PHILADELPHIA - One of college basketball's best rivalries is bound to produce a game like this every once in awhile.
Penn and Princeton struggled to find the hoop Tuesday night at The Palestra, combining for just 30 field goals including only five from three-point land. The result was one of the lowest-scoring games in the storied rivalry, as the Quakers emerged with a 48-35 victory.
The win was the 17th in a row at home in an Ivy League game for Penn (15-8, 6-1 Ivy), who remained in first place in the Ancient Eight with the victory. Princeton (10-11, 1-6 Ivy) continues to struggle; Tuesday night's point total marked the third time this season the Tigers have been held to 35 in an Ivy League game.
The historic numbers? Well, Penn had not scored 48 points or fewer in a win since a 47-40 victory at Columbia on Feb. 8, 2003. More impressively, however, was the fact that the Quakers had not allowed as little as 35 points to an opponent since December 6, 1972 (in a 67-34 win over The Citadel). And the last time Princeton scored this few points in a game with Penn was December 22, 1945 (a 66-30 Quaker win at Princeton).
Mark Zoller was the only player to score in double figures -- for either team. He had 17 points to go with eight rebounds. Brian Grandieri scored nine points and had 10 boards, while Steve Danley and Ibrahim Jaaber scored eight points apiece. Jaaber also came up with six steals, giving him 17 in the last three games.
For Princeton, Lincoln Gunn scored eight points while Kyle Koncz and Marcus Schroeder had six each. Koncz also had seven rebounds to lead the Tigers.
"I was very pleased with our defense," said the John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Men's Basketball, Glen Miller. "We struggled a little bit offensively, but we won the game with our defense. It was a struggle offensively, but I thought we played outstanding defense.
"We didn’t try to force tempo with Princeton -- you have to accept that it’s going to be a low-possession game. I just don’t think too many teams are successful doing that against them. Sometimes, in a game like this and a team like this, you just have to work through your frustrations."
The way the game played out, how could you not be nervous as a Penn fan? On several occasions in the first half the Quakers had a chance to push out to a big lead, but somehow Princeton managed to hang around. The Quakers led by as much as 11 late in the first half, but the Tigers scored five of the last seven point of the stanza and went into the break down, 27-19.
The second half produced more of the same; Danley scored the first basket of the half, but then the Quakers went without a point for more than seven minutes as the Tigers drew level. With 11:24 remaining, Gunn knocked down the first of two free throws to tie the score at 29-29, but he missed the second attempt which would have given Princeton its first lead of the night.
Instead, Danley quickly broke Penn's skein with a layup, and that set the Quakers off on a 12-point run. Zoller knocked down a pair of free throws on Penn's next possession, and then two minutes later he finished off a feed from Darren Smith. Nearly two more minutes went by before Grandieri hit a pair of foul shots, and then after another defensive stop he hit a layup from another Smith feed. Jaaber punctuated the run with a steal and thunderous two-hand slam, that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
At that point, Princeton had gone more than six minutes without scoring a point, and more than eight minutes without a field goal. More than another minute would pass before the Tigers finally broke their string, as Kevin Steuerer got a layup off a Schroeder feed, but the damage had been done.
Penn is back in action this weekend, concluding a five-game-in-eight-day homestand with Columbia (Friday) and Cornell (Saturday). Tip time for both game is 7 p.m., and Saturday's meeting with the Big Red -- who are tied with Yale for second in the Ivies at 6-2 -- will be televised live on the YES Network.