Box Score (PDF)
PHILADELPHIA - If Penn plays at the level it did in the first 12 minutes of Saturday night’s game with Saint Joseph’s, there are not a lot of Ivy League teams who are going to beat them.
Unfortunately, basketball is a 40-minute game, and while the Quakers gave glimpses of just how special they can be when they are playing with confidence, their opponent Saturday was an Atlantic 10 team that boasts athleticism and experience.
The combination ended up being too much in the end, as SJU pulled out an 80-68 decision in front of a full house at The Palestra in a game that had all the raw emotion and intensity a Big 5 game should have.
Penn played catch-up for much of the second half, and when the Quakers finally gained the lead with 7:37 left Saint Joseph’s scored five points in a matter of seconds on the way to a nine-point knockout blow.
Penn came out like world-beaters to start this game. Led by sophomore Tyler Bernardini, the Quakers blew out to a 21-6 lead that had all the elements Penn fans have been looking for.
Ball movement? Check.
Three-point shooting? Check.
Aggressive on the glass, and getting to the basket? Check.
With 7:35 left in the stanza, Harrison Gaines snapped a four-point SJU run by getting to the bucket and scoring while being fouled by Bryant Irwin. When his free throw went down, the score was 27-12.
At that point, Saint Joseph’s came back. And man, was it swift.
The Hawks needed less than three minutes to score 17 straight points, dialing long-distance five times (including four consecutive possessions) to turn a 27-12 deficit into a two-point advantage .The catalyst was Irwin, who knocked down two treys early in the run and then capped it with another three-pointer that pushed the Hawks into a 29-27 lead. That lead eventually swelled to 37-30 before Zack Rosen and Cameron Lewis scored on consecutive possessions at the end of the half to make it a three-point game at the break.
Penn took a long time in the second half trying to make up the three-point deficit, but finally got over the hump with about 7:30 left when Brennan Votel knocked down a jumper from the right side to make the score 60-59.
Saint Joseph’s responded, however, as Darrin Govens buried a J from the top of the key, then Tasheed Carr stole the inbounds and fed Ahmad Nivins for a feed and a foul. He made the charity shot, and just like that the Hawks were back up, 64-60. SJU scored four more unanswered points before Votel finally ended the run with a layup in traffic, but Govens drained a trey with a Penn defender in his face to make it 71-62.
Penn gamely tried to get back into it, but the Quakers simply had nothing left in the tank. A Penn possession with less than two minutes left was a perfect metaphor, as the Red and Blue got off three straight open three-pointers but front-rimmed all of them.
Bernardini led Penn with 15 points and added 10 rebounds for his second double-double in the last three games. Jack Eggleston had 14 points and eight boards, while Votel and Gaines had 12 apiece. Rosen dished out six assists.
Ahmad Nivins had 20 points and 17 rebounds for SJU, while Govens also scored 20 and Carr recorded 15. The two guards also combined for 11 assists.
Penn opens Ivy League play next weekend, traveling to Harvard Friday and Dartmouth Saturday. Both games will start at 7 p.m., and the Quakers’ meeting with the Big Green will be televised live on the Comcast Network (formerly CN8).
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