PHILADELPHIA - It took a lot for the Penn men's basketball team to make its first trip to Drexel's Daskalakis Center -- like a national television audience and a 10 a.m. start as part of ESPN's Hoop Marathon.
You can excuse Penn coach Glen Miller if he will be in no rush to make a return trip in the future, after the Quakers fell to the Dragons, 66-64, Tuesday morning.
There were a lot of reasons this game did not go Penn's way, but one stat that immediately stuck out was that the Quakers were just 13-of-28 from the foul line. That .464 percentage was tempered by some ironwork by Drexel as well -- the Dragons were only 17-of-32 from the charity stripe -- but somehow those numbers seem magnified when you lose.
As it was, freshman Zack Rosen had the game on his shoulders with just 3.6 seconds to play, after he was fouled attempting a game-tying three-pointer. With the sellout crowd at fever pitch, the rookie missed his first shot, made his second, and then purposely missed the third. The ploy appeared as though it might work, as Cameron Lewis was able to get a hand on the ball and tipped it to senior Brennan Votel in the lane. Unfortunately, Votel's effort fell about a foot short of the front rim, and the horn sounded before the ball could be controlled.
It was an unfortunate ending for Votel, who had arguably his finest game as a Quaker with 17 points (on 8-of-13 shooting) and nine rebounds in 34 minutes. In fact, if not for the play of Votel and fellow senior Kevin Egee (18 points, six rebounds, two assists), this game might have gone to the dogs quickly.
Penn (0-2) held just one lead in the game, at 1-0 after Jack Eggleston's opening foul shot (as a harbinger of the day's events, he missed the second of two). Drexel reeled off the next five points, and that set the tone as Penn hung around but certainly struggled offensively. In fact, the Quakers looked very much out of sync and allowed the Dragons to go up by as much as 14 (32-18) before Egee almost single-handedly brought them back -- the senior scored seven points in a row, punctuating a 9-2 run that allowed Penn to go into the locker room down just 34-27.
Drexel -- playing its first game this season -- opened its lead back up to 10 early in the second half, at 39-29, but Penn went on a 15-5 run over a six-minute span that was capped when Votel laid a ball in high off the glass.
Just when it looked like Penn might assert itself, however, Drexel responded. Kenny Tribbett scored on a layup to put the Dragons back up, and then an errant Penn pass fell into the hands of Tramayne Hawthorne, who went the distance and hit a layup while being fouled by Harrison Gaines. Hawthorne made his foul shot, and just like that the score was 49-44.
There was ebb and flow for several minutes after that, as Penn drew within four on a few occasions and Drexel opened up to an eight-point lead on a few other occasions. The Quakers closed the gap to three with exactly two minutes left when Tyler Bernardini knocked down a pair of free throws, but Drexel's Scott Rodgers drove the lane and was fouled by Rob Belcore as he went up for a shot in the lane. Rodgers made both, setting the score at 64-59, before Bernardini was again fouled and made 1-of-2 for a 64-60 game with 1:29 left.
Drexel ran some clock on its next possession, and as the shot clock neared zero Jamie Harris put up a layup that missed. However, Samme Givens came up with the critical rebound -- the Dragons' 15th offensive board of the day -- and Harris was quickly fouled. He made one, setting the score at 65-60 with 45 seconds left.
Drexel could have made life easier for itself, but Evan Neisler missed a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left, and then Egee knocked down a trey to make it 65-63 with 16 seconds left. Penn fouled Rodgers with 13 to go, and he made the first but missed the second which set the stage for Penn's final possession and Rosen's foul shots.
Bernardini finished the day with 14 points, four rebounds and five assists, but struggled mightily to find his shot all day. In his second collegiate game, Rosen had eight assists without a turnover and also snared seven rebounds. For Drexel, Rodgers and Hawthorne had 13 points apiece.
Penn returns to action Saturday, playing at home for the first time with Monmouth coming to The Palestra. The Quakers and Hawks will tip off at 7 p.m.