NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team used a pair of runs to build up a double-digit lead on Niagara Tuesday night, and the Quakers never let the Purple Eagles back into it in taking a 67-56 decision at the ‘Taps’ Gallagher Center.
Penn improved to 4-8 with the win, while Niagara fell to 3-12.
These teams entered this midweek non-conference game with a combined record of 6-19, and the first half was exactly what you might have expected. Both teams were listless at both ends of the floor, especially on offense as Penn shot just 32 percent from the field (8-25) and Niagara was an even worse 27.6 percent (8-29). It was even worse beyond the arc, where the Quakers were 1-of-8 and the Purple Eagles were 2-of-11.
Penn held a five-point lead with a little over eight minutes left before the break, but hit just one field goal the rest of the way. Niagara was unable to fully capitalize, although the Purple Eagles scored 12 of the half’s final 17 points to take a 24-22 lead into the locker room.
Penn used a seven-point run to turn a 30-29 deficit into a six-point lead early in the second half, and then a critical run occurred shortly after that when the Quakers scored nine in a row to boost a one-point lead to a double-digit margin. Greg Louis was the catalyst to the second run, knocking down three straight jumpers to start it. The run eventually stretched to 15-3, punctuated by a Tony Hicks driving layup and-one, and the Red and Blue’s lead was 51-38 with 6:16 to play.
Unlike Saturday, when Penn blew a 15-point lead at Ivy rival Princeton, there would be little to no drama on this night. The Quakers only hit one field goal in the final 6:16 – a baseline jumper by Darnell Foreman with the shot clock nearing expiration – but made 15 free throws to keep Niagara at bay (including 14 of their final 15 attempted).
Hicks finished the game with 18 points, 16 of them coming in the decisive second half. Louis ended the night with 12 points, while Matt Howard scored 11. Darien Nelson-Henry nearly had a double-double, with nine points and nine rebounds.
For Niagara, Ramone Snowden led the way with 14 points while Wesley Myers had 11.
Penn returns to action on Saturday, hosting No. 5 Villanova at The Palestra at 7 p.m. That game is already a sellout, and will be televised live on ESPN3 as well as the Ivy League Digital Network.
Game Notes: For the first time this season, Penn won a game in which it trailed at halftime … Penn outrebounded its opponent for the ninth time in 12 games this season … Penn improved to 3-1 in games when the Quakers make more free throws than their opponent … Penn hit a season-high 23 free throws and shot a season-best 82.1 percent from the foul line ... Penn is 26-6 under Coach Allen when holding its opponent under 60 points … Niagara had four assists, tied for an opponent low in that category in the Jerome Allen coaching era at Penn … Penn’s 22 first-half points were a low for the season, but the 45 second-half points were two shy of the high for this season … Tony Hicks led Penn in scoring for the seventh time this season, with 18 points … 16 of Hicks’ 18 points came after halftime … Hicks has now scored in double figures in four straight games … Senior Greg Louis had his second double-digit scoring performance of the season, with 12 points … Sophomore Matt Howard had 11 points, the fourth time in the last six games he has reached double digits (fifth time this year) … Junior Darien Nelson-Henry led Penn in rebounding for the sixth time this season, and nearly had a double-double (9 points, 9 rebounds) … Freshman Mike Auger set a season/career high with two steals.
Download: Penn 67, Niagara 56.pdf