PHILADELPHIA - In a game that came right down to the wire, the University of Pennsylvania men's basketball team had a chance to tie or even take the lead in the final seconds but was unsuccessful, falling to neighborhood rival Drexel, 61-59, Saturday evening at The Palestra.
The Quakers had made up almost all of a seven-point deficit with less than a minute to go, and had the ball down 61-59 with just about 20 seconds to play. Miles Cartwright got the ball near midcourt, and as the clock wound down he drove into the lane. However, he was unable to keep control of the ball and it wound up in a scrum in the lane, eventually turning into a jump ball with 1.3 seconds left. Drexel had the possession arrow, and though Frantz Massenat missed both of his free throws, there was only 0.6 seconds at that point and Penn had no chance to get a shot off.
Penn is now 1-3, while Drexel -- the preseason favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association -- improved to 1-2 on the young season.
Cartwright finished the night with 18 points, and served as an excellent outside complement to inside presence Fran Dougherty, who had another superb game with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Drexel was the first to break the game open, using a 9-1 run midway through the first half to take a 19-12 lead. Penn chipped at that margin with a pair of Dougherty free throws and a layup by freshman guard Tony Hicks, then the Quakers made it a one-point game when Greg Louis hit a jumper in the lane and Hicks followed with a steal and dunk that made the score 21-20, Drexel.
The Dragons again seized control, going up 30-25 with less than two minutes left in the half, but the Quakers scored the last six points -- all of them by Cartwright -- to take a 31-30 halftime lead. (Penn had a chance to go up four at the buzzer, but Jamal Lewis' three-pointer rimmed out.)
Penn's lead ballooned to as many as eight in the second half, at 40-32, and it was still 45-38 with 13 minutes to play. At that point, Drexel went on a 15-4 run that was sparked by freshman guard Tavon Allen. Playing his first collegiate game, the guard scored every which way, knocking down 11 of the 15 Dragon points His layup with 6:31 left put Drexel up, 53-49.
Drexel's lead was 60-53 with less than a minute to go, thanks to Derrick Thomas' free throws, but Lewis quickly hit a layup to make it 60-55, then Penn forced a five-second call. Out of that, Cartwright was fouled and hit both of his free throws, making the score 60-57 with 42.6 seconds left.
Drexel again had trouble on the inbounds, trying to go long with the pass, and it was easily stolen by Dougherty. Penn took an immediate timeout, and spread the floor so that Lewis could get the basket for another layup that made it a one-point game.
Massenat was fouled by Cartwright as he crossed midcourt, but after making the first shot he missed his second. That set the stage for Penn's final, empty possession.
Ruffin and Allen finished with 15 points apiece to lead Drexel, while Chris Fouch scored 10 before going down with an injury. Daryl McCoy was a menace on the boards, with 14 rebounds including seven on the offensive glass.
Penn gets right back at it, playing two more times in the next three days as it completes play in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Quakers will face Fordham on Monday night at 6 p.m., then Lehigh on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. Both games will be played at Lehigh's Stabler Arena.
Game Notes: Penn continues to lead the series with Drexel, 15-9, but this was the Dragons' fifth win in a row over the Quakers ... Penn is now 7-6 in games decided by two points or less in the Jerome Allen coaching era ... For the first time this season, Penn led at the half (31-30); the Quakers are now 27-6 in such games under Allen ... Junior forward Fran Dougherty led Penn with 21 points; he has 73 points in the Quakers' last three games (24.3 ppg) ... Dougherty also had 10 rebounds, one shy of a career high, for his second consecutive double-double ... Junior guard Miles Cartwright had 18 points, his third double-figure scoring game this season and the 36th such game of his career ... Junior guard Steve Rennard had a season/career high with three assists ... Freshman guard Jamal Lewis had eight points, a season/career high.