PHILADELPHIA - Tuesday night, for the second time in as many games, the Penn men's basketball team came up with a big second half to defeat an opponent.
The stakes were significantly highercompared to Saturday, when the Quakers downed Division II Florida Gulf Coast behind 58 second-half points. On Tuesday, the foe was Drexel, Penn's neighborhood rival and the favorite by some preseason prognosticators to win the Colonial Athletic Association. With The Palestra crowd of 5,236 at a fever pitch, the Quakers outscored the Dragons 37-23 in the final stanza to pull away for a 68-49 win.
Penn has now won three in a row and is 3-2 overall; Drexel was pinned with its first loss in three games. It marked the fourth year in a row the Quakers have defeated the Dragons, and the eighth time in the 11-consecutive years the teams have met since renewing this series.
Ibrahim Jaaber led the way in the contest, scoring a game-high 22 points and shooting 9-of-13 from the field (including hitting his first six shots). Mark Zoller collected his second double-double of the season, scoring 16 points and snaring 10 rebounds, while junior Brian Grandieri threatened a triple-double with 12 points, nine boards and eight assists. He also had three steals. Senior Steve Danley joined his veteran teammates in double figures with 14 points, going a perfect 7-of-7 from the foul line.
For the first time this year, Penn's defense went a long way toward a win. The Quakers heldthe Dragonsto just 33.3 percent shooting from the field (29.6 percent in the second half) and forced 19 turnovers. Penn also outrebounded Drexel, 35-29.
Dominick Mejia was the only Drexel player to reach double digits in scoring; he had 10 points. Bashir Mason had nine points, six assists and five steals, while Frank Elegar had eight points and six boards.
Penn never trailed in this game, scoring the first five points and responding toa four-point Drexel spurt with 12-straight points that pushed its lead to 17-4 before the game was nine minutes old.
Jaaber was simply unstoppable in the early going -- the Ivy League Player of the Year score Penn's first five points and 16 of the Quakers' first 23. He was 6-of-7 from the field in the opening 20 minutes, hitting both of his three-point attempts.
Drexel actually got within five just before halftime when Tramayne Hawthorne hit a trey to make the score 31-26. The Dragons then got the ball to start the second half, but an Elegar turnover turned into a three-pointer by Zoller, setting Penn off on a 6-0 run to start the stanza.
The finishing touch came midway through the second half, when the Quakers went on a 12-3 run that turned a seven-point game into a 52-36 advantage with seven minutes to play. Drexel never got within 13 points after that.
Penn now has a full week off, before hosting Monmouth next Tuesday at 7 p.m.