NEW YORK - How do you describe the University of Pennsylvania's men's basketball game with Columbia Saturday night at the Lions' Levien Gym? One word: indescribable.
We'll try, though.
Columbia -- which led 35-25 at halftime -- took 20 shots in the second half, and made just two of them. In the final 15:18 of the game, the Lions did not score a field goal.
Columbia won the game by 17, 58-41.
While Penn was locking down on defense at one end, Columbia was doing likewise at the other end. The result was that the Quakers only doubled the Lions' second-half field goal total, with four. And while Columbia was going 19-of-22 from the foul line in the final period, Penn was going just 7-of-11.
The result was one of the most bizarre games you'll ever see.
Tony Hicks was the only Penn player to score in double figures, as he had a game-high 19 points. However, he fouled out of the game and was thrown out of the gym with two technicals -- which seemed pedestrian on this night. Miles Cartwright scored nine points, while Darien Nelson-Henry had six points and nine rebounds.
For Columbia, Grant Mullins scored 18 points while Brian Barbour had 12 and Maodo Lo notched 11.
Columbia used a 10-point run midway through the first half to turn a 12-10 lead into a double-digit advantage, at 22-10. Penn got no closer than eight points the rest of the way, but in a game that was especially choppy in the second half you never felt like the Quakers were out of it.
Penn needed nearly five minutes to score in the second half, but Columbia had only scored six points during that time -- including, as it turned out, the Lions' final field goal of the game, a Mullins jumper.
Penn had what amounted to its best grab at momentum with just under four minutes to play; at that point, the Quakers had cut a 16-point deficit to nine -- Columbia getting one of the points back on a John Daniels free throw -- and Dau Jok had only recently hit what turned out to be the team's only three-pointer of the game. There was certainly the feeling that, if ever Penn was going to make a run, this was the time.
Hicks, the hot hand, got past his defender and drove the lane; Columbia center Mark Cisco stepped in front of him. Whistle. Charge (Hicks' fourth foul). Was Cisco in the circle? Should it have been a block? The film will tell. It was certainly debatable in live action.
What happened next was not debatable. Inbounding the ball on the baseline, the Columbia inbounder ran the baseline to pass the ball in. That's illegal. It was not called. The Penn bench went crazy. Head coach Jerome Allen got a technical. Hicks walked past the official who called the T and said something; he was T'd up, as well, his second of the game which ejected him.
Instead of being down 10, getting the ball with the chance to be down eight or even seven, Penn watched Barbour go to the other end to shoot four free throws. He made three. The Lions then got the ball, and Mullins was fouled by Henry Brooks. He made both. That made the score 54-39, and the wind was out of Penn's sails. This one was over.
Penn is back at home next weekend, hosting Dartmouth Friday night at 7 p.m. and Harvard Saturday night at 6. Saturday's game against the Crimson will be televised live to a nationwide audience on the NBC Sports Network as part of the Ivy League's season package.