PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/21/2016 – The University of Pennsylvania won their seventh straight game and put themselves in a position to claim at least a share of the Big Five Championship with a 60 – 54 win over the Temple Owls at McGonigle Hall. The Quakers had a strong effort on the boards out rebounding the Owls by a 59 – 35 margin, 28 – 13 off the offensive glass as forward Michelle Nwokedi and center Sydney Stipanovich had 16 rebounds each, each snaring 8 on both ends of the floor. It was a season-high rebound total for Stipanovich.
Penn got out to a 45 – 37 lead after three quarters, then had to withstand a furious Temple rally to finish the game. After the Owls took a 50 – 49 lead with 3:40 to play, the Quakers showed the poise they would need by ending the game with an 11 – 4 run started by a three-pointer by guard Lauren Whitlatch and got 6 points by Nwokedi on her way to a game-high 22 points.
“It was a game that could have gone either way,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “We showed great resiliency. We played well for three quarters, but they took a nice run at us. They took a lead, but we kept our composure.”
The Red and Blue played strong inside not only on the offensive glass, but by registering 8 blocked shots. Nwokedi had 4 and Stipanovich had 3. Yet the Cherry and White stayed in contention forcing 17 turnovers that translated to a 16 – 9 edge in points off turnovers. Temple got layups and kept the ball from getting inside during that time.
“It’s easy for us to pressure when we are scoring, but we have to watch when we are doing it,” said Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza about getting back into the game by causing Penn miscues. “It exhausted us in doing so.”
The Quakers returned to getting the ball back inside to Nwokedi to tilt the game in their favor.
“Coach tried running some plays for me posting up,” Nwokedi said. “There is a better percentage for me to make shots around the basket.”
Temple made 3 of 22 from deep, all by guard Alliya Butts on her way to a team-best 16 points.
Whitlatch scored 13 points making 3 of 6 from beyond the arc for Penn (12 – 2, 2 – 1 Big Five). It was the seventh double-double of the season for Nwokedi.
Tanaya Atkinson added 14 points for the Cherry and White who are 11 – 7 on the season and evened their city series record at 2 and 2.
Penn has one more non-conference game before going into Ivy League play, and their 11th non-conference win sets a program record. That game is on January 26 at Villanova. The Red and Blue are in position to get at least a share of the city title. Nwokedi further realized the significance of the city rivalries by attending the Palestra Big Five 60th Anniversary game.”
“I am so excited,” said Nwokedi. “A championship would be so exciting. I never knew how exciting the Big Five would be. I love it.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian