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Now-senior guard Sydnei Caldwell drives to the basket during last season's game against Villanova at the Palestra on Nov. 22, 2021. Credit: Julia Van Lare

Last season, Penn suffered a close three-point loss against Villanova at the Palestra. On Thursday night, the Wildcats conquered the Quakers on their home turf once again, this time in far more dominant fashion.

In the fourth game of the 2022-23 campaign, the Penn women’s basketball team (1-3) suffered a 67-41 defeat to No. 24 Villanova (3-0) at the Palestra. It was an uphill battle all game for the Quakers, who were outmatched both offensively and defensively. Villanova’s lead seemingly grew exponentially as the contest progressed.

"I thought Villanova was great tonight," Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin said. "This is one of the better [Villanova] teams defensively that I've seen. I don't think we ream really good offense. They put a lot of pressure on us in the scoring areas. Maddy [Siegrist] makes a big difference around the rim."

Tenacious interior defense was key for both teams from the jump, setting a fierce tone to the game. Junior forwards Jordan Obi and and Floor Toonders patrolled the paint, responsible for crashing the boards and making sure Villanova’s offensive threats didn’t have their way on the low blocks. Obi and Toonders ended the game with six and nine rebounds, respectively.

By the end of the first half, Villanova opened up a 15-point lead on Penn, making the rest of the game a struggle that proved to be too difficult for the Quakers to overcome.

The disparity between the teams’ three-point field goal percentages are one of best indicators as to why. Villanova was able to unlock Penn’s defense from beyond the arc, shooting 8-16 on threes throughout the contest. Penn, on the other hand, struggled from deep and only converted three threes out of an attempted 16.

"We had very limited ball flow, especially after that first quarter," McLaughlin said. "I just didn't like anything we really did on the offensive end in the second, third, and fourth quarter. But I did like our performance in the first quarter. Once we were down 27-19, we got some stops and then lost control of the game again."

Turnovers also played a pivotal role in hindering Penn’s offensive prowess. Villanova’s full-court press at the end of each quarter forced errors and created many fast break scoring opportunities. The Quakers lost the ball far too often while in possession, culminating in a total of 12 turnovers.

Coming into the game, Villanova senior forward Maddy Siegrist and Penn senior guard Kayla Padilla were the center of attention. 

Siegrist continued her Big East Player of the Week form and finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 9-17 from the field, leading her team to victory. 

Padilla hit two big threes in the first quarter, which gave her team strong momentum and kept Penn in the game for the time being. At many moments during the game, her quickness and adept dribbling allowed her to cut through the Wildcats’ swarming defense. Padilla was able to score just eight points while going 3-14 from the field.

"I think Brooke [Mullin] set the tone defensively on Padilla from the beginning," Villanova head coach Denise Dillon said. "Bella Runyan also did a great job as well. They did a really nice job of trying to wear down Padilla's touches and limiting touches limits opportunities to score."

Thursday night’s loss marks the third consecutive defeat of the season for Penn, a less than ideal way to kick off the 2022-23 campaign.