COLLEGE PARK, MD. 3/23/2014 – The University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team played a solid first half of basketball taking a 15-point lead with four and a half minutes to play prior to intermission. In the second half the shots that were falling did not, and the Texas Longhorns got the ball inside. The result was that the Longhorns defeated Penn 79 – 61 in an NCAA Tournament first round game At College Park. 5th Seeded Texas moves on and will face Mary land in the second round. The great ride for Penn ends with a 22 – 7 record. Quakers Coach Mike McLaughlin felt Penn could not continue to keep the pressure on the Longhorns over the course of the game.
“We played a tremendous first half and were in control in many ways,” said McLaughlin. “We tried to keep the ball in front of us. Late in the half they came at us harder. They took the ball at us. We didn’t get set on defense. Give them (Texas) a lot of credit. They just came at us. We got in a little bit of foul trouble. They kept coming, and coming, and coming. We tried to answer, we tried to slow the game down, but we just couldn’t get back the control of the game.”
In the first half #12 seed Penn played with great intensity, creating turnovers on defense, and shot the ball well. The Red and Blue forced 12 Longhorns turnovers which lead to 13 points. Meanwhile, on the offensive end of the floor Penn shot 38.9% (14 of 36) with senior guard Alyssa Baron leading the way with 18 first half points. Baron finished the game with a game-high 25 and 5 assists to close her collegiate career. With 4:35 to play the Ivy League champions led the representatives of the Big 12 by 32 – 17. But Texas began to assert themselves on defense. The score at the halftime showed the game was tightening at 38 – 31 Penn.
“We were getting shots, so they were not able to get back in transition,” said Baron. “We were in a zone and getting charges, but not so much in the second half.”
In the second half the Longhorns kept the pressure on the Quakers. Texas also was finding their inside players. Forward Imani McGee-Stafford scored 15 of her team-high 20 points in the latter half. Front-court mate Nekia Jones scored 14 points, 9 in the decisive half. For the game the Longhorns posted a 36 – 18 edge in points in the paint. Penn was also getting in foul trouble as forwards Sydney Stipanovich and Kara Bonenberger had to go to the bench. Center Courtney Wilson called upon contributed 10 points and 6 rebounds. The Red and Blue made 11 of 30 field goal attempts 36.7%), 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. Texas made 60.7% from the floor (17 of 28) in the latter stanza.
“They turned up their defensive pressure in the second half,” Baron said. “They were pushing us out further. They didn’t give us as much space. Their post players weren’t as much foul trouble as we would have liked.”
Texas had a 44 – 28 advantage on the boards. McGee-Stafford led the Longhorns with 12 rebounds, 4 off the offensive glass.
Stipanovich scored 14 points for the Red and Blue. She learned much from her teammates and wants continued success for Penn in the future.
“Definitely,” Stipanovich said. “They’re the best leaders (the seniors) we could have asked for. We’ll try to keep their leadership throughout our four years.”
The season is over, and time for the Quakers to build upon their success. The seniors are the example of how to be successful.
“I told them the cherish the time they had with these seniors who showed them what a student athlete should be like,” said McLaughlin. “They saw a path of how to do this successfully. This message was not just tonight, it was all year. We need in our program to develop people. We are going to have new kids come in and look up to the kids that were here.”