NEW YORK - The Ivy League figures to be an interesting race this year, and if Friday night's conference opener for Penn and Columbia is any indication it will not be for the faint of heart.
The Quakers looked like they had control of this game a couple of different times in the second half, primarily when they held a nine-point lead with less than two minutes to go. However, it wasn't until Brian Barbour missed a three-pointer at the buzzer that Penn could breathe and sigh of relief and escape Columbia's Levien Gym with a 66-64 decision.
Barbour's shot came after Chris Crockett was fouled before he was able to get up a potential game-tying trey (Penn's lead was 66-63 at the time). He made the first but purposely missed the second, and the ball caromed out to Barbour on the left wing. He immediately put up the shot, but it went off the back of the rim and bounced away as time expired.
With the win, Penn improved to 8-9 overall. Columbia, which had won 11 of 12 entering the contest, fell to 11-6 overall.
It was a nervy escape for the Red and Blue, which showed resolve as Tyler Bernardini knocked down all four free-throw attempts he took in the game's final 17 seconds. In both cases, the Quakers' lead was only one as the senior guard went to the line.
Bernardini ended up tying for team-high honors with 16 points along with Miles Cartwright, while Zack Rosen had 15 (13 in the final 11:06 of the contest), five assists and two steals. For Columbia, Barbour ended the night with 25 points and six assists, while Mark Cisco scored 12 points and Meiko Lyles added 11.
Penn had early control of this game, leading by as many as six midway through the stanza thanks to some solid defense and a nice run on offense. However, Columbia dominated the final seven minutes of the opening half, going on a 12-2 run and scoring the final eight points before the break. Barbour was the catalyst, getting into the lane whenever he wanted and knocking down eight of the 12 points in the Lions' run.
It was a different story out of the locker rooms. Penn scored the first eight points, as Cartwright got things started with an old-fashioned three-point play and ended it with a newfangled trey from beyond the arc (Penn's first of the night). In between, freshman Henry Brooks' basket gave the Red and Blue a 28-27 lead, and as it turned out they would never trail again in the contest.
With the score 41-40, Rosen spurred a 10-2 run that looked like it might finish the Lions. He hit a trey, then off transition found Steve Rennard in the left corner where the sophomore drained another triple. Rosen then matched a Cisco basket with a jumper of his own, and ended the run with a pair of free throws to make it 51-42 with less than eight minutes left.
Basketball giveth and taketh away. After an Alex Rosenberg free throw, Rosen threw a pass that was stolen, and after he got the ball back he missed a layup in traffic. Columbia got out in transition, and Barbour nailed a three from the left wing, and just like that it was 51-46 with the Levien crowd back in the game.
At 52-48, Rosen sandwiched a layup and a jumper around a three by Cartwright (off a Bernardini feed), and it was 59-50 with 2:06 to play. However, Barbour knocked down two free throws, and then after two empty Penn possessions Lyles drained a three-pointer with 1:23 to play.
Penn worked the clock, and Rosen nailed one of his patented fallaways inside a minute to get the lead back to six, but Belcore immediately fouled Barbour and he knocked down both free throws. Then Rosen was called for a charge, and that led to Rosenberg getting fouled as he went for a layup on the left side. The Lions freshman hit both charity shots, and it was 61-59.
Columbia waited until the ball was out of Rosen's hands before fouling, so they got Belcore. The senior made his first but missed his second, and Barbour came down with a layup to make it a one-point game. Penn had trouble inbounding and called timeout, and out of the break they got the ball to Bernardini who was fouled. He hit both. Barbour's first frantic attempt in the lane was blocked by Rosen, but the ball went back to Barbour and he made his second shot. The Lions again fouled Bernardini, and again he hit the shots he needed to hit.
Penn returns to action tomorrow night, playing at Cornell at 7 p.m. The Big Red defeated Princeton, 67-59, Friday night in Ithaca.
Penn-Columbia Game Notes: It was Penn's first win at Columbia in three tries, and its second win in a row over the Lions dating back to last season ... Penn improved to 7-2 this season when placing three or more players in double figures in scoring (4-1 when that number is three) ... Penn shot 22-of-41 (53.7 percent) from the field, its second-best shooting performance this season ... After going 0-of-5 from three-point land in the first half. Penn was 4-of-8 beyond the arc in the second ... Penn had a season low in field-goal attempts (41), tied the low for three-point shots (13), and also tied the season low for blocked shots (1) ... Miles Cartwright scored 16 points, his best output since he scored 27 at Rider on Nov. 17 ... Tyler Bernardini also scored 16 points, his third straight double-figure scoring game and 14th this season ... Bernardini did not hit a three-pointer for just the second time this season (also 11/14 vs. Temple), but shot 10-of-11 from the foul line ... This was Bernardini's 100th career game at Penn ... Zack Rosen scored 15 points, his team-leading 15th double-digit scoring performance ... Thirteen of Rosen's 15 points came in the game's final 11:06 ... Rosen went 2-of-2 at the foul line, he is now 53-of-55 from the charity stripe in Penn's last 13 games ... Senior Rob Belcore and sophomore Fran Dougherty tied for team-high honors with five rebounds each, the third time this season they have tied for team honors in a game in that category ... RECORD BOOK WATCH: Senior guard Zack Rosen had five assists in the game, giving him 520 for his career which is Penn's all-time record. (Previous record was 505, held by current head coach Jerome Allen.) ... Rosen has 1,435 career points which puts him 10th on Penn's all-time scoring list. (Bruce Lefkowitz is ninth with 1,443 points from 1984-87.) ... Bernardini has 1,335 career points which puts him 14th on Penn's all-time scoring list. (Herb Lyon is 13th, with 1,356 from 1946-50.) ... Rosen has played 3,586 career minutes which is fourth all-time. (Tim Begley is third, with 3,682 minutes.) ... Rosen has 191 career three-point field goals which is sixth all-time, while Bernardini is seventh all-time with 180 treys. (Garett Kreitz is fifth, with 199 treys.) ... Rosen has made 376 career foul shots which is seventh all-time. (Current Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky is sixth, with 388 made foul shots.) ... Rosen has started 99 games in his career, tied with Koko Archibong for seventh all-time ... Bernardini has 93 career starts which is 10th all-time. (Mark Zoller is ninth, with 94 starts.)