EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. It was a valiant effort put forth by the Penn men’s basketball team, one that nearly offset arguably its worst half of the season. Ultimately, though, Seton Hall had enough in the tank to hold the Quakers at bay and win, 94-85, at the Continental Airlines Arena Saturday afternoon.
Penn (6-5) trailed by as many as 15 in the opening stanza, and was down 16 (65-49) with just under 12 minutes to play. However, spurred by an incredible half from Ibrahim Jaaber, the Quakers got as close as four on a pair of occasions before a decisive six-point run by the Pirates sealed the deal.
Jaaber scored 28 points in the second half, going 13-of-16 from the field and consistently beating the Seton Hall guards down the floor for easy layups. He finished the game with 32 points, a career high, and also had two assists and two steals.
Mark Zoller had his second double-double in a row, scoring 23 points and snaring 12 rebounds. He also dished out five assists. However, Jaaber and Zoller were the only Penn players to reach double figures in scoring, and the Quakers were hampered by 17 turnovers and poor foul shooting (14-of-24, 58.3 percent).
For Seton Hall (7-2), Larry Davis was a monster with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Davis was 8-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 from three-point land. Jamar Nutter and Brian Laing had 18 points apiece, while Eugene Harvey scored 14 points and dished off 11 assists. As a team, Seton Hall shot 49.2 percent from the field (30-of-61) and a scintillating 86.7 from the foul line (26-of-30).
The first half of Saturday’s game was an absolute nightmare if you were a Penn fan in the crowd of 6,022. The Quakers shot a miserly 33.3 percent from the field (11-of-33) and just 50 percent from the line (7-of-14); they also committed 11 turnovers as Seton Hall ran out to a double-digit lead early on.
Penn was up, 14-9, after Brian Grandieri hit a three-pointer less than five minutes into the game, but Seton Hall scored the game’s next 10 points to get a lead it would not relinquish. Paul Gause bookended the run with a pair of three-pointers, sandwiching them around a Harvey layup and a Laing dunk off an alley-oop pass from Harvey. Another 11-1 run by the Hall pushed its lead to 36-21 with four minutes still to go in the half, and it was all Penn could do to keep it from getting worse at that point.
The Quakers scored the first four points of the second half, and easily, renewing hope they could get back into this thing. But Seton Hall countered with a 6-1 run a few minutes later, and then used an 11-2 run to go up 63-47 with 12:27 to play. Penn called timeout, and then Jaaber who to that point had seven points in the half hit a runner that was answered by the Pirates’ Davis.
At that juncture, Penn sprung to life. Jaaber got ahead of the pack off a missed Seton Hall layup and got two of his own, and then Zoller hit a pair of free throws and Grandieri got a fast break layup to make it a 10-point game. Jaaber capped the mini-run with another layup, and suddenly Penn was within single digits.
A Davis foul shot and Laing layup quelled the run briefly, but Jaaber was just getting warmed up. He finished a feed from Darren Smith and was fouled for a conventional three-point play, and then after McMahon hit a jumped on the baseline Jaaber again got out for fast-break layups on consecutive possessions that made the score 70-66 with 6:46 still to play.
Nutter hit a pair of free throws to get Seton Hall back on the board, and then Gause got an open layup to push the lead back to eight points. However, Grandieri tipped in his own missed layup, and then Jaaber tipped in a missed three by McMahon and it was 74-70 with five minutes to go.
However, the key sequence of the game occurred then. Harvey got in for a layup; Seton Hall immediately stole the ball on the inbounds and got a Laing layup; and then SHU stole another inbounds for another easy bucket. Suddenly it was 80-70.
Penn would not get any closer than six points after that, as Seton Hall was able to match them virtually point for point the rest of the way.
Penn is now off until 2007; the Quakers will next play at North Carolina on January 3. That game will be televised nationally on ESPN.