PHILADELPHIA With both Ibrahim Jaaber and Mark Zoller makingtheir casesfor Ivy League Player of the Year honors, the picture didn’t exactly get any clearer Saturday night.
In a game that was far closer and more entertaining than the final score would indicate, Jaaber and Zoller hit 25 and 24 points, respectively, as Penn pulled away and beat Cornell, 83-71, infront of 6,656at The Palestra.
Penn (17-8, 8-1 Ivy) remained atop the League standings while Cornell (14-10, 7-3 Ivy), whichcame in a half-game back of the lead, fell back into third after Yale beat Harvard to stay in second place.
The Quakers went on a 9-1 run midway through the second half to break a 53-53 tie and never trailed again. Both teams shot well from the field, with Penn making half its shots in both halves and Cornell hitting 57.9 percent of its attempts.
Zoller turned a fantastic all-around game, notching six assists, six steals and five rebounds in addition to his 24 points. Jaaber had four assists and five boards to go with his 25 points. Andrew Naeve compiled a double-double for Cornell with 20 points and 10 boards.
Despite the deceptively large margin of victory, the Big Red didn’t makethings easy.
Cornell jumped out to a seven-point lead with 8:20 left in the first half, but the Quakers pushed the pace from methodical to frenetic, unloading a flurry of scoring on the way into the break. They outscored their opponents 23-6 over the final eight minutes of the half, including an 11-0 run late in the frame.
But the Big Red responded with a 23-13 stretch to open the second half and take the lead, capped by three straight buckets around the 13-minute mark.
Penn responded with its own run, ballooning its lead to as many as eight points, but a Ryan Wittman layup made it a three-point game with 6:24 left.
Michael Kach made sure the decision would swing the home team’s way, canning a three-pointer before Zoller hit a lay-up that put Penn up by eight once again. Cornell never got closer than five and the Quakers eventually went up by as many as 14 near the end.
Zoller ended up with a 10-of-16 shooting night, including a pair of treys, while Jaaber hit nine of his 15 shots. The balance was there for Penn, though, as Steve Danley scored nine and grabbed six boards, Brian Grandieri added 10 points, and Kevin Egee came off the bench to provide seven points in 18 minutes.
Penn continues League play with a visit to Harvard Friday at 7 p.m.