PHILADELPHIA - In a game that was fast-paced but also marked by lots of fouls and poor free-throw shooting, Penn nevertheless scored 97 points and defeated Florida Gulf Coast, 97-74, Saturday night at The Palestra.
The game was the first for Glen Miller as the head coach of the home team in The Palestra -- prior to this season, he had coached at Brown and brought his Bears teams in to face the Quakers.
Miller promised his team would go up-tempo this season, and Saturday night was certainly indicative of that as both teams pushed the action. Ultimately, however, Penn benefited from amazing shooting from the field (36-of-57, 63.2 percent) and had 13 steals to offset a poor performance from the foul line (17-of-33, 51.5 percent).
Penn (2-2) shot 21-of-28 (75.0 percent) from the field in the second half, and that allowed the Quakers to pull away from a pesky Florida Gulf Coast (0-2) squad that opened the 2006-07 campaign with a 73-37 loss at Drexel Wednesday. Drexel will be Penn's next opponent -- the teams will meet Tuesday at The Palestra at 8 p.m., in a game that will be televised on CN8 (and will follow the Penn women's game with La Salle, which tips off at 5 p.m.).
Mark Zoller led the way for Penn, matching a career high with 26 points on a 9-of-11 performance from the field. Brian Grandieri was all over the place Saturday night, filling the box score with 19 points (on 7-of-11 shooting), six rebounds, nine assists and six steals. And freshman Darren Smith kept the Quakers in the game in the first half with four three-pointers en route to 17 points.
Then there was Ibrahim Jaaber, who punctuated the evening with an alley-oop dunk that simply brought the house down in the final minute. The senior guard went for 15 points (on 7-of-11 shooting), eight assists and three steals.
For FGCU, Landon Adler had 18 points and eight rebounds, while Beau Bauer had 16 and four steals. Casey Wohlleb finished with 11 points, and Brandon Dunbar also finished with double figures at 10 points.
The first half was a see-saw affair most of the way, with neither team gaining more than a six-point advantage. That all changed in the final five minutes, when Smith hit all of his three-pointers and was joined behind the arc by Kevin Egee -- the treys spurred a 19-3 Penn run that gave the Quakers a 39-26 advantage with less than two minutes remaining in the half.
Florida Gulf Coast had an answer before halftime, however, as Bauer, Yavney Neptune and Wohlleb hit trifectas on consecutive possessions. At the break, Penn's lead was just 39-35.
The second half slogged along, asboth teams werewhistled for a number of fouls -- FGCU had 17, while Penn had 14. For the game, the teams combined for 51 fouls and took 62 foul shots, but neither team took advantage as they shot just a combined 53.2 percent from the foul line.
The Quakers pushed their lead back to double digits in the first four minutes of the second half, and that edge hovered between single and double digits for several minutes afterward. Penn appeared put the game away midway through the stanza with an 8-0 run that pushed its lead to 19 (70-51), but FGCU drew back within 10 on a pair of occasions, then cut the Quakers' lead to single digits (80-71) when Cecil Avant hit a three-pointer with 4:46 to play.
The teams went nearly two minutes without a point, before Justin Reilly got free for a layup. After Bauer missed a jumper, Zoller shook free for a short jumper and hit it, and then an FGCU turnover turned into a bucket by Grandieri. That made the score 88-71 with less than two minutes to play, and a frenetic final two minutes allowed the Quakers to near the 100-point mark.
Jaaber's slam came with 37 seconds left on a three-on-one break and capped a run of six points in less than 30 seconds by Penn to make the score 95-74. Grandieri hit a pair of free throws 10 seconds later, ending Penn's final 17-3 run that put this one away.