PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/20/2019 – The University of Pennsylvania set a program record getting off to their best start. In order to continue extending the mark, the Quakers would have to do that in a Big Five game against the Saint Joseph’s Hawks at the Hagan Arena. It was a battle as expected, but in the end Penn gets to 4 – 0 and 1 – 0 in the city series in a tough battle 55 – 45.
“We found a way to get it done,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “It was a grind.”
“You couldn’t ask for a better start and this group is still going to get a lot better. We played three really good games and this was a good game for us. They played a different style and we found a way to win.”
Leading the Quakers was a freshman Kayla Padilla from Torrance, California with 22 points. It was her fourth straight game scoring in double figures. Padilla was told how hard Big Five play can be, and the game lived up to her expectations.
“It was exciting to come into a more competitive game and it lived up to those expectations,” said Padilla. “It was a different atmosphere and we want to be the best team in Philadelphia. We showed we can be that.”
And the game was competitive. Both teams played well on the defensive end of the floor. Penn used a soft pressure defense to take Saint Joe’s out of an offensive rhythm. The Hawks were without point guard Lula Roig, and the pressure forced shots late into the shot clock.
“I wanted it to be a little quicker,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Cindy Griffin about the pace of the Hawks offense. “I wanted the flow to be consistent. I thought we were holding on the ball too long. We were dribbling too much. The ball needed to move and when it did we got some good looks.
“We have a variety of presses,’ McLaughlin said. “We played more of them than at any time that I’ve been at Penn. They started to get good pace and play the way they wanted to. It was helpful. The pace started to change.
Saint Joe’s played good low post defense and held forward Eleah Parker to 8 points. However, Parker got help on the outside especially from Padilla.
“Eleah’s presence on the court opens it up for guards like me,” Padilla said. “When things are not working in the post the guards do their best to make up for what we can’t get down low.”
At the end the Hawks turned the ball over five times over the last five minutes to allow the Quakers to hang on for the win. SJU had 17 for the game. The Red and Blue held the hosts without a point over the last 5:07 of the contest.
“Turnovers have been a problem for us and we have to cut down on it,” said Griffin. “Especially in a game like this where it was a possession game. You are getting only so many shots, so you have to take care of the ball. It’s a place where we need to improve and quickly.”
Katie Mayock led Saint Joe’s with 15 points, tying her career-high as she made 7 of 11 from the floor, and added a game-high 9 rebounds. Forward Gabby Smalls pulled down 8 boards. Devyne Newman, subbing for Roig, scored a career-high 12 points in her first ever start. She broke her old mark 5 minutes and 5 seconds into the game. Katie Jekot dished out 5 assists which tied her collegiate-best.
Parker grabbed 8 misses for the Red and Blue. Guards Kendall Grasela and Phoebe Sterba dished out 4 assists each.
Saint Joseph’s evens their record at 2 – 2. The Hawks travel to Auburn for a game on Sunday. The inexperienced players are getting time and experience. That bodes well for the future.
“Look at the kids who stepped up today, Mayock and Newman coming into primary roles for us today, and they did a really good job.”
Penn has nine days off, and the players will be taking exams. The next game is at Duke. The Quakers will look to continue the winning streak.
Written By: Glenn Papazian