Marist women’s basketball continued its early season swoon with a 65-61 loss to the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday night in the McCann Center.
After scoring just nine second-half points on Monday against Villanova, Marist showed some improvement on the offensive end, but unlike the game against the Wildcats, this one felt like the Red Foxes should have won.
“We always had to keep fighting back in this one,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said. “We had defensive lapses and it took until late in the third quarter, and we were saying it all night long, that one kid was beating us.”
All night long, Marist struggled to take the ball out of Quakers’ star Kayla Padilla’s hands. At one point, the two-time all-Ivy League selection had 24 of her team’s 32 points. She would go on to finish with 31 points on 13-for-23 shooting, but perhaps her most impactful play came as a distributor.
With her team ahead 49-45 with five minutes left in the game, Padilla drove, drew a crowd, and kicked out to a wide-open Mandy McGurk, who swished the three to make it a seven-point game. With the Quakers’ star sitting on 29 points for the night, no one would have blamed her for trying to take it herself. Instead, she made the right read, leading to one of the biggest plays of the night.
“(Padilla) can play,” Giorgis said. “That’s why she’s one of the best players in the Ivy League, which is one of the top mid-major leagues in the country. She was great.”
A little later on with the shot clock running down, she hit a crucial step-back jumper to make it 58-51 with just over a minute left.
Still, the Red Foxes had a chance to claw their way back after Kendall Krick made it 60-56 with a three with 55 seconds left. Things looked even more hopeful after Marist forced a turnover, but sophomore Catie Cunningham could not convert a point-blank layup that would have made it a one-possession game with 47 seconds left. Still, after the Quakers missed a pair of free throws, Krick drained another triple to make it 62-59 with 25 seconds left.
After Penn split a pair from the line, a Maeve Donnelly layup cut it to 63-61 with 11 seconds left, but after failing to ice the game from the line a few times over, McGurk drained a pair that would account for the final margin after a Marist turnover on its last possession.
“We just had too many mistakes,” Giorgis said. “That’s a sign of a team that has some inexperience. I have to keep reminding the kids that we’re 0-0 in conference play… we have little lapses where we get down on ourselves because we miss a layup or miss some free throws and we have to get over it.”
Foul shooting proved to be a difference-maker as it took until the second half for Marist to get to the charity stripe, and once it got there, the team could only muster a 6-for-12 performance in a game it lost by four points.
Krick struggled mightily in the season-opener, going 1-for-13 from the floor but improved to a team-high 18 points (six made threes) to go with eight rebounds in addition to taking on the responsibility of guarding Padilla for most of the night.
After turning the ball over seven times on Monday, point guard Kiara Fisher once again struggled with ball security, accounting for five of Marist’s 16 turnovers on the night which Penn turned into 15 points.
Fisher finished with 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting to go along with four assists. Zaria Shazer joined her high school teammate on 12 points but needed 18 shots to get there.
After shooting 21 percent from beyond the arc on Monday, Marist improved to a 9-for-19 (47 percent) mark from deep (Krick shot 6-for-9). The Red Foxes shot 37 percent from the floor overall.
The Red Foxes also made progress on the boards losing to the Quakers 44-43 in the rebounding margin. Penn did manage to turn 16 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points.
The Quakers (1-0) shot 33 percent from the floor and still managed to win despite shooting just 4-for-26 from three.
Leading 13-7 after 10 minutes, it felt like the Red Foxes should have been ahead by more. Fisher provided a brief spark with a three and a transition layup off a steal for an 18-9 lead but the Quakers, led by Padilla, reeled off nine in a row to tie the game at 18.
Penn also got the benefit of a call reversal that turned a charge into a three-point play and a Padilla triple gave the Quakers a 27-23 halftime lead.
With one of Padilla scoring 19 of Penn’s 27 first-half points, the emphasis had to be on making one of the other Quaker players step up.
But on Penn’s first trip of the second half, Padilla was back to her old tricks, penetrating the defense and converting another three-point play for a seven-point lead.
Looking to avoid another second-half slump, Marist countered with a 9-2 run that included two scores off steals for Fisher and a Shazer layup that tied things at 32 with 5:34 left in the third.
The Quakers finally found some contributions from a few others, but it was once again Padilla who came up with the goods with a mid-range jumper to send her team to the fourth quarter up 43-38.
The Red Foxes will be back in action when they travel to Wisconsin to face Green Bay on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Andrew Hard