ALBANY, N.Y. - When the Penn men's basketball team looked across the court at the University at Albany Great Danes, the Quakers had to see a program that mirrors their own.
Albany won the America East Conference title in 2005-06 and again in 2006-07, similar to Penn's three-year run of Ivy titles that ended in 2006-07. After falling off last season -- like the Quakers -- the Great Danes are looking to regain their status within the conference.
On Saturday night, the Great Danes hit their shots, the Quakers did not, and that was one of the big reasons that Albany pulled out a 73-63 victory at the SEFCU Arena. With the win, Albany improved to 4-2 on the season, while Penn fell to 1-4 with Villanova on tap in its Big 5 opener Tuesday.
After both teams shot relatively decently in the first half -- Penn was 11-of-27, Albany was 13-of-32 -- the Great Danes got off to a hot start in the second half and that proved to be too much for the Quakers to overcome. Penn was down just 35-33 with 16 minutes left in this contest, but a 12-1 Albany run spelled disaster as the Quakers could get no closer than seven after that. For the second half, Albany hit 15 of its 24 shots -- a 62.5-percent clip -- while Penn was just 11-of-13 and hit only two of its 16 three-point attempts.
Anthony Raffa wasthe catalyst to Albany's second-half run, matching up with Penn's Zack Rosen as both New Jersey-bred freshman point guards alone were worth the price of admission. Raffa hit two treys during the Danes' decisive run and ended up scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second stanza. He finished the night with three three-pointers as well as six rebounds. As for Rosen, he scored 12 points and had Penn team highs with six rebounds, eight assists and three steals. For the season, Rosen has 33 assists and just six turnovers.
Penn was down by eight points with six minutes to go in the first half, but used a 12-2 run to take a two-point lead. Rosen keyed the run, feeding Jack Eggleston and then Tyler Bernardini (spectacularly) for buckets before knocking down a deuce and trey on his own. Will Harris tried to slow the Quakers with a bucket for UAlbany, but Bernardini hit a three to put Penn up, 28-26. However, Brian Connelly hit a jumper, and then Tim Ambrose knocked down a three-pointer to put the Danes up 31-28 at the break.
Bernardini led Penn with 19 points, while Eggleston scored 13 points and added three boards and two assists. Senior Brennan Votel had eight points, five rebounds, and set a career best with three blocked shots.
For Albany, Ambrose complemented Raffa with 19 points and four assists, while Harris had 14 points and Connelly added 10 points and seven boards.
Penn and Villanova will tip off at 8 p.m. Tuesday night at The Palestra in the first Philadelphia Big 5 game of the 2008-09 season; the game will be televised live on CN8.