PHILADELPHIA - Niagara University came to The Palestra on Tuesday night boasting the nation’s leading scorer in Antoine Mason, and he did not disappoint as he essentially hit his average with 31 points.
He was not the leading scorer in the game.
Penn sophomore Tony Hicks finished Tuesday night’s contest with 33 points. Check that, Tony Hicks had 33 points with 11 minutes still remaining in the game. However, the Quakers were up big at that point, and so he turned into a passer and fed his teammates -- tying a career best with five dishes -- as Penn rolled to an 85-66 victory.
Hicks’ scoring total was the best by a Penn player since Mark Zoller dropped 33 on Villanova back on Dec. 2, 2006. In a virtuoso offensive performance, he went 12-of-20 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line. (Perhaps the most interesting thing about Hicks and Mason was that they combined for 64 points, yet hit just one three-pointer between them.)
Penn was up, 16-14, before Hicks turned in a stretch that seemed --- and the term is not used lightly – Rosen-esque. Calling to mind the scintillating senior season a certain Penn point guard had two years ago, Hicks scored all of the points in an 11-2 Quakers run that pushed them ahead, 27-16. Niagara got within single digits only once after that the rest of the night, at 33-24, but Penn scored the next five points thanks to a Miles Jackson-Cartwright three-pointer and a pair of Hicks free throws. The score was 41-28 at the break.
The knockout punch was delivered early in the second half, and again Hicks played a starring role. With Penn’s lead at 11, he scored seven of the Quakers’ next nine points, part of an 11-1 streak that pushed the Red and Blue ahead, 62-41. Niagara’s Tahjere McCall briefly interrupted the run with a foul shot, but Greg Louis hit a jumper and then a steal led to Hicks’ final points of the night, perhaps appropriately a punctuating slam dunk. (At that point, there was still 11:21 left to play.)
After that, all that was left was to see if Mason could reach his scoring average, and thanks to a 24-point binge in the second period he did.
Jackson-Cartwright ended the game with 13 points, while Louis -- playing his first game of the 2013-14 season -- had nine points and six rebounds. Fran Dougherty led Penn with eight rebounds.
Mason also led Niagara with seven rebounds, while Ramone Snowden had nine points and five boards and Wesley Myers also scored nine points.
Penn returns to action on Saturday at Lafayette. The Quakers and the Leopards will tip off at 2 p.m. in Easton, Pa.
Game Notes: Penn won for the first time at The Palestra this season (now 1-2) … Penn scored 85 points, the most in the Jerome Allen coaching era and the most since a 97-94, double OT loss to Delaware on Nov. 21, 2009 … The last time Penn scored 85 points in a regulation game was March 7, 2008, a 94-92 loss to Cornell … Penn also set new team highs in the Allen coaching era in field goals (34) and blocked shots (9) … Penn set season highs in field-goal percentage (54.8) and assists (22), and tied for its season high in rebounds (43) … Penn is 2-0 when leading at the half so far this season … Penn also is 2-0 against MAAC teams this season (0-3 against all others), and 2-0 on Tuesdays (0-3 on other days) … Penn outrebounded its opponent for the first time this season … Penn and Niagara matched each other in both three-pointers made (4) and turnovers (15) … Sophomore Tony Hicks scored 33 points, a career high and also the most by a Penn player since Dec. 2, 2006 (Mark Zoller 33 vs. Villanova) … Hicks also matched his season/career high with five assists … Jamal Lewis set season highs in points (6), assists (5), and three-point FG made (2) … Senior Fran Dougherty set a new career high in assists (3) and led Penn with a season-high eight rebounds … This marked the first game a player other than Darien Nelson-Henry led the Quakers in boards … Senior Cameron Gunter had season highs in points (5), rebounds (4) and minutes (9) … Freshman Matt Howard scored the first four points of his collegiate career … Junior Greg Louis saw his first game action of 2013-14 and set a new career high with two blocked shots.