PHILADELPHIA - With 14 minutes left in Saturday's men's basketball game at The Palestra, it looked like Penn had finally disposed of a Drexel team that had to be dragging, playing its fourth game since Monday and its second in less than 24 hours. When Mark Zoller hit a jumper, the Quakers led 47-28.
Drexel still had some fight left, however, and was able to claw back within four points before the day was done. Ultimately, though, Penn was able to hang on and earn a 68-60 decision over the Dragons in the 18th installment of this neighborhood rivalry (the Quakers now lead the series 14-4).
Penn -- which is 2-0 for just the second time under 17-year head coach Fran Dunphy -- was led by a pair of usual suspects, as Eric Osmundson used a fast start to a team-leading 15 points and Ibrahim Jaaber chipped in with 14. However, the story of the day was the other, far less-heralded guard in the rotation.
Sophomore Brian Grandieri, playing just his second game in a Penn uniform (he missed all of last season, dressing only for Penn's NCAA Tournament game), showed little of the jitters that he may have had in Monday's season opener. Instead, he came up with 12 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, and five steals.
Drexel -- which is 3-3 after losses to Duke and UCLA earlier this week -- got 17 points and 10 boards from Frank Elegar, while Dominick Mejia had 14 points and four assists and Kenell Sanchez added 11 points and seven caroms.
Penn pushed the action in the early going, and quickly jumped out to a 14-6 lead as Osmundson drained 10 of the Quakers' first 12 points on a pair of three-pointers and then the unusual four-point play (he drained a trey, was fouled on the shot, and made the ensuing free throw). The lead expanded to double digits before the first half was nine minutes old, and hovered near the 10-point mark for several minutes after that before 12-2 Penn run pushed the Quakers' edge to 38-21. At halftime, the score was 40-24.
Penn's lead held near the 15-point mark for several minutes to start the second half, reaching its apex at 47-28 when Zoller drained his jumper. Drexel used an 8-2 run midway through the stanza to make the score 51-40, and then with the score 60-49 and five minutes remaining the Dragons made one final move. Mejia drained a jumper, and less than a minute later Zoller was called for a foul and then threw the ball away, drawing a technical foul. Mejia made one of the two technical foul shots, and then Elegar drained both of his freebies, and suddenly the score was 60-54.
More than a minute would pass before either team would score, but when Bashir Mason knocked down another free throw with 2:53 to play Drexel was within five points. The Dragons had two more chances to draw closer, before David Whitehurst finally hit a free throw for Penn with 1:48 to go. Drexel followed that up with another Mejia jumper that made the score 61-57 with 1:30 to play.
The Dragons fouled Jaaberout of a timeout, and the junior hit one of two shots. Sanchez then missed a shot at the other end, and Mejia fouled Grandieri on the rebound. Grandieri hit one shot, and once again Drexel missed an opportunity when Elegar's layup fell off, and then he was picked by Grandieri on the ensuing rebound. Osmundson came up with the ball, was fouled by Mejia -- his fifth of the game -- and knocked down both free throws to give the Quakers an eight-point cushion.
Penn is back in action Tuesday night, hosting Colorado at The Palestra as the Quakers continue this season-opening homestand. Tuesday's game is the second half of a doubleheader -- the night begins with Drexel and Saint Joseph's tipping off at 6 p.m. Penn and Colorado will begin at approximately 8:30 p.m.