HONOLULU, Hawaii- The University of Pennsylvania men's basketball team trailed only one time in Thursday night's game with the University of Hawaii -- off the opening tap, the Rainbow Warriors' Julian Sensley knocked down a layup for a 2-0 lead.
Penn scored the next nine points, and never looked back. But it would be absolutely wrong to assume that the Quakers cruised in this game, and the 58-55 final score is indicative of that.
In front of a crowd of 7,176 that got louder with each possession down the stretch, Penn (4-4)showed tremendous character in holding off the Rainbows to get the win. The Quakers' lead was never more than five during the final six minutes of the contest. Thanks totheir veteran leaders, though, they ended a four-game losing streak at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Eric Osmundson, who has been slumping offensively of late, came up with nine of his 11 points in the game's final 12 minutes, beginningwith a three-pointer he buried from the corner. Showing increasing confidence after that, Osmundson punctuated his evening with a nice drive and layup in the game's final minute that put Penn up 56-51.
Steve Danley scored just four points in his first appearance since December 7, butled Penn withfive assists and tied for team-high honors with six rebounds. Perhaps most importantly,after a Penn turnover gave Hawaii possession down 57-55 with less than 15 seconds left, the Rainbows threw the ball away andhe came up with it. He put Penn's final two points on the board Thursday night from the foul line.
Mark Zoller personally staked Penn to a 7-2 lead to start the game en route to 13 for the night, some of them in spectacular fashion. He also snared six boards, including three on the offensive glass.
And Ibrahim Jaaber? All he did was score a game-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting (including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc). Whenever the team needed a big play in the second half, he seemed to be the one to provide it.
Thanks to Zoller and a jumper by Osmundson, Penn jumped out to its early 9-2 lead and pushed it to nine on two occasions. However, an 11-3 Hawaii run made the score 19-18 with seven minutes left in the first half. Friedrich Ebede countered with a jumper, and then a Brian Grandieri steal led to a Jaaber dunk. Zoller then knocked down another jumper to push Penn's lead back up to 25-18.
Hawaii (7-4) responded with the game's next six points, and the teams traded treys to end the half with Penn up 28-27.
Penn tried to shake the Rainbows in the second half but could not. The closest the Quakers came was with an 11-3 run that was started by Osmundson's trey from the right side. The stretch put Penn's lead at 50-41 with eight minutes to play, but Hawaii still had some fight left. Matt Lojeski scored seven points to charge a 10-2 Rainbow run, one that ended when Deonte Tatum hit a shot in the lane with 2:46 left to make the score 52-51 Quakers.
Jaaber came back with a jumper with 2:17 left, and then David Whitehurst picked up the steal on a Hawaii turnover. Osmundson missed a three on the ensuing Penn possession, but Danley retrieved the long rebound and Osmundson atoned for his miss with a driving layup that made the score 56-51 with 56 seconds left.
Ebede fouled Sensley, and the Hawaii big man made one of two foul shots. Osmundson was fouled when Penn inbounded, missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and then Tatum forced a foul on Jaaber and knocked down one of his two charity shots to make the score 56-53. Tatum then answered a Danley free throw with a length-of-the-court drive that cut Penn's lead to 57-55 with 14 seconds left.
Out of a timeout, Penn nearly gave it away when an errant inbounds pass was kicked around and fell into Lojeski's hands. However, he sent a hard pass underneath that could not be handled by his teammate, and Danley recovered the ball before being fouled. He made one of two, giving Hawaii life, but Sensley -- who scored just four points, nearly 13 below his team-leading average -- missed a desperation three-pointer off the back iron as the buzzer sounded.
Penn will be back in action Saturday, taking on BYU-Hawaii in Laie. Start time for that game is 5 p.m. Hawaiian Time (10 p.m. EST).