PRINCETON, N.J. — For Penn women’s basketball, the third time wasn’t the charm after all.
In the opening game of the Ivy Madness, the Quakers (17-11, 9-5 Ivy) fell 60-47 to Princeton (22-5, 12-2) in front of a Tiger-heavy crowd at Jadwin Gymnasium, bringing an end to their season. Penn finishes the season 0-3 against the Tigers, falling short of a Ivy Madness final appearance despite a heroic comeback effort in the middle two quarters of the game.
In her last Ivy League game in Red and Blue, senior guard Kayla Padilla — a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection — broke one final program record, as she now holds the single-season three-point record at 79. Surpassing the 77 threes set by Mandy West in the 1999-00 season, Padilla now holds the trifecta in program three-point records as she already holds the career and single-game records.
The Tigers came out roaring in the first quarter, smothering the Quakers on nearly all of Penn’s offensive possessions. After Ivy League Women’s Player of the Year Kaitlyn Chen scored the game’s first points with a layup, it was only up from there for Princeton. Padilla’s first two shots were blocked by Ivy League co-Defensive Player of the Year Ellie Mitchell, and the Quakers turned the ball over numerous times.
Padilla was held scoreless through the first quarter, with Penn’s only points coming from a layup by senior guard Mandy McGurk eight minutes into the game. After 10 minutes, Princeton led the Quakers 19-2.
But in the second quarter, Penn found more of an offensive rhythm, with the help of multiple Tiger fouls; 10 of the team’s 19 points came at the free throw line. Padilla scored her first points of the game two minutes into the period and led the team with eight points at the half.
“I told [the athletes] let’s play better and then we’ll worry about the score,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I think [today] is just a credit to their character and their resilience and their work ethic.”
Despite Princeton continuing their defensive dominance, the last minute of the second quarter sparked new momentum for the Quakers. A shot clock violation with 48 seconds left gave Penn possession, and a Princeton travel with just three seconds remaining gave the Quakers one final chance, which they took full advantage of as McGurk nailed a buzzer-beating half-court shot to bring the game within 11, as Princeton led 32-21 going into halftime.
Junior forward Jordan Obi attributed this turnaround to the team “staying together” in the break between quarters. She added that they had to “play good, solid defense and not worry about the score.”
Penn started the second half hot, with an immediate layup from freshman guard Simone Sawyer. Both the Quaker offense and defense found its groove, finding success in the paint to score 12 points by the halfway point of the third quarter.
While Princeton often had an answer for the Quaker shots, Penn’s lockdown defense kept Tiger scoring down. Padilla’s record-breaking three came with just under three minutes left in the quarter, continuing her team-high scoring with nine points in the third.
“It definitely means something special, [but] maybe in another moment it’ll mean a little bit more,” Padilla said. “It’s hard to appreciate something individual when we wanted to accomplish something as a team.”
Ten electric minutes slashed Princeton’s lead to six as the score was 46-40 heading into the final period.
Despite its best efforts, the game slipped out Penn’s reach in the final 10 minutes. The Tigers’ offense stayed strong while the Quakers’ slowed down, shooting just 4-16 from the field in the fourth quarter. With the momentum seemingly lost, the Tigers’ lead ballooned back to double digits for the first time since just after halftime.
With just over a minute left and its lead at 12, Princeton subbed out its starters to rousing cheers from the crowd at Jadwin Gymnasium. Even though Padilla would hit one final three pointer, the game was all but over, and Penn’s conference season came to a close.
Friday’s loss also marks the last Ivy League game Padilla will play in the Red and Blue. Postgame, she reflected on her opportunity in the conference, saying “it's been a huge honor to play in the Ivy League. I mean, we're surrounded by the best of the best, both players and coaches-wise.”
Padilla led the team with 20 points in a game where she played all 40 minutes. While she has entered the transfer portal to use her remaining year of NCAA eligibility, Padilla is hoping for a final chance to play for the Quakers with a potential bid into the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
“I thought they did a phenomenal job,” McLaughlin said of the team's effort getting back into the game. “Really proud of this group. A lot of teams would have just stopped, and this group hasn’t done that all year.”