EASTON, Pa. - Penn men’s basketball fans had to like what they had seen as Wednesday night’s game between the Quakers and Lafayette reached the 12-minute mark in the second half.
Penn had struggled in the first half, falling behind by as many as 13 points, but clawed back to within five points by the break. In the opening minutes of the second stanza, the Quakers made up the rest of the deficit, and held a 50-49 lead.
That was when the Leopards bombed them.
Andrew Brown knocked down a three-pointer with 11:43 to play. After Jack Eggleston missed a trey attempt for Penn, Paul Cummins drained one for the Pards. Then a Harrison Gaines miss led to a Brown stop-and-pop trifecta. Just like that, it was 58-50.
Glen Miller called timeout, but the damage was done. Lafayette would add four more unanswered points prompting another Penn timeout then answer a Tyler Bernardini layup with five more points to take a 67-52 advantage. From there, the Pards coasted to an 81-69 win.
The loss snapped an eight-game win streak Penn (2-5) held over Lafayette that extended back to the 1997 season. Perhaps more impressively, it ended a 23-game win streak the Quakers held over all the Patriot League teams dating back to that last loss to the Leopards.
Lafayette (4-2) is coached by Fran O’Hanlon, who was an assistant coach at Penn for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
If there were positives to pull from this game, the efforts by seniors Michael Kach and Brian Grandieri certainly stood out. Kach scored 17 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished off five assists. He was a perfect 8-of-8 from the foul line. Grandieri, meanwhile, hit double figures for the sixth time this season with 13 points, and snared five boards. Freshman Jack Eggleston matched Grandieri in the point category, and tied for game-high honors with seven caroms.
Lafayette, meanwhile, place six players in double figures, led by Brown with 15. Bilal Abdullah came off the bench for 14, while Michael Gruner had 13 and Cummins added 12. As a team, the Leopards hit 11 threes just ahead of their average (10.8) and shot 52.6 percent from the field.
The Leopards used the quick-hit theory in the first half, as well, scoring 10 points in a little over a minute to open up a 19-9 lead. That edge expanded to 13 on a few occasions, and with four minutes left in the half the score was 30-17.
Penn got back into it. Brennan Votel hit two free throws, and then Justin Reilly split four points around a Ted Detmer foul shot. Gruner hit a layup, but in the final two minutes of the half Kach sandwiched four free throws around another Reilly jumper in the lane, and at the break the score was 34-29.
The halftime stoppage did not alter Penn’s momentum. Gaines and Reilly hit jumpers to start, and then after an Everest Schmidt bucket Grandieri and Bernardini hit shots that gave the Quakers a 37-36 lead.
The teams spent the next several minutes trading points, before Lafayette went on its decisive run.
Penn now reaches arguably the toughest stretch of its season schedule, beginning Saturday when the Quakers travel to Villanova for a Big 5 meeting with the Wildcats. After that, No. 1-ranked North Carolina comes to town for a nationally televised date with the Quakers from The Palestra. Tip time for both of those games will be 7 p.m.