PHILADELPHIA - The Penn men’s basketball team got off to a quick start for the second straight game Tuesday night, scoring the first eight points of its game with The Citadel.
Unlike Saturday’s game against Howard when the Quakers opened up a 9-0 lead, only to fritter it away and lose, 80-65 there would be no letup Tuesday. Penn kept the pressure on an extremely young Citadel ballclub, and earned its first win of the season, 93-77.
Penn (3-1) led at the half, 45-35, and then pulled away early in the second half to keep this one from being in doubt. The Quakers jumped out to a 20-point lead by the first timeout of the second half, and it crested at 23 (66-43) soon after that.
Penn placed four figures in double figures, led by Brian Grandieri who had 20. His classmate, Michael Kach, was right behind him with 19 points, while freshman Tyler Bernardini had 18 and classmate Jack Eggleston had 13.
Perhaps most impressively, the Quakers had 30 assists on their 33 baskets Tuesday night. Leading the way? Harrison Gaines. When the freshman committed to Penn, head coach Glen Miller saw him as a true point guard for the program. Boy, did he show that on Tuesday: 12 assists, just one shy of the school record, against just two turnovers. He also scored nine points.
Penn scored on its first two possessions, and after a turnover got another bucket that made the score 8-0. Citadel (1-3), which has 13 freshmen on its 16-player roster, looked out of sorts with three turnovers and a missed shot in the early going.
The Bulldogs settled down, though, and scored the game’s next seven points to make it 8-7. Those who were here Saturday and saw what happened had to be thinking, “here we go again.”
Penn answered them by scoring 12 of the next 14 points, taking a 20-9 lead. Citadel again drew within striking distance, with an 11-4 run, and then an Austin Dahn three-pointer made the score 28-25, Penn, with eight minutes left in the stanza.
The teams traded points over the next several minutes, before Penn went on a 12-4 run over the last five minutes before halftime to take a 45-35 lead into the break.
It was still a 10-point game three minutes into the second half, but then Penn broke this game open with a 12-0 run that pushed the score to 63-41. Gaines was the motor that got them running, assisting on three of Penn’s baskets and knocking down another one himself.
Citadel got within 11 with exactly nine minutes to go, when Demetrius Nelson hit a layup, got fouled, and hit the foul shot. However, the Quakers responded with a three-pointer by Kach, then a layup by Eggleston (both baskets assisted by Gaines) to make it 73-57 and put this one away.
The Citadel was led by Austin Dahn, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. Cameron Well scored 17 points and had a team-leading five assists, while Nelson scored 15 points and Matt Clark had 12.
Tuesday night’s game was one of three the Quakers will play this week; they are in action Friday and Saturday night as part of the championship round of the Philly Hoop Group Classic. Friday night’s game against Virginia, will tip off at approximately 9 p.m., following the Seton Hall-Navy game that starts at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Penn will play either the Pirates or the Midshipmen depending on the results of Friday’s game.