PHILADELPHIA - If in fact the Ivy League championship ends up residing in Philadelphia again this year,Penn's 74-71 overtime win over Harvard Friday night will be regarded as one of those moments that defined this Quaker team.
The Quakers (17-7, 9-1 Ivy) went almost the entire second half and the extra session with only five players, as Friedrich Ebede was knocked out during the first half with a groin injury and Steve Danley was shelved early in the second when an elbow caught him flush in the face and likely broke his nose. With freshman Tommy McMahon already shut down with a back injury, head coach Fran Dunphy was forced to go the rest of the way with a lineup of Ibrahim Jaaber, Mark Zoller, Eric Osmundson, Brian Grandieri and David Whitehurst.
Boy, did they deliver some Herculean efforts.
Jaaber knocked down 31 points, tying a career high, and drained a career-best six three-pointers (on 11 attempts).
Zoller was a monster in playing all 45 minutes in the game, scoring 13 points, pulling down a career-best 18 rebounds, blocking five Harvard shots -- also a career high -- and coming up with three steals while battling all night in the trenches against Harvard's All-Ivy tandem of Matt Stehle and Brian Cusworth.
Grandieri? He ended up playing 37 minutes off the bench and scored 17 points while snaring five boards.
As for Osmundson and Whitehurst, they too went nearly 40 minutes on the night, and while neither reach double figures in the points column, they combined for 12 assists (six each) and just two turnovers. Whitehurst also had three thefts.
Every one of those numbers were needed in a pulsating game at The Palestra, as Harvard (12-12, 4-7 Ivy) played a game that showed why everyone had them battling Penn for the Ivy title prior to the season. Cusworth, the Crimson's 7-foot center, had an incredible game with 22 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. Stehle finished with 15 points, nine boards and five assists. Michael Beal scored nine points but pulled down 12 rebounds. For the game, Harvard had 48 boards but were undone by 22 turnovers (by comparison, Penn had a season-low eight in 45 minutes).
Penn's lead in the Ivy League remains two games over Princeton, as the Tigers were able to come up with a 63-60 win over Dartmouth at Jadwin Gym. The Quakers can still clinch a share of the Ivy League title Saturday night if they beat the Big Green and Princeton loses to Harvard.
Penn had an eight-point lead at the half, thanks to 18 points by Jaaber, and as the second half progressed it looked like the Quakers would continue to roll to the win as the lead hovered between single and double digits for several minutes. However, Harvard finally made its move midway through the stanza, putting together a 9-0 run that tied the game at 54-54 with 5:49 to play. The streak was punctuated by Jim Goffredo's only three-pointer of the night from the right wing, as the Crimson caught the Quakers napping after a turnover and inbounded the ball quickly.
More than a minute went by before Zoller rebounded a missed shot byCusworth and was fouled. He drained the first free throw, but that was quickly answered by a Stehle jumper that gave Harvard its first lead of the half. Again, nearly a minute passed before Penn regained the lead, this time when Jaaber got a layup off an Osmundson feed and was fouled. He knocked down the foul shot, and the Quakers' lead was 58-56 with 3:39 to play. After a missed shot by Harvard, Grandieri laid in a shot to double the lead.
Harvard freshman Drew Housman calmly drilled a three at the other end, though, and then after a Whitehurst layup it was Cusworth who knocked down a trey -- his third in three tries for the game -- that tied the game at 62 with less than a minute to play.
Penn took the clock down, but Jaaber missed an off-balance shot under pressure from about 12 feet out, and time ran out before Housman could get off a shot for the Crimson.
In the overtime, Harvard got the lead two times early on but a trey by Jaaber with 2:27 to play gave Penn a lead it would not relinquish. After Cusworth missed a shot in the lane, Zoller collared the rebound, was fouled by Cusworth and hit both foul shots to push the Quakers' lead to 69-66.
Cusworth hit a layup with 1:34 to play, then Grandieri was fouled as the clock went inside a minute. Given a chance to put the lead back at three points, he hit the first but missed the second. However, at the other end, Penn caught a break when the Quakers fouled Zach Martin and he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Jaaber was fouled after Penn got the rebound. He made the first to make the score 71-68, then missed the second but Zoller got the board. The ball got back into Jaaber's hands, and he was fouled again with 21 seconds left. This time he was true on both, making the score 73-68.
Stehle missed a three-pointer after that, Grandieri collected the board and was fouled, and that pretty much sealed it. Beal hit a trey at the buzzer to make the final score.
Penn is back in action Saturday night, hosting Dartmouth at 7 p.m. in the home finale. Prior to the game, the Quakers will honor outgoing seniors Osmundson, Ebede and Greg Kuchinski. A reminder that the game is being televised live on the YES Network.