PHILADELPHIA - Despite leading by as many as 10 points in the second half, the University of Pennsylvania men's basketball team was plagued by turnovers in the critical moments of the contest on Saturday and fell, 71-69, to visiting Cornell at The Palestra. Penn was led by Patrick Lucas-Perry with 14 points.
Penn (4-16, 1-2 Ivy League) held a 51-41 lead with less than 15 minutes to play after a transition three from Lucas-Perry, but Cornell unleashed a 21-5 run over nearly eight minutes to take a 62-56 lead and set the stage for a dramatic ending.
The first half was a far different story for the Quakers. Jumping out to a fast start after connecting on its first four field goals, Penn led 8-3 in the opening minutes and by as many as eight after Tony Hicks scored on consecutive possessions. Absorbing contact and using the glass, the precocious freshman gave the Quakers a 15-8 advantage, and on the next trip down the floor found himself open on the wing and knocked down a trey to make it 18-10.
Cornell (9-11, 2-2 Ivy) rallied back and took its first lead of the game after back-to-back threes from Errick Peck and Dominick Scelfo, 22-21. The lead swung back and forth for the final few minutes of the opening half before Lucas-Perry hit consecutive treys to give Penn a 36-31 lead inside the final minute. A jumper from Nolan Cressler sent the teams into the locker room with the Quakers out in front, 36-33.
Some first half foul trouble came back to bite the Quakers as Darien Nelson-Henry picked up his third foul in the first 30 seconds of the second half. With Fran Dougherty on the bench to spell him, Penn didn't miss a beat. Dougherty posted up to open the scoring in the half and had three rebounds in quick succession on the defensive end. The last of those boards led to an open look from Steve Rennard who buried a three to push the Quaker lead back to eight, 41-33.
The Big Red hit a jumper to stifle the Penn run, but on Cornell's next offensive possession, a block from Henry Brooks caromed out to Miles Cartwright and led to a 3-on-2 opportunity. With Cartwright pushing the break, he passed left and found a streaking Dougherty who scored with contact, putting Penn ahead, 43-35. Unfortunately, Dougherty fell hard on the play and went to the locker room for treatment. He would not return to the contest.
With Nelson-Henry forced back into action, the freshman big man posted and scored the next trip down the floor, giving Penn its biggest lead of the contest, 45-35. The teams would trade three-pointers on the next four trips, the last of which came from Lucas-Perry for the 51-41 lead.
At that point, Cornell turned up the heat. A three from Cressler was an early warning sign of things to come and made it a 54-48 contest. That was followed by six straight points from Errick Peck to tie the game at 54-54. A three-pointer from Johnathan Gray then gave the Big Red their first lead of the second half with less than nine minutes remaining.
Nelson-Henry has grown into something of a security blanket in tight situations and Penn promptly went down low to him. He laid it in to earn Cartwright his ninth assist of the night, a career high. Though the lead was cut to one, Peck went back to work with five straight points, giving Cornell its largest lead of the night, 62-56, with 6:39 to play.
Undeterred by the moment, Hicks rallied the Quakers. A three off a feed from Camryn Crocker sliced the lead in half, and moments later the deficit was cut to one as he pulled up at the elbow in transition and found net, making it 62-61.
The Cornell lead was three as the contest reached the final media timeout, but Dau Jok found himself open and buried his second 3-pointer on the ensuing inbounds, tying it at 64-64. Cornell's lead was 67-66 until Cartwright gave Penn its final lead, burying a three as the game neared the two-minute mark and putting the Quakers up, 69-67.
The Red and Blue wouldn't be able to expand on that lead as they turned the ball over on each of their last three possessions. Two free throws from Peck tied it up for a fourth time as the clock rolled under 75 seconds, and Galal Cancer used his strength down low to give the Big Red a 71-69 lead with 10 seconds to play.
Penn worked the ball upcourt without calling timeout, but used its final stoppage with 2.7 seconds on the clock. Inbounding from underneath the Cornell basket, the Quakers couldn't find a target and were called for a five-second violation. Whistled for only three fouls up to that point, Penn couldn't send Cornell to the line and the Big Red were able to launch the ball downcourt to run out the clock.
Both Hicks and Nelson-Henry joined Lucas-Perry in double-digits with 10 points apiece. Cartwright scored eight along with his nine assists, while Dougherty had four points and tied for game-high honors with five boards.
Peck scored 20 points on 8-8 shooting to lead all scorers. Gray added 11 points and four rebounds for the Big Red, while Cancer scored nine points and handed out four assists.
Penn stays at home next weekend, welcoming in Yale and Brown on February 8-9. The Bulldogs pay a visit on Friday at 7 p.m., while the Bears and former Penn assistant Mike Martin come to town on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Game Notes: The loss snapped a five-game Ivy League home win streak Penn had dating back to last season ... Penn had 24 assists, a team high in the Jerome Allen coaching era, on its 28 baskets ... Penn had more assists (24) than turnovers (17) for the third time in four games; prior to that, the Quakers had accomplished the feat just twice in the first 16 games this season ... Penn shot 28-of-56 (50.0 percent) from the field, its third time shooting 50 percent or better in a game this season ... Penn shot 12-of-24 on three-pointers, its fourth time shooting 50 percent or better from beyond the arc in a game this season ... Penn's 12 treys were a season high, and one shy of the team best in the Allen era ... Penn outrebounded its opponent, 29-28, the first time in five games the Quakers won the battle of the boards ... Penn's bench was outscored, 46-30, the first time in nine games the Quakers lost that category ... One night after setting a season high in free throws made, Penn tied a low in the Allen era in free throws taken (3) and set a new low in the Allen era in free throws made (1) ... Sophomore Patrick Lucas-Perry had 14 points, one shy of his career high, and tied his season/career best with four three-pointers ... Of his 14 points, 11 came in the first half ... Lucas-Perry became the seventh different player to lead Penn in scoring in a game ... Freshman Darien Nelson-Henry had 10 points, his seventh straight double-figure scoring game (13.6 ppg in that span) ... Nelson-Henry also had three blocked shots, giving him seven for the weekend ... Freshman Tony Hicks had 10 points, his seventh double-figure scoring game this season ... Junior Miles Cartwright had eight points and dished off a career-high nine assists ... Sophomore Camryn Crocker had six assists and one turnover; in the last eight games his assist/turnover ratio is 3.57 (25/7) ... Crocker also set a season/career high with four rebounds and finished one point shy of a season/career high with six ... Junior Dau Jok had six points, his best scoring night in six games ... Sophomore Henry Brooks tied season/career highs in assists (2) and blocked shots (2).