PHILADELPHIA - For the first time this season, Penn rolled out a lineup that it had expected to roll out all season.
If this group can stay healthy -- the biggest issue the non-conference portion of the season -- it could be an interesting ride through the Ivy League season.
The Quakers played arguably its best game of the season on Saturday, and the result was a 77-74 win over Princeton in the Ivy League opener for both teams.
This would be considered a stunner when you account for the records of the Quakers (3-10) and the Tigers (11-3) entering the contest. Don’t forget, though, that in the Ivy League’s preseason media poll, it was Penn picked second and Princeton picked fourth. Clearly, it was this group of Quakers that the media had in mind when they were voting.
They had in mind sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry, who missed the last four games due to a concussion. He had 17 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, including the Quakers’ first five to start the game.
They had in mind Fran Dougherty, who missed almost the entire Ivy League season last year after putting up ridiculous early-season numbers. In this, his first fully healthy Ivy game in nearly two years, the senior put up a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds).
They had in mind Tony Hicks, who worked his way to the rim time and again on the way to a team-high 18 points.
They had in mind the most veteran of the bunch, Miles Jackson-Cartwright. The senior had just five points on Saturday, but he had the two most important, draining both free throws after he was fouled with 5.0 seconds left and the game tied, 74-74.
Throw in a dose of Julian Harrell, who had seven points and six rebounds after missing the last two games with knee trouble, and solid off-the-bench efforts from Jamal Lewis (6 points) and Steve Rennard (tough defense, three assists), and this team has sent a message that they could make some noise in conference play this year.
Following Jackson-Cartwright’s free throws, which made the score 76-74, Princeton inbounded all the way to midcourt and took a timeout with 3.3 seconds left. The Tigers then inbounded an alley-oop to Will Barrett (15 points), but the ball went through his hands. Dougherty collected the loose ball, was fouled with 1.1 seconds left, made the first and then purposely missed the second. Princeton was unable to corral the rebound in time to get off a desperation shot.
It was a gutsy win for Penn, which scored the first six points of the second half -- the last two off a catch and dunk by Nelson-Henry -- to build up an 11-point lead (49-38) but allowed Princeton to come all the way back and even take a lead of its own at 61-60 (the Tigers’ first since 6-5 early in the game).
After Ben Hazel gave the Tigers that 61-60 lead with an acrobatic layup, Harrell was fouled at the other end taking a three-pointer, and hit two of the three free throws. That was followed by an empty possession for Princeton, then a trey by Lewis that pushed Penn ahead, 65-61. The lead eventually swelled to eight points, at 71-63, when Hicks finished an alley-oop pass from Harrell..
Hicks fouled out on the very next play, though, and Princeton took advantage. Hans Brase (14 points) hit a pair of free throws, then T.J. Bray (19 points) did the same one possession later. Lewis then threw an ill-advised pass that was picked by Hazel and dunked at the other end. Less than a minute later, another Penn turnover turned into another layup for Hazel, and the score was tied at 71-71 with 2:14 to play.
Penn worked the shot clock down, and Lewis was fouled as he went to the bucket. He made the first but missed the second; however, Henry Brooks grabbed the rebound and kept the possession alive. Brooks then missed a jumper, but the ball went out of bounds and was given to Penn.
Penn again worked the shot clock down -- at this point, the game clock was inside a minute -- but then Jackson-Cartwright threw a pass between Nelson-Henry and Dougherty. Neither one thought it was for them, and let it go. It bounced out of bounds.
Princeton came down and found Bray open for a three-pointer. No good. Barrett got the rebound and went up for the putback. It also fell off, and Lewis swooped in to grab the board. He was fouled, and hit both shots to make it a three-point game with 29 seconds left.
Princeton quickly tied it, Barrett getting wide open after a defensive miscue and draining the trey with 22 seconds left that tied the score. That set the stage for Jackson-Cartwright.
Penn is off again this entire week, before hosting Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s next Saturday at The Palestra. The Quakers and Hawks will tip off at 7 p.m. on a busy day at The Palestra. (ESPN’s “College Gameday” will be on site that morning, and then La Salle and Temple will play their Big 5 game in the venerable building at noon.)
Game Notes: Penn improved to 14-13 under head coach Jerome Allen in games decided by three points or less (3-4 in 1-point games, 6-6 in 2-point games, 5-3 in 3-point games) ... Penn snapped a three-game losing streak to Princeton, and beat the Tigers for just the second time in the last 10 meetings … Penn now leads the series with Princeton, 124-105 … Overall, the win snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Quakers … For the first time in five games and the fifth time this season, Penn outrebounded its opponent (42-25) … Penn’s +17 in the rebound column was a season best … Princeton was the 11th of Penn’s 13 opponents this season to shoot worse than 45 percent from the field (25-58, 43.1) … For the first time in 10 games, and just the third time this season, Penn attempted more free throws (26) than its opponent (24) … Penn tied a team low with three three-point baskets in the game, and set a season low with nine attempts from beyond the arc … Penn committed 19 fouls, tied for a team low this season (also 19 at Lafayette) … Princeton set opponent lows this season in rebounds (25) and turnovers (8) … Sophomore Tony Hicks led Penn in scoring for the third straight game and the fifth time this season, with 18 points; he has averaged 19.0 ppg in the last three contests … This was Hicks’ 10th double-figure scoring game this season, and his 25th at Penn … Senior Fran Dougherty collected his second double-double this season and the fourth of his career (17 points, 12 rebounds) … Dougherty’s 12 rebounds were a season high and one shy of his career high … Dougherty has led Penn in rebounding in three straight games (10.0 rpg in that span) and eight of the last nine contests (8.9 rpg in that span) … Dougherty’s double-digit scoring game was his seventh this season, and his 17th at Penn; amazingly, the Quakers have won just two of those 17 contests … Dougherty also tied season/career highs in steals (2) and minutes (36) … Playing for the first time in five games, sophomore Darien Nelson-Henry scored Penn’s first five points and ended the day with 17 … This was Nelson-Henry’s seventh double-figure scoring game this season and his 17th at Penn … Nelson-Henry’s eight rebounds were his high since he had eight at Lafayette on November 30 … Playing for the first time in three games, sophomore Julian Harrell tied his season/career high with two blocked shots … Senior Steve Rennard tied a season/career high in assists (3) and season marks in steals (2), points (3) and minutes (24) … Senior Miles Jackson-Cartwright’s only field goal Saturday was a three-pointer; over the last four games, 11 of his 12 field goals have come from beyond the arc (16 of his 18 FG over the last six contests) … Jackson-Cartwright tied a season high with two steals … Jackson-Cartwright now has 1,224 points for his career which is 24th in Penn history; Dave Wohl (1969-71) is 23rd with 1,226 points, and Ron Haigler (1971-73) is 22nd with 1,236 points.