PHILADELPHIA -Taking aquick look at the box score following the Penn-Navy men's basketball game Friday evening, two numbers immediately popped out.
Individually, Quaker junior guard Ibrahim Jaaber's line stood out -- a career-high 31 points, three assists and four steals.
As a team, Penn went to the foul line a staggering 55 times, five shy of the school record. The Quakers drained 39 of them -- one short of the school mark and 19 more than Navy attempted in the game, as the Mids were called for 35 fouls and the Quakers were whistled for 19.
The combination proved to be enough for the Quakers to shake off a pesky Navy team that was looking for its first win of the season. A run midway through the second half proved decisive as Penn got the 86-73 win in its fourth-straight game at The Palestra to start the season.
Jaaber alone seemed to keep Penn (3-1) in the game in the first half. While all the other Quakers struggled offensively, the thecollegeinsider.com Preseason Mid-Major All-America selection scored in all kinds of ways -- inside, outside and from the line. At the break, he had 23 of Penn's 37 points thanks to 7-of-8 shooting from the field (2-of-3 from three-point land) and 7-of-9 shooting from the foul line. His streak continued into the second half; in fact, he surpassed his previous high of 26 points by draining three foul shots in a row with 15:57 still left in the game.
"I started noticing a few gaps in their defense in the first half and started looking for my shot," he said after the contest.
Ironically, it was not untilJaaber cooled down that Penn pulled away.
The Quakers trailed by two at the break, 39-37, and fell behind by as much as six early in the second half before righting the ship against the Midshipmen. A 5-0 run quickly cut Navy's lead to 43-42, and after the Middies' Bryce Bingham nailed a trey Penn responded with another five-point streak to take the 47-46 lead. The lead flip-flopped for several minutes after that, and the teams were deadlocked at 58 when they went to a timeout with 11:55 remaining.
Whatever Penn head coach Fran Dunphy said in that huddle, he should bottle. The Quakers came out, made a defensive stop, then got a free throw at the other end from David Whitehurst that gave them a lead they would not relinquish. The next three sequences went exactly the same -- Navy could not score, and at the other end Eric Osmundson was fouled and drained the free throws. Soon it was 65-58, Penn, and the Mids were reeling. By the time the run was over, the Quakers were up 71-60, and all but two of the Quakers' 13 points in that stretch came from the foul line.
Navy (0-4) still had some fight left, putting together a seven-point run that cut Penn's lead to just five (72-67). However, Brian Grandieri knocked down a layup, drained two more foul shots on Penn's next possession, and then Jaaber found Mark Zoller for another layup that pushed Penn'sadvantage back into double figures.
Jaaber's 31-point game was the first 30-point effort by a Quaker since Ugonna Onyekwe dropped 30 on Oklahoma State in the first round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, and the most points scored by a Penn player since Garett Kreitz had 33 against Brown on Feb. 14, 1998. Steve Danley added 14 points, while Zoller came off the bench to score 12 points and lead Penn with six rebounds in 23 minutes of play. Grandieri came off the bench for the first time this season, deferring in the lineup to Whitehurst, but came up with nine points, five rebounds and two steals in 22 active minutes.
"It's nice to have a guy like Brian because he has those knack games," said Dunphy, who earned his 293rd career win at Penn.
Penn gets right back at it, meeting Temple in the second half of the Big 5 Classic which will take place Saturday at The Palestra. La Salle and Drexel will tip things off at noon, followed by the Quakers and the Owls at approximately 2:30 p.m.