PHILADELPHIA - One night after clinching its third Ivy League title in a row, the Penn men's basketball team could probably be excused for the performancethey putforthSaturday night against Brown at The Palestra.
The Quakers were sluggish, seemed to struggle offensively and never really found a rhythm. That made for a nervous game on a night when the program honored outgoing seniors Steve Danley, Adam Franklin, Ibrahim Jaaber and Mark Zoller.
Fortunately for Penn, Jaaber was not about to let his team lose and have its 20-game home winning streak against Ivy League teams go by the boards in his final game at The Palestra. As a result, Penn was able to escape with a 67-64 win over the Bears that was every bit as close as the score would indicate.
Jaaber scored 22 points -- 16 of them in the second half -- grabbed seven rebounds and came up with six assists as Penn improved to 21-8 overall and 12-1 in the Ivy League. The Quakers will close out the regular season Tuesday night at Princeton.
Jaaber was joined in double figures by Mark Zoller, who was plagued by foul trouble throughout the night -- he played just 18 minutes -- but still scored 10 points. Kevin Egee stood out, scoring nine points and going 4-of-5 from the field. Brian Grandieri finished with seven points and six rebounds, while Danley had six points and six boards.
The largest lead either team had in the second half was five points, when Brown (11-18, 6-8) led 37-32 with two minutes gone in the stanza, and the teams were never separated by more than three points in the last 12 minutes of the contest.
With three minutes left, Brown held a 62-60 lead thanks to a pair of free throws by Chris Skrelja, which broke the sixth and final tie score of the night. Grandieri got one of those back when he was fouled while sliding inside on the baseline, and after a Brown turnover Jaaber slid in for one of his patented silky-smooth layups to give Penn the 63-62 lead.
Skrelja traveled on Brown's next possession, and then Egee took a feed from Jaaber along the left block and put in a crazy shot that kissed high off the glass and into the hoop. Brown came right down and got a pair of foul shots that Scott Friske made to get the score to 65-64 with 45 seconds to play.
With 24 seconds left, Grandieri was fouled by Brown's Mark McAndrew and converted both free throws to push Penn's lead back to three points. After a pair of timeouts, the Bears worked to get a three-point shot, and it was eventually taken by Damon Huffman. That shot had no chance, but Friske appeared to corral the offensive rebound. However, in his attempt to find a teammate open beyond the arc, his pass went awry and Egee was able to grab it as time ran out.
Following the pregame ceremony, John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Men's Basketball Glen Miller started his four seniors and junior Brian Grandieri. However, it was Brown that got off to the quick start, scoring the game's first six points. Penn recovered with seven straight, all from Danley and Zoller, and eventually stretched to a 20-13 lead when Michael Kach dropped a three-pointer and Zoller hit back-to-back layups.
Penn's lead was still 30-24 with three minutes to play in the half, but the Quakers went scoreless the rest of the way while Huffmanput the finishing toucheson a personal 14-point run that put the Bears up 32-30 at the break. Huffman drained four treys during the final 4:27, each more audacious than the last, to give Brown the halftime lead.
However, as good as Huffman was in the first half -- he ended with 16 points -- he went scoreless in the second half. Nevertheless, he was Brown's leading scorer on the night. Marcus Becker had 13 points for the Bears, while Mark MacDonald had nine points and Skrelja finished with eight.
Tuesday's game at Jadwin Gym will begin at 7 p.m., and will be televised live on ESPNU.