PROVIDENCE, R.I. - One night after winning the Ivy League title and being the first team in the nation to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth, the University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team was put on its heels for a majority of Saturday night’s game at Brown by an aggressive, athletic Bears squad.
Penn trailed almost the entire way, went ahead late in regulation, had a chance to salt it away but could not, but learned its lesson in the overtime and was able to gain an impressive, 74-68 victory over the Bears at the Pizzitola Sports Center.
By doing so, Penn (20-7, 12-1 Ivy) got to the 20-win plateau for the second-consecutive year, the fourth time in five years, and the ninth time since 1993. In addition, the Quakers were the only team to sweep the Bears the season Brown (10-17, 6-8 Ivy) split with all six of the other conference teams this season.
The Quakers maybe could have been forgiven if they had mailed this game in just 24 hours after clinching the conference title, but to their credit they erased a Brown lead that was in double figures during the first half and was maintained (with one brief exception) until just 2:55 remained in regulation. That was when David Whitehurst took a charge on Brown’s Damon Huffman, was awarded two free throws, and drained both.
Brown responded almost immediately with a basket by Scott Friske, but after both teams turned the ball over Penn regained the lead when Eric Osmundson drained a three-pointer with 1:19 left. The Bears got two of those points back when Keenan Jeppesen hit a pair of foul shots, and looked like it might get a chance to win it off a Penn turnover. However, Brian Grandieri was able to pick the ball from Friske with just 21 seconds left, and after he was fouled he hit both shots to push the Quakers’ lead back to 60-57.
That is when things got a little crazy.
As Brown hustled the ball up the court, Ibrahim Jaaber used his reach to pick off a Bears pass. Instead of dribbling the clock out, he took the ball to the hoop, dishing off to Grandieri in a 2-on-1 situation. Grandieri could have dribbled it out, but he chose to go up for the shot, which was rejected by Marcus Becker. Brown got the rebound, scrambled out on the break, found Becker open in the left corner, and he drained a trey as the buzzer sounded to tie things up at 60.
Mark Zoller scored Penn’s first five points in overtime, but they were matched by a Becker trey and two Jeppesen free throws. Brown’s Mark MacDonald put the Bears up on a free throw with 1:48 to play, but on consecutive possessions Steve Danley was able to get free and knock down shots that pushed the Quakers’ lead to 69-66 with 45 seconds to play.
Jeppesen drove the lane and threw down a furious slam to cut the lead to one point with 18 ticks left, and then the Bears fouled Jaaber. The junior guard made the first free throw, missed the second, but grabbed his own rebound and forced Brown to foul him again. This time he was good on both, pushing Penn’s lead to 72-68 with 15 seconds left.
MacDonald missed on a trey, Jaaber grabbed the board, and that was pretty much the end of things.
Penn had five players score in double figures, led by Zoller who had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the weekend. Osmundson scored 15 points on five three-pointers and dished off five assists, while Danley had 12 points and a career-best nine helpers. Grandieri had a monster game off the bench, scoring 13 points, snaring eight rebounds and coming up with four steals. Finally, Jaaber matched Grandieri in the points column and had three thefts.
For Brown, Jeppesen led all scorers with 21 points, while Friske had 13 and Becker finished with 10.
Penn will finish up the regular season Tuesday night in the traditional season-ender with Princeton. That game, at the Tigers’ Jadwin Gym, will begin at 9 p.m. and be televised live on ESPNU.