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Penn bests women's basketball in Ivy League tournament opener

Bears struggle to convert field goals, mount unsuccessful comeback bid in Saturday loss

In a culmination of the Bears’ season long efforts, Brown (16-12, 7-7 Ivy) squared off against Penn in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament at the Palestra Saturday.

Despite a comeback bid by Bruno, the top-seeded Quakers (21-7, 13-1) won 71-60 and moved on to the conference’s inaugural championship.

The first quarter saw Bruno fall behind 13-11 after eight minutes  before the Quakers went on an 11-0 run in the following six minutes to extend the lead to 13.

Then, the Bears mounted a run of their own. With spot up threes by Shayna Mehta ’19, Megan Reilly ’18 and Erika Steeves ’19 the Bears outscored the Quakers 21-9 in the final six minutes of the half to  make the halftime score 33-32.

Brown led by five early in the third after a layup by Justine Gaziano ’20. But Penn’s Michelle Nwokedi — the Ivy League Player of the Year  — gave Bruno fits in the low post, finishing the game with 25 points and ten rebounds, and helped Penn reclaim the lead in the third quarter. Nwokedi averaged 15.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and a league-leading 2.9 blocks per game this season.

Penn slowly pulled away from Brown and went on to win 71-60.

“On the offensive end, our shots didn’t really fall as they usually do,” Reilly said. “We did go on a run there in the third quarter, but it just kind of wasn’t enough,” she added.

The Bears shot 33.8 percent on the night.

“The game plan was to make them go left and try to keep them off the three-point line and to rebound better,” said Head Coach Sarah Behn. “We actually did those things. But at the end of the day, they still just had a little more firepower than we did for more minutes than we did.”

The Bears put up a good fight, Behn said, and she credited Penn’s strong finish to their maturity and depth.

Mehta led the Bears with 19 points, while Steeves added 18 points and 12 rebounds.

“We have a lot of things to be proud of,” Reilly said. “We won the Ocean State Tournament (and) made it to the Palestra, which were two of our biggest goals.”

“We definitely grew up — we matured,” she added. “It was a great experience for us getting a feel for postseason action. Now we know what to expect next year when we make it to the Palestra and hopefully make it to the (NCAA’s tournament),” Reilly said.

“I’m proud of how the kids worked to improve the chemistry on our team … our foundation is really solid,” Behn said.

The Bears will find out Monday if they are selected for the Women’s Basketball Invitational, an annual postseason tournament.

The WBI “would be a nice extension to the season and something I really hope happens,” Behn said.

Penn and Princeton battled in the Ivy League Tournament’s championship game Sunday. The Quakers emerged victorious by a margin of 57-48 to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.


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