10 to go, Gayles converted a rare four-point play, connecting on a corner three just in front of the Dons’ bench while being fouled by Padilla. Padilla was visibly surprised by the call, but in a game that was tightly officiated all the way through, the minor error gave San Francisco a 66-60 lead that it would not relinquish.

“We didn’t finish 40 complete minutes,” McLaughlin said. “I thought we had 30 really effective minutes … I just thought we had some gaps – that’s where the game was lost.”

Next, Penn travels to Los Angeles for a matchup with USC. That game will mark yet another road bout for the Quakers, who will play six of their first seven games in enemy territory. But once that odyssey is over, a stretch of 10 straight home games carries the group into Ivy League play, when the season truly begins. 

Early losses such as this one sting, without a doubt, but there were also plenty of positives on the day for Penn. And in a long season, those positives can serve as building blocks for the more important matchups yet to come.