Men's Basketball Holds Off Saint Joseph's, 56-52

PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team has had trouble closing out some opponents this season, so Quakers fans couldn’t help but be nervous as Saturday’s Big 5 game with Saint Joseph’s wound down to its conclusion.

And while it wasn’t necessarily the cleanest finish, Penn did enough down the stretch to defeat the Hawks, 56-52, in front of a near-sellout at The Palestra.

Penn (5-10) had a 10-point lead with five minutes to play, but Saint Joseph’s (8-10) drew as close as two and even had a few chances to tie the game before the Quakers finally clinched it. The first came with two minutes to go, with the score 49-46; SJU’s Shavar Newkirk’s errant pass led to a steal by Penn, and Tony Hicks was fouled in the open court. He made both free throws to push Penn back up by five, 51-46.

Newkirk atoned with a three-point basket with 34 seconds left, and almost immediately Hicks was fouled on the inbounds. He made the first but missed the second, and once again SJU had the ball down just three. This time, DeAndre Bembry – who had already dropped 22 points on the night – got in for a layup that somehow did not go down. Greg Louis got the rebound for Penn and was fouled. He made both shots to provide some cushion, 54-49.

Newkirk again took a trey, but this time he was well short on his attempt. Hicks was pushed as he grabbed the board, and was true on his foul shots which made it 56-49. Bembry capped his night with a final trey, giving him 25 for this night, and Penn provided a few extra heart palpitations with a five-second call on the inbounds.

The Hawks immediately went to Bembry again, but this time he missed a trey attempt, and Louis was fouled on the rebound. He missed both after knocking his head on the floor, but SJU had no time to score after that.

It was a good win for Penn, which led for the game’s final 26 minutes (save a brief tie at 25-25 in the second half). Even so, on a night when both teams struggled offensively, no lead felt safe as the Quakers could only get a double-digit margin once on the Hawks, at 46-36. SJU answered with the next five points, of course, to set up the finish.

Hicks ended up leading Penn with 15 points; 13 of them came after halftime, including a pair of three-point shots that turned a 35-32 lead into a 41-33 advantage. Darien Nelson-Henry also had a big second period, scoring 12 of his 14 points after halftime. Louis, meanwhile, finished just one rebound shy of a double-double (10 points, 9 rebounds). And one week after dropping 18 points in a sold-out Big 5 game against Villanova, freshman Antonio Woods continued to show he rises to the occasion; he had seven of the Quakers’ nine assists in the game.

Penn opens the first of six straight Ivy League weekends next Friday and Saturday here at The Palestra. The Quakers host Dartmouth on Friday night -- a game that will be televised on ESPN3 as well as the Ivy League Digital Network -- and Harvard on Saturday night. Both games will tip off at 7 p.m.

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Game Notes: This was Penn’s closest margin of victory in a win this season … Penn led for more than 29 minutes in this game, after never holding a lead in its previous two games … Penn improved to 4-3 when leading at the half this season … Penn outrebounded its 11th opponent this season; in two of its other four games, the Quakers have matched the opponent on the glass … Penn held Saint Joseph’s to 17 points in the first half, the second-lowest by an opponent this season … Penn is 5-2 this season when shooting a better percentage from the field than its opponent … Penn’s +16 margin in free throws attempted on Saturday was a season high … Saint Joseph’s took just 12 foul shots, an opponent low this season … Penn took just six three-point shots in the game, a low in the Jerome Allen coaching era … For the third straight game, Penn made just 19 field goals which a team low this season (done five times overall) … Junior Tony Hicks led Penn in scoring for the eighth time this season, with 15 points … Thirteen of his 15 points came in the game’s final 9:15 … Junior Darien Nelson-Henry scored 14 points, with 12 coming in the second half … Senior Greg Louis nearly had his second collegiate double-double, with 10 points and nine rebounds … His nine boards led Penn in the game (his fourth time leading the team this season) and tied a season high … Sophomore Matt Howard tied a season/career high with six rebounds … Freshman Antonio Woods set season/career highs in assists (7) and minutes played (38) … Senior Camryn Crocker tied a career high with four rebounds … Hicks now has 926 points for his career; he needs 74 to reach 1,000.

Download: 012415 SJU-Penn Final Box.pdf