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PHILADELPHIA -In a lot of ways, Penn had no business winning Friday night's men's basketball game with Harvard at The Palestra. In an ironic way, that made the Quakers' 67-66 defeat to the Crimson that much tougher to swallow.
After a first half that canbest be described as, uh, sloppy, the Quakers came back strong in the second stanza and not only hung with the Ivy League's second-place team -- they overtook them. With two minutes left in the game, Penn was up 66-62 on the Crimson.
However, turnovers on Penn's last three possessions left the door open, and Harvard was able to slip through. After Brandyn Curry knocked down a three-pointer to make the score 66-65 with 1:52 left, it would not be until the final half-minute that the game was decided.
First, Penn lost control of the ball trying to inbound with 25 seconds left. That gavepossessionto Harvard, and Kyle Casey was fouled with 11.6 seconds left. Belying his freshman status, Casey coolly drained both ends of a 1-and-1 to put the Crimson up.
Penn brought the ball down,with Zack Rosen driving the lane and kicking the ball to Mike Howlett on the left side. Howlett drove to the elbow and put up a shot that hit the back rim. The rebound was batted to midcourt by a Harvard player, and the clock ran out before the Quakers could regain possession.
The loss dropped Penn to 5-21 overall, and 4-8 in the Ivy League. Harvard, meanwhile, improved to 21-6 and remained in second place at 10-3, percentage points ahead of 9-3 Princeton. (Neither Harvard nor Princeton can hope for a share of the Ivy title, though -- Cornell clinched the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament Friday, winning 95-76 at Brown)
The loss offset a spirited performance by the depleted Quakers, who were a noticeable walking wounded through much of this contest. It was painful just watching Rob Belcore hobble around the court during breaks in the action, yet somehow he drained a career-high five three-point shots en route to a career-best 17 points. Rosen, who struggled early with an athletic and aggressive Harvard defense, finished with 15 points and had six assists. Dan Monckton added 14 and also had seven rebounds.
Penn had 13 turnovers in the first half, but they were magnified by the level of sloppiness displayed throughout the stanza -- the lowlight coming when, out of a timeout, Drew Godwin inbounded to Zack Rosen, who wasn't looking. No Harvard player was within 45 feet of the play, but the ball hit the unsuspecting Rosen and went out of bounds before either he or Godwin had time to react.
So how was Penn within five points of Harvard (36-31)? Sharp shooting, a theme that reverberated all night long. The Quakers were 13 of 20 from the field in the first half, draining four of its seven threes. In the second half, Penn was 12 of 21 and knocked down seven more treys. For the game, Penn shot 61 percent from the field including 57.9 percent from beyond the arc.
It took Penn five minutes in the second half to draw level -- a Belcore three made the score 41-41 -- and then a Rosen trey put the Quakers up 44-43. The Quakers' kept using distance to extend their lead, eventually going up 63-56 on another Rosen trey.
Harvard clawed back. Casey shook free for a dunk, then Curry (10 points, 9 assists without a turnover) hit a jumper to make it 63-60 with 3:23 left. Howlett hit a pair of foul shots to make it 65-60 with three minutes to go, but Casey hit two foul shots on the Crimson's next possession.
Harvard's Jeremy Lin led all scorers with 19 points, and also had six rebounds and three steals. Christian Webster had 10 points.
Penn will close out the home portion of its 2009-10 campaign Saturday night, hosting Dartmouth at 7 p.m. Senior Night activities will take place at approximately 6:55 p.m., honoring outgoing seniors Justin Reilly and Drew Godwin.
Penn Game Notes: The win gave Harvard a season sweep of Penn; that is the first time the Crimson have swept the Quakers in a season since the start of formal Ivy League play in the 1950s ... The loss was Penn's first one-point loss at The Palestra since Feb. 2, 2002 (Columbia 54, Penn 53) ... Penn set season highs for overall field-goal percentage (.610) and three-point field-goal percentage (.579) ... Penn knocked down 11 three-point shots, the sixth time this season the Quakers have reached double figures in that category ... On the other side, Penn made a season-low five foul shots, on nine attempts; the Quakers' 55.6 performance at the line was its worst since Dec. 4 at Navy (9 of 17, 52.9) ... Sophomore Rob Belcore set new career highs in points (17) and three-point field goals made (5). He also had six rebounds and two assists ... Belcore led the team in scoring with his 17 points. He became the seventh different Quaker player to lead the team in scoring in a game this season ... Belcore's double-figure scoring performance was his first in six games, and his fifth this season ... Junior Jack Eggleston set a career high with seven assists; he also had nine points and five rebounds in playing the full 40 minutes ... Sophomore Zack Rosen scored 15 points (13 in the second half) for his 12th straight double-figure outing; that is the longest streak by a Penn player since Ibrahim Jaaber opened the 2005-06 season with 15 straight double-figure games ... Rosen also had six assists, the eighth time he has had six or more in a game this season ... Junior Dan Monckton had 14 points on a 6-of-6 shooting performance from the field (including two three-point baskets); it was the best shooting night by a Penn player since Cameron Lewis went 6-of-6 against Campbell on Dec. 30, 2008 ... Monckton also led Penn in rebounding, with seven; it was the third time this season he has led the team in boards in a game ... Monckton's double-figure scoring performance was his eighth this season; in Penn's two games against Harvard, he recorded 33 points and 15 rebounds ... Freshman Sean Mullan saw four minutes of action and scored his first four points as a collegian. He also had an offensive rebound in the game.
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