PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/30/2012 – The University of Pennsylvania Women’s basketball team hosted the Big Five season opener against the LaSalle Explorers. Penn and LaSalle opened the city series least year with Penn winning their first Big Five game in eight years. The Quakers can make that two wins as they defeated LaSalle 65 – 56 at the Palestra. Penn Junior guard Alyssa Baron knows the wins in the Big Five are to be savored.
“It is definitely a big accomplishment,” Baron said about the city win. “Big Five wins are hard to come by. The final score doesn’t show how close the game was as we hit some free throws down the stretch. Pulling out a Big Five win is huge for our team and for the program. We wanted to get our first win so bad, and we dug deep and were able to do it.”
Coming into this season Penn needed to establish three things a growing program needs: establish a third and fourth scorer, close out games instead of letting them get away, and establish positive trends. The Red and Blue did all three in this game.
While leading scorers Baron and Sophomore forward Kara Bonenberger led the team in points, 15 for Baron and 16 for Bonenberger, the Quakers got a double-figure scoring effort from Sophomore guard Renee Busch with 13, and 7 key points from Junior forward Courtney Wilson. Busch made all four of her three-point shots. The fourth three-pointer provided what proved to be the winning points as it gave Penn a 57 – 51 lead with 3:21 on the clock.
“When she made her threes, it made her more confident and we ran a play for her late in the game,” Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin said about Busch.
Courtney Wilson twice converted field goals after LaSalle climbed to within one point in the second half. The duo proved they could make shots, but make key shots.
“This is huge for our team as we have struggled in the past finding that third or fourth scorer,” said Baron. “Today Renee Busch and Courtney Wilson stepped up big time. They were able to hit their shots. Courtney played great defense as well. Any game that anyone can step up and be that third or even first or second scorer, it always does not have to be Kara or I, it will be better.”
After the last trey by Busch gave Penn their 6-point lead. LaSalle was in striking distance, but the six points were as close as LaSalle would get. Penn got extend the lead to as many as 10 points, the final time when Baron connected on two free throws with 28.4 seconds to play.
Penn sits atop the Big Five, and the Red and Blue now have a two-game winning streak over the Explorers. Baron reached the 1,000 point plateau when she made a three-pointer at the 8:24 mark of the second half. Point number one thousand gave Penn the lead back after LaSalle moved in front by a 46 – 44 score. She is the fourth player in school history to reach this milestone prior to their senior season. Baron is the 19th overall, and has scored 1,015 career points. The Miami native also contributed 9 assists.
“I didn’t know if it would come today as I struggled on offense,” said Baron. “But I was able to find my teammates, play defense, and do whatever it takes to win.”
LaSalle Senior guard Brittany Wilson led all scorers with 24 points. 20 of which came in the second half. Explorer Coach Jeff Williams felt the team played with more second half intensity, but the lack of such in the first was telling.
“Brittany played well in the second half, but I was disappointed with the first half,” said Williams. “We had to light a fire under her at halftime. She has to come out ready to play. She is the leader of the team, and how she goes, we go. We have to find a way to win. Right now, we don’t know how to win.”
Penn (1 – 3) returns to the court on Monday as Bucknell comes to the Palestra. LaSalle is 1 – 6 on the season and readies for Villanova on Sunday.
Written By: Glenn Papazian