NEW HAVEN, Conn. Last weekend, the ups and downs of the Penn men’s basketball season were manifested over the course of the weekend, as the Quakers rolled past Dartmouth but then never really threatened a night later at Harvard.
On Friday night in New Haven, the ups and downs of this youthful squad played out over the course of 40 minutes. Fortunately for the Quakers, the final few minutes were of the “up” variety, and the final result was a 70-63 win at Yale.
With the win, Penn improved to 11-16 overall, and 6-4 in the Ivy League. Yale a veteran team that was picked second in the preseason Ivy League poll fell to 4-7 in league play and 10-15 overall.
Senior Brian Grandieri had arguably his strangest shooting night as a Quaker; normally a grinder 15 feet and in, he was 4-of-4 from three-point land and 0-of-4 inside the arc. He finished with 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his fourth collegiate double-double, and also dished out six assists. Freshman Jack Eggleston led all scorers with 18 points, going a perfect 10-of-10 from the foul line, while classmate Tyler Bernardini was 7-of-9 from the field and had 16 points. Another frosh, Harrison Gaines, joined Grandieri with six assists. Junior Brennan Votel was also productive, with eight points and five rebounds.
Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater has been a house of horrors for Penn teams in recent years both the 2005 and 2007 Ivy champion Quakers suffered their only league losses in this venue. Not surprisingly, after the game, Grandieri giddily told the media contingent that it was his first win here (it wasn’t, of course he temporarily forgot that Penn clinched the Ivy title here his sophomore year, in 2006).
Penn has so many young players, though, that history was just that for nearly 30 minutes.
Penn was down, 10-6, four minutes into the contest, but put together a 23-4 run over the next eight minutes to gain a 15-point lead at 29-14. Grandieri was a catalyst in the run, knocking down three three-point shots, while Bernardini began and ended the run with four-point spurts.
When the half ended, Bernardini had hit six of his seven field-goal attempts, Eggleston had complemented him with a 4-of-5 performance, and the Quakers had rolled out to a 39-21 advantage. It could have been worse if not for the efforts of Yale’s Ross Morin and Caleb Holmes, who had nine points each in the opening stanza..
How crisp was Penn’s offense in the first half? The Quakers shot 52.9 percent from the field (18-of-34); dished off 16 assists on those 18 baskets; and committed just two turnovers.
The lead was still 16 with nearly 11 minutes left in the game, when the “down” portion reared itself up.
Down, 51-35, Yale coach James Jones made a bold move, benching all but one of his senior regulars. The Bulldogs went on a 10-2 run that cut Penn’s lead into single digits with 7:50 still to go. As the crowd got louder, Yale seemed to gain confidence and the Quakers seemed to tighten up. When Jones put his seniors back out there, momentum remained with the Bulldogs.
It was a seven-point game when Eric Flato hit three of four foul shots on consecutive possessions. That made the score 60-56 with 3:33 left. Flato then stole the ball from Harrison Gaines, and looked to make it a one-point game with a three-point shot that was off the mark. However, Caleb Holmes was fouled by Bernardini on the rebound, and made both shots to make it 60-58 with 2:41 to go.
Eggleston broke the run with a pair of free throws, and then the Quakers caught a break when Yale could not get off a shot before the the shot clock ran down. On the ensuing Penn possession, Bernardini rolled into the lane and hit a lefty layup in traffic to make it 64-58 with 1:31 left.
Flato cut the lead to four with a basket just inside the arc, before Gaines hit a foul shot just inside a minute to put the score at 65-60.
Yale missed shots on consecutive trips down the floor, but Grandieri could not make the Bulldogs pay as he missed three of four shots from the line. Nick Holmes then missed a three, Eggleston grabbed the board, and he made both to essentially put this one away.
Yale was led by Holmes and Morin, who had 16 points apiece, while Flato finished the night with 13 points but went 2-of-8 from three-point land. Morin also grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Bulldogs.
The Quakers are back in action Saturday night, traveling to Providence to take on Brown University as Penn head coach Glen Miller returns to his former school. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. at the Pizzitola Sports Center.