PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/19/2015 – The University of Pennsylvania expected a battle and got one from neighbor Drexel. With just over two minutes to play the score was tied at 65. The Quakers kept the Dragons off the scoreboard and controlled the boards to earn a 72 – 67 win at the Palestra. With the win Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin earned his 500th career win.
“It’s not something I addressed with the group,” said McLaughlin about reaching the milestone. “I am proud to do this for twenty-one years, and to have some success makes it even better.”
“It was great,” said forward Sydney Stipanovich about getting the win for their coach. “It was nice to get it at home, and there is no one more deserving than him.”
The game came down to last two minutes. Drexel had the lead for most of the fourth quarter. Penn tied it at 65 with 2:01 to play on two free throws by forward Sydney Stipanovich. The Quakers controlled the boards down the stretch as forward Michelle Nwokedi had 5 rebounds in that span and was successful 4 times resulting in a 69 – 65 lead at the 32 second mark.
The Red and Blue had control of the game early going inside to Stipanovich who scored a season-high 27 points making 10 of 13 from the floor. With the success inside that would open the outside as Penn made 6 from beyond the arc, 5 in the first half.
“We moved the ball well on offense,” said Stipanovich. “We got it into the post, that opened it up, and we knocked down shots. That got us into a flow on offense.”
Drexel shot a season-best 50% from the floor making 28 of 56 and converted 8 of 19 from three-point land. The Dragons fought back from a 23 – 17 halftime deficit, and tied the game after 3 quarters at 55. In the final stanza Drexel lead until there was just 47 seconds left when Nwokedi made 2 free throws.
“We didn’t come out as you think the girls would come out excited and ready for this rivalry,” said Drexel Coach Denise Dillon. “We came out flat on the defensive end. We focused so much on executing our offense, we forgot we always rely on our defense. We did respond and did not fold. Our offense was better, but we must execute on both ends of the floor.”
Nwokedi scored 11 points and had a game-high 15 rebounds. Guard Anna Ross added 12 points while handing out a game-best 7 assists. For the game Penn made 6 from deep.
The Dragons (3 – 6) had three players in double figures. Guard Rachel Pearson led the way with 17 points, 11 in the second half. Forward Jackie Schluth scored 13 points and guard Jessica Pellechio netted 11 points.
Penn improves to 6 – 2 on the season and prepare for a Monday afternoon game hosting Wagner.
Written By: Glenn Papazian