NEWARK, N.J. - The University of Pennsylvania men's basketball team gained an historic win on Thursday night at NJIT, defeating the Highlanders 54-53 at the Fleisher Athletic Center. The win was the program's 1,700th all-time, making the Quakers the 11th NCAA Division I program to achieve the milestone.
Patrick Lucas-Perry was the hero on this night. With the score tied 49-49, the sophomore drained a three-point basket from the left wing with 2:12 left. On NJIT's ensuing possession Chris Flores and then Ryan Woods missed treys, and Lucas-Perry was fouled as he rebounded the Woods miss. "PLP" drained both foul shots to push Penn's lead to five, at 54-49.
This game wasn't over. Daquan Holiday hit a pair of foul shots with 1:03 left to make it a one-possession contest, and after Penn had trouble inbounding the ball the Quakers received a gift when Flores was called for a foul on Miles Cartwright. The junior was unable to make the Highlanders pay, though, missing the front end of a 1-and-1. Flores then came down and was fouled as he drove to the basket. He made both shots, and it was 54-53 with 46 seconds left.
Penn worked the game clock down to 24 seconds (shot clock at 14), then called timeout. Out of the break, the Quakers got Steve Rennard open for a trey from the left wing. It missed. NJIT's P.J. Miller grabbed the board, charged down the court, and took a running shot as he hit the foul line. That missed, and in the ensuing scrum Ky Howard got the ball but couldn't get another shot off before the buzzer. Only then could Penn breathe easy.
This win may have been historic, but it was not one to remember. Penn (3-13) won despite committing 26 turnovers, and in the late stages of the game they missed not one but two front ends of 1-and-1s. So how did they do it? Well, NJIT certainly helped. The Highlanders (9-9) shot a shockingly bad 27.7 percent from the field, going 13 of 47. They were 7-of-30 inside the arc. It was a game that saw both teams have scoring droughts of epic proportions.
Penn jumped out to a quick start on Thursday night, hitting six of its first eight shots to take a 13-2 lead. It took NJIT more than six minutes to hit a field goal, Chris Flores knocking down a three-pointer, and Miles Cartwright responded on the Quakers' next possession with a pair of free throws.
NJIT locked down the defense after that, though, holding Penn without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. The Highlanders could not fully take advantage, however, and were still down 17-14 after Cartwright ended the drought with an acrobatic layup. NJIT kept at it, though, and when Daquan holiday knocked down a layup with 3:37 to play in the half the hosts were up for the first time, 18-17.
The teams traded points after that, before Penn went on an 8-2 run to end the half for a 27-22 lead at the break. Darien Nelson-Henry was the catalyst, scoring on consecutive possessions to jump-start the run.
Penn had chances to put this game away more than once in the second half. The Quakers gained their first double-digit lead at 44-34, when Greg Louis hit the first of two free throws with 9:12 left. Penn then went nearly four minutes without a point, and only NJIT's ineptitude allowed the Quakers to keep a five-point lead. Nelson-Henry finally ended the drought when he put back a missed three by Dau Jok with 5:16 to play. After a Flores turnover, Jok redeemed himself, this time draining a shot from beyond the arc. With less than five minutes left, it was 49-39.
NJIT immediately struck back, Woods hitting a trey. Penn's next three possessions all ended with turnovers, and the Highlanders took advantage. Flores hit a pair of foul shots after the first turnover, Holiday hit a layup after the second one, and then Flores hit two more charity shots after the third. Just like that, the score was 49-48 with 2:41 to play.
Penn again struggled with the ball, Hicks driving the lane and having his shot rejected by Sean McCarthy, and as Flores took off with the rebound he was bowled over by Jok. Flores made one of two; meanwhile, Penn coach Jerome Allen had seen enough. He substituted four of the five players on the floor, leaving only Cartwright in the game.
The line change worked. Lucas-Perry made sure of that.
Nelson-Henry and Cartwright led Penn in scoring with 12 points apiece, and Nelson-Henry added 11 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double. Cartwright had nine rebounds, leaving him just one board shy of his first collegiate double-double, and also dished out a game-high five assists. Lucas-Perry and Rennard had eight points each.
For NJIT, Flores finished with 22 points, while Holiday and Woods had 10 apiece.
Penn has a quick turnaround for its next game, returning to The Palestra to face Saint Joseph's in a Big 5 tilt Saturday at 5 p.m.
Game Notes: The win was Penn's 1,700th as a program; the only other NCAA Division I programs to reach that milestone to date are Kentucky, Kansas, UNC, Duke, Syracuse, Temple, St. John's, UCLA, Notre Dame, and Indiana ... Penn won a road game for the first time this season; previously the Quakers were 0-7 in such games ... NJIT scored 53 points, made just 13 field goals, shot 27.7 percent from the field, and had 24 rebounds -- all opponent lows for this season ... Penn is now 3-3 in games decided by one point in the Jerome Allen coaching era ... Penn is 13-0 under Coach Allen when holding its opponent under 55 points ... Penn outrebounded NJIT, 41-24, its largest margin in the Allen coaching era ... Penn set a team low in the Allen coaching era by taking just 10 three-point shots ... NJIT made just 13 shots, an opponent low in the Allen coaching era, but had 17 steals which was an opponent high in that same period ... Freshman Darien Nelson-Henry had his first collegiate double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds; he is the third different player to have a double-double this season (also Dougherty and Louis) ... Nelson-Henry is also the fourth Penn player this season to have a double-figure rebounding game (Dougherty, Louis, Jok) ... Nelson-Henry has scored in double figures in three straight games (13.3 ppg) ... Junior Miles Cartwright had 12 points for his team-leading 10th double-figure scoring performance this season and 43rd at Penn ... Cartwright also tied a career high with nine rebounds ... Sophomore Henry Brooks tied a career high with two blocked shots, and finished one shy of his season/career high with five rebounds ... Penn played for the sixth straight game without leading scorer and rebounder Fran Dougherty, who is out due to mononucleosis.