PHILADELPHIA - If you have been attending Penn's basketball games at The Palestra this season, man, have you gotten your money's worth. The Quakers may not always win, but they sure have had a lot of interesting and dramatic contests.
It started all the way back on November 9, when Penn met Drexel and the two teams went to overtime. On Saturday night, in the Quakers' final game this season at the old gymnasium, it looked like overtime might again be in order, as Penn and Columbia were tied, 67-67, with mere seconds on the clock.
Enter Tyler Bernardini.
The freshman got the ball in the left corner, and put up a shot that never had a prayer of going in.
Enter Brian Grandieri.
The senior -- in his final game at The Palestra -- muscled his way under the hoop, and in the ensuing scrum he somehow managed to punch the ball back out toward his teammate.
Enter Bernardini -- again.
The freshman had immediately realized his shot was going to be off, and was on his way to the hoop for a potential offensive rebound. Instead, the ball suddenly popped back into his hands. Without hesitation, he again let fly, this time from about 10 feet out along the left baseline.
This time, it settled into the basket for two points.
The clock had 0.6 seconds left on it.
Penn 69, Columbia 67. Drive home safely, and see you next year.
For the Quakers (12-18), the win sealed at least a share of third place in the Ivy League standings for this season; at 7-6 in the conference, a win Tuesday night at Princeton will give them third outright behind champion Cornell and runner-up Brown, while a loss would put them in a tie for third with this same Lions team they beat tonight.
(in other words, turns out those media pundits were spot-on when they put the Quakers third in this year's preseason poll.)
Saturday's game ended up being a perfect salve for those who were still stinging from Friday night's heartbreaking defeat to Cornell. While the game, and the crowd of 3,540, that did not have nearly the emotion of the previous night -- how could it? -- it still left you drained when it was over. The contest featured 10 ties (four in the second half) and 13 lead changes (five in the final 2:09), and the largest lead anyone held at any time was seven points, when Columbia grabbed a 56-49 advantage with just under nine minutes remaining on Mack Montgomery's layup.
Penn hung around, though, and with five minutes left the Quakers finally made their move. Down, 60-54, they got a pair of free throws from Bernardini, and then after a shot-clock violation by Columbia Grandieri hit a jumper to make the score 60-58. Columbia's Niko Scott briefly doubled the lead with a J, but Andreas Schreiber hit four foul shots over consecutive possessions that tied the game at 62-62 with 2:44 to play. After a Montgomery turnover, Schreiber shook free on the block for a layup, and with 2:09 left Penn had its first lead in 17 minutes.
The Lions patiently worked the clock, and John Baumann took advantage of a Justin Reilly foul to hit two free throws and tie the game with 1:37 left. Bernardini then was hit as he shot a three-pointer, but could only convert one of the three foul shots to make the score 65-64. At the other end, as the clock went to its final minute, Scott drove for a layup and Columbia was up 66-65.
Grandieri -- the senior -- put Penn back on top , 67-66, when he rebounded a Bernardini miss and put it up and in with 30 seconds left. That left Columbia with the opportunity to play for a winning shot, but after a timeout the Lions quickly got the ball to Scott for a drive. This time he was fouled as he went up, and with 16 seconds left he missed the first but made the second to tie the game at 67-67.
That set the stage for Penn's final points.
On Senior Night, Penn honored its outgoing players -- Grandieri, Michael Kach and Joe Gill. After a pregame ceremony, head coach Glen Miller started all three of them together, with Schreiber and freshman Jack Eggleston. For Gill, it was his first collegiate start. Kach, who probably would not have dressed if not for the circumstances, played the first four minutes but no more, as his back continues to hamper him.
Grandieri ended the night with 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. The Quakers were led in scoring by junior Kevin Egee, who was 4-of-4 from three-point land and scored a career-high 16 points while grabbing five boards. Bernardini filled the box score with 15 points, two rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Schreiber dropped 10 points.
For Columbia, Ben Nwachukwu (23 points, 9 rebounds) and John Baumann (17, 5) were a formidable inside duo; however, they were the only Lions to score more than seven points on the night.
The Quakers and the Tigers will renew their rivalry Tuesday night at Jadwin Gym, with tipoff slated for 7 p.m. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.