PHILADELPHIA - At the end of the first half, Cornell had to be feeling pretty good about its chances against defending champion Penn. Playing in front of a hostile Palestra crowd, the Big Red had struggled offensively in the first half-- as in 17 turnovers -- but went into the locker room down just 34-25, with a chance to make it closer before the buzzer (they did not score on the final possession of the stanza).
When the teams emerged in the second half, the Quakers emphatically showedthat they will not be unseated without a fight.
Penn (7-5, 1-0) scored the first 19 points of the second stanza and never let up, ultimately pulling away for an 84-44 victory that, truthfully, may not have been even that close. The Quakers' lead went above 40 with more than seven minutes remaining in the game, and peaked at 45 (84-39) with just less than two minutes to play.
The win was Penn's largest since a 98-54 win over Monmouth on Jan. 18, 2003, and its biggest in an Ivy game since a 97-56 win at Cornell on Feb. 25, 1995.
It was just one of those nights where everything went right for Penn and everything went wrong for Cornell (5-10, 0-1), one of the teams expected to challenge the Quakers for this year's Ancient Eight crown.
"We carried the momentum well, and kept it up in the second half," said junior guard Ibrahim Jaaber, who nearly collected a most unorthodox triple-double with 20 points, eight assists and seven steals despite sitting most of the final 10 minutes of the game. "I think that's why it got out of hand a little bit."
Said Penn head coach Fran Dunphy of Jaaber's defensive performance, "he had seven steals tonight, but there were probably four, five, maybe six other balls he tipped that somebody else picked up and got credited with the steal."
"We got out-coached, out-played, out-everything tonight," said sixth-year Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, who spent a number of years at Penn as Dunphy's top assistant. "We got absolutely annihilated in every aspect of the game."
The second half started quickly enough, as Mark Zoller got free for a layup on the Quaker's first possession, and then Eric Osmundson knocked down a three-pointer the next time down the floor. Jaaber got a dunk on the next possession, forcing a timeout by Cornell, but Zoller kept the run going with another layup, and then Jaaber got consecutive buckets off the break that put the Palestra crowd in a frenzy and forced yet another timeout. At that point, the score was 47-25.
Steve Danley hit a pair of free throws, then Jaaber did the same, and then Osmundson got free for a layup to make the score 53-25. Finally, after 5:40, Cornell's Adam Gore knocked down a three-pointer to give the Big Red its first points of the half.
Penn was hardly through. The Quakers answered that bucket with five straight points, a Ryan Rourke jumper with five more points, and a trey by David Lisle with the game's next 11 points. That made the score 74-33, and at that point Penn head coach Fran Dunphy began substituting liberally. In all, 10different Penn players scored on the night.
Osmundson contributed 15 points to the Penn cause, while Zoller filled the box score with 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and five steals. Danley came up with 11 points and six boards. As a team, Penn shot 50 percent on the night and came up with 15 steals while forcing 25 Cornell turnovers.
For Cornell, Jason Hartford had 10 points and eight rebounds. The Big Red shot 35 percent for the game, including just 25 percent (6-of-24) in the second half.
Penn is back in action Saturday night, hosting Columbia at 7 p.m. at The Palestra.