PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team held Columbia to just nine points in the first half of Friday night’s game at The Palestra, then withstood a Lions rally in the second half to win 54-46.
Columbia (13-14, 5-8 Ivy League) got as close as six points on several occasions down the stretch, but Penn (8-18, 3-9) was able to keep the Lions at bay in winning for the first time in exactly a month.
Perhaps the biggest play came with Penn’s lead a teetering 39-33 and just over three minutes to play. The Quakers worked the shot clock down, and with it nearing zero the ball ended up in the hands of freshman Sam Jones in the left corner. He faked a three-point shot that caused two Columbia players to leave their fight and fly past him. He then calmly swished the trey attempt, the ball settling into the netting just as the shot-clock buzzer went off.
Columbia would not get within six again until just 1:15 remained, and while the Lions began fouling the Penn players early the Quakers were able to hit their foul shots (8 for 9 in the game's final 1:43) to keep their advantage.
Columbia scored the game’s first point, on a Cory Osetkowski foul shot, but then Penn scored 23 of the next 28 points to take a 23-6 lead. The Lions made the score a modest 9-5 when Maodo Lo hit a layup with 14:05 left in the first half; their next field goal would not come until just 40 seconds remained in the period, a three-pointer by Luke Petrasek.
It was easily the fewest points allowed in a half by Penn in the Jerome Allen coaching era; as it would turn out, Columbia’s total for tonight’s game (46) was what the Lions hit in the first half a month ago in New York City.
Penn’s lead got as large as 17 points in the second half, at 38-21, before Lo personally scored nine in a row to make the score 38-30. Penn continued to struggle offensively, and Jeff Coby hit a pair of free throws that suddenly made it a six-point game (38-32).
Greg Louis hit one of two foul shots to make it 39-32, but his point was matched by Osetkowski. That set the stage for Jones’ three-pointer, the Quakers’ first field goal in more than six minutes.
Tony Hicks was massive in Friday’s win, with team highs in points (19) and rebounds (8) as well as two steals. Jones, who hit seven three-pointers the last time these two teams met, hit four more on Friday night en route to 14 points. Antonio Woods finished with seven points and four assists.
For Columbia, Lo had a game-high 21 points while Kyle Castlin scored 11 and had eight rebounds.
Penn continues its season-ending, three-game homestand on Saturday night, hosting Cornell at 7 p.m.