PHILADELPHIA -After digging itself into an early hole, the University of Pennsylvania men's basketball team fought almost all the way back in the final minutes against Navy. However, it was the Midshipmen who made the final plays as they escaped The Palestra with a 65-59 win on Wednesday night.
Penn lost at home for the first time this season and fell to 4-3, while Navy won its seventh-straight game and improved to 7-2 overall.
Antonio Woods led the comeback with 16 points, 13 of them coming in the second half. Sam Jones chipped in 12 points, making three three-pointers and snagging four rebounds. However, the Quakers turned the ball over a season-high 18 times on the night and missed three crucial free throws in the final minute -- one of them the front end of a 1-and-1 -- that contributed to the defeat.
The Quakers trailed for most of the first half, and were unable to get much going on the offensive end against an aggressive Navy defense. Penn turned the ball over 11 times in the first 20 minutes and went just 8-for-19 from the field. The Midshipmen capitalized on Penn's mistakes, holding an 18-0 advantage in points off turnovers en route to a 37-25 lead at the break.
Navy's lead reached 13 on two occasions early in the second half, but after that the Red and Blue chipped away, cutting the deficit to single digits four different times and finally bringing it down to six with a three from Jones and a layup from Woods that made it 52-46 with less than seven minutes to play.
After Navy capitalized on a layup and a foul, Woods once again cut the lead to six with a trey from the top of the arc with 4:45 remaining. Following a defensive stop, Jake Silpe finished at the rim, and then a Navy turnover led to Woods feeding Matt Howard for an emphatic fast-break alley-oop that made it a two-point game with two minutes to go.
Navy hit a pair of foul shots on its next possession to go up by four, 59-55, before Darien Nelson-Henry -- who was held to single digits in the scoring column for the first time this season, finishing with eight points -- converted both ends of a 1-and-1 on consecutive possessions to tie the game for the first time with just 1:03 left.
Navy quickly answered with a layup at the other end to take a two-point lead. With the Quakers in the bonus, Woods drew a foul near the basket, but the sophomore was unable to convert the front end of a 1-and-1. The rebound was tipped out to Howard, but the possession ended when Woods missed a jumper from the top of the key. This time Navy grabbed the board, and Penn was forced to foul. The Midshipmen connected on four free throws in the final seconds, sandwiching them around another pair of missed foul shots by Woods.
Penn lost on a night when it shot 50.0 percent from the field (compared to Navy's 44.4 percent); the Quakers had 14 assists on their 20 baskets.
The Quakers are back at it on Saturday, heading to George Mason for a 6 p.m. tipoff at the Patriots' EagleBank Arena.