SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The University of Pennsylvania men's basketball team fell to UTEP, 69-66, in the first round of the Black Coaches Association (BCA) Invitational Friday night at the Carrier Dome. The game was the season opener for both teams.
The Quakers will now play at 7 p.m. Saturday night against tournament host Syracuse, which easily defeated St. Francis (N.Y.) in Friday's nightcap. Penn will then play St. Francis Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Penn lost despite yeoman efforts from Mark Zoller, who had a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds;Brian Grandieri, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the first half; andSteve Danley who scored 11 of his 15 points in the second stanza. The senior center also had six boards, three blocked shots and two assists.
Several players got into the act for Penn to start the game -- baskets by four different players set Penn off on an 11-0 run that eventually turned into a 20-5 streak and gave the Quakers a 20-7 lead. However, UTEP crawled back into the game by using its quickness and breaking Penn down defensively. Stefon Jackson, in particular, was effective getting to the hoop. Within seven minutes, the game was tied at 24-24, and a few minutes after that the Miners used a 5-0 run to take their first lead at 31-30.
Penn scored the last five points of the first half, though, when Grandieri knocked down a three-pointer and Zoller got a layup at the buzzer. That gave Penn a 39-38 lead at the break.
UTEP -- which went 21-10 last year and advanced to the second round of the NIT -- scored the first seven points of the second half and never trailed again after that. The second half was full of drama, though.
Penn was down 53-43 with 14 minutes to play, but chipped away at the lead thanks to Zoller, Grandieri and Danley. With eight minutes to play, Tommy McMahon knocked down a trey, and after a defensive stop Danley got free for a dunk that made the score 56-55 in UTEP's favor.
Maurice Thomas got a layup for the Miners, but Zoller hit a free throw and then abasket a little more than a minute later to tie the game at 58-58. After UTEP's Marvin Kilgore and Zoller traded buckets, a key play came when Ibrahim Jaaber (5 points on the night) was called for his fifth foul and was disqualified.
Playing with freshman Darren Smith instead of the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, Penn hung tough. Kilgore hit both foul shots after Jaaber's foul, and then Stefon Jackson answered a Zoller free throw with three-straight points to put UTEP's lead at 65-61.
With 2:17 to play, Danley was fouled and hit both shots to cut the Miners' lead in half, and then with 1:25 to play he made the second of two to bring the Quakers within one.
A UTEP miss was rebounded by Danley, but after a pair of timeouts sophomore guard Aron Cohen jacked upa three-pointer from about 25 feet that fell well short.The Minersgot the rebound, and Penn was forced to foul. UTEP's Darren Clarke made one of two shots with 23 seconds left, but the killer came when his miss on the second shot was rebounded by Jackson who laid it up to push the Miners' lead to 68-64.
Zoller got a quick layup, and then Clarke again made only one of two shots to give Penn one final chance to tie. However, Smith's shot was off the back of the rim, and the horn sounded before Penn could get a second shot off.
Jackson led the way for UTEP, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine boards. Clarke scored 16 points, while Kilgore had 12.