BETHLEHEM, Pa. - A game-ending 12-5 run from the Fordham Rams erased a five-point deficit over the final four minutes and sent the University of Pennsylvania men's basketball team to its fourth straight defeat, 70-68, on Monday night at Lehigh's Stabler Arena. Miles Cartwright and Fran Dougherty tied for game-high scoring honors with 20 points apiece.
With Fordham missing preseason All-Atlantic 10 big man Chris Gaston inside, Penn (1-4) quickly went to work establishing Dougherty in the post. A putback from the Ivy League Player of the Week opened the scoring and a minute later he used a powerful drop step to put the Quakers up, 6-0.
As would become the story of the night, Fordham (1-3) came back from behind the arc. A pair of drive-and-dish triples from each corner brought the Rams back from the early deficit to lead for the first time at 8-7. The lead swung between the teams as Penn's inside advantage on one end of the court was answered by the hot shooting of the Rams. Bryan Smith connected on his first four three-point attempts of the night to give Fordham the 24-19 lead with less than eight minutes remaining in the opening stanza.
On Penn's next possession, Patrick Lucas-Perry was left open and answered Smith with a triple of his own - Penn's only make from deep in the opening 20 minutes - to cut the lead back to two at 24-22. The teams rarely pulled ahead by more than one possession for the remainder of the half as the Quakers continued to exploit the middle of the Fordham defense. The Rams' Jeffrey Short and Cartwright traded free throws in the final minute to send Penn into the locker room down one, 36-35.
After scoring four of Penn's first six points, Dougherty had been held in check the rest of the first half. The Quakers corrected that immediately, feeding the junior time and time again. He responded by notching 12 of the Red and Blue's first 14 points in the second half, mostly utilizing a series of pumps and head-fakes to create space for easy looks from in close.
Five straight from Fordham gave the Rams their largest lead of the contest, 56-49, with 11:05 to play, but Penn exploded on a 12-0 run spurred by Cartwright. Penn's floor leader started the run with an and-one layup and another Dougherty lay-in tied it at 56-all. After Fordham missed from range, Jamal Lewis knocked in a corner trey to put the Quakers ahead for the first time since late in the first half. On the next trip down the floor, a sneaky backdoor cut from Dau Jok was rewarded by a Cartwright dish to put Penn ahead by five with just over five minutes to go. The lead would stay there as the clock rolled under the four-minute mark.
Out of the night's final media timeout, Fordham pulled within two on a three-pointer from Brendan Frazier, making it 63-61. The Rams took the lead back with a minute and a half remaining as a personal foul and technical foul gave them four shots from the charity stripe, which they converted.
Penn appeared out of sorts on its subsequent possession, but Lewis was able to create space with a hard-nosed drive toward the bucket. Though slipping to the floor as he drove, Lewis found Steve Rennard with a bounce pass back outside to the right corner. The junior found the bottom of the net with his shot and the Quakers had new life with a 66-65 advantage with under a minute to go.
Accustomed to Fordham's perimeter game, perhaps Penn wasn't prepared for Short to put his head down and fly to the bucket. His floater over the top of a leaping Dougherty put the Rams back out in front 67-66 and forced the Quakers to once again play from behind. A shot from behind the arc from Lucas-Perry hit the front iron and forced Penn to foul. Though Fordham would miss the front end of a one-and-one, Smith leaped over the back of Dougherty to grab the offensive rebound. Brenden Frazier was then able to connect on a pair for the last of his team-high 19 points to put the Rams up, 69-66.
Looking for the tie, a Cartwright three went around and out with six seconds to play. Though Dougherty was in weak-side rebounding position and tipped the ball in, Fordham still led by one. The Rams went into the double bonus on the foul with five seconds remaining. Jermaine Myers hit the first to put Fordham up, 70-68, before rimming out the second. The ball went to Dougherty who hit a streaking Cartwright up the court, but the captain's three attempt at the buzzer hit glass before bounding harmlessly away.
Cartwright and Dougherty didn't receive a ton of help carrying the scoring load on the night. Lewis led all other Quakers with seven points while Rennard and Henry Brooks had five apiece. Jok secured a career-high six rebounds in 18 minutes of action.
Penn won't have much time to dwell on the loss as they conclude the NIT Season Tip-Off tomorrow night against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Tip time from Stabler Arena is at 8:30 p.m., following the conclusion of the night's earlier contest between Fordham and Fairfield.
Game Notes: Penn fell to 2-7 in the series with Fordham, and 107-137 all-time against programs that currently play in the Atlantic 10 Conference ... Penn lost by two points for the second straight game; the Quakers are 7-7 under Jerome Allen in games decided by one or two points ... All 13 players who dressed for Penn played in the first half of Monday night's game ... For the first time this season, Penn had more assists (13) than turnovers (11); in fact, the turnover total was a season low ... Junior forward Fran Dougherty scored 20 points, his fourth game with at least 20 points; the last Penn player to accomplish that feat was Tim Begley, midway through the 2003-04 season ... Dougherty has averaged 23.3 points over this four-game stretch, shooting 36 of 57 (63.2 percent) from the field ... Dougherty led Penn with eight rebounds; he has led the Quakers in that category in every game this season ... Dougherty also tied a career high with three blocked shots ... Junior guard Miles Cartwright also had 20 points, his third such game in 2012-13 and the ninth of his career ... Cartwright went 8-of-9 at the foul line; he is 17-of-18 from the charity stripe in the last two games, and 22-of-24 in the last three contests ... Junior guard Dau Jok set career highs with six rebounds and 18 minutes ... Sophomore Camryn Crocker tied a career high by playing 17 minutes ... Sophomore Patrick Lucas-Perry tied a career high by playing 17 minutes ... Freshman guard Jamal Lewis set a season/career high with three assists.