PHILADELPHIA - In the weeks leading up to the start of this basketball season, University of Pennsylvania junior guard Tony Hicks has talked about embracing a leadership role with a young Quakers squad.
In Saturday’s season opener against Delaware State at The Palestra, it was Hicks who had the ball in his hands with the game tied at the end of regulation. After that shot didn’t go down, he took five of the Quakers’ six shots in overtime -- after taking the team’s final three in regulation -- and scored seven of the team’s 10 points. That gave him 31 for the night.
It was not enough.
Delaware State overcame an seven-point deficit in the final 8:20 of regulation, then scored 12 points in the extra session and escaped its first visit to The Palestra with a 77-75 victory.
Penn started one freshman (Darnell Foreman), and the only three players to come off the bench on Saturday were also freshmen (Antonio Woods, Mike Auger, Sam Jones). They played a combined 102 of Penn’s 225 minutes on Saturday, and at a few points all four were on the floor together.
They acquitted themselves well, for the most part. Woods had 11 points; Jones knocked down a pair of three-pointers and finished with eight points; Auger had three rebounds and two assists; Foreman scored four points, grabbed four boards and dished off three assists in 28 minutes.
Matt Howard scored nine points, while Darien Nelson-Henry had seven points and eight rebounds. Greg Louis was also active on the floor, playing 29 minutes and going for five points and six rebounds.
All that said, Penn had a 59-52 advantage after Hicks hit a three-pointer with 8:30 left. The Quakers knocked down just one field goal the rest of regulation, and that allowed the visiting Hornets to climb back into it.
The lone field goal was another trey by Hicks, and gave Penn a 65-61 lead with 3:19 left. However, DeAndre Haywood got inside for a layup and was fouled by Woods; he made the ensuing foul shot to make it a one-point game with 2:30 left.
Nelson-Henry missed a lefty layup on Penn’s next possession, but an empty possession by DSU put Hicks at the line for a 1-and-1. He missed the front end. With regulation closing in on a minute, Kendal Williams missed a jumper that would have given the Hornets the lead, but he hustled to force the ball out of bounds off a Penn player, and then Tyshawn Bell was fouled and hit one of two free throws to tie the game.
Both teams missed three-pointers – Hicks for Penn, Aric Dickerson for DSU – and then Hicks drove just to the right of the lane but his shot as time expired bounced off the rim and away.
Toamplify the difference in experience between the two clubs, Delaware State started three seniors and two sophomores for overtime, while Penn started three freshmen (Foreman, Woods, Jones) with Louis -- a senior who entered the game with just 537 career minutes -- and Hicks.
Delaware State won the OT tip and immediately scored, Williams hitting a jumper to give DSU its first lead since 44-43 early in the second half. Hicks hit a pair of free throws to tie it again, but Bell hit his own freebies to give the Hornets a lead they would not relinquish.
Hicks missed a trey, and Haywood hit one of two free throws to make the score 70-67. Hicks found Jones for a jumper just inside the three-point line to make it 70-69 with 1:45 left, but Haywood drained a jumper at the other end to put the difference back at three.
Nelson-Henry got a pair of free throws with 1:11 left, but could only hit one. Then Delaware State worked the shot clock down nearly to expiration and Williams drained a dagger jumper that made the score 74-70.
Hicks hit a layup just out of the reach of Gray (who had six blocked shots in the game), and then the Quakers had a chance to tie it up when Gray hit just one of two foul shots with 14 seconds left. However, Hicks’ three-point shot was off the mark and Haywood rebounded. He was fouled and hit both shots, making Hicks’ trey at the buzzer inconsequential.
Haywood finished the game with 23 points, while Bell had 19 and Gray complemented his six blocks with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Saturday’s game was the first of three in a row the Quakers will play at home to start the campaign; they host Rider Tuesday night at 7 p.m., then Lafayette next Saturday at 7 p.m.
Game Notes: This marked just the fourth time in program history that Penn’s season-opening game went to overtime; the other seasons when that happened were 1928-29; 1988-89; and 2007-08 … Penn is now 3-8 in overtime games under head coach Jerome Allen … Junior Tony Hicks scored 31 points to lead the Quakers, his second career 30-point game, and tied a career best with five three-point baskets … Hicks took 12 three-point shots, tying a Penn player high in the Jerome Allen coaching era … Hicks also took 13 foul shots on Saturday, the most by a Penn player since Zack Rosen took 15 against Delaware on December 22, 2010 … In his collegiate debut, freshman Antonio Woods was the only other Penn player to score in double figures (11 points) … Woods was one of four freshmen to see action on Saturday; the others were Darnell Foreman, who started; Mike Auger; and Sam Jones. The quartet played 102 of Penn’s 225 minutes in the game. (Woods 36, Foreman 28, Auger 19, Jones 19 … Sophomore Matt Howard scored nine points, a career high … In his first game since January 4, senior Greg Louis started and had five points and six rebounds in 29 minutes.