On Saturday afternoon, players from Penn basketball’s past took the court in the annual Alumni Game, leading to a dominant, throwback effort by Rob Belcore.
But Penn senior captain Fran Dougherty was not going to be upstaged by his former teammate.
The Red and Blue reversed the results from last weekend’s two losses, pulling off a sweep that culminated in a Dougherty-fueled win over Columbia on Saturday night, 68-60.
“We had a hard time with Fran Dougherty,” Columbia coach Kyle Smith said. “Credit to him, being a senior, he taught our guys a little bit of a lesson there.”
Penn (6-13, 3-2 Ivy) came out on point in the first half against the Lions (14-9, 3-3) after an early 5-1 deficit. The Quakers used a stifling 2-3 zone to go on a 10-0 run, giving them an early cushion over Columbia.
And with Columbia sophomore guard Grant Mullins out with a head injury he suffered playing against Princeton the night before, the burden of the Lions’ offense fell upon fellow sophomore Maodo Lo. Lo was able to bridge Columbia’s early gap, scoring 10 first-half points on 4-for-6 shooting.
But Penn’s offense shot the lights out, shooting 68.2 percent in the first half, including a sterling 8-for-8 performance from Dougherty. The senior forward had 19 points by his lonesome in the opening half, while also notching six rebounds.
“They execute well,” Smith said of Penn’s offense. “They run the same stuff that Brown runs and they’re very efficient.
“The offense they run, they have a desire of where they want to put the ball with each play … and we couldn’t take them out of it.”
By contrast, the Lions only picked up eight boards and made nine shots in the first half, as each of their three starting forwards picked up two fouls in the first 20 minutes while Penn took a 40-30 lead into halftime.
And Columbia simply couldn’t get close to the Quakers in the second half. Junior Alex Rosenberg, one of those starting forwards, began to make shots from the field, but the Lions were plagued by turnovers and Penn’s rebounding advantage.
A key sequence came early in the half as a turnover by sophomore Tony Hicks led to a fast break for Lo.
Lo went up for a layup to cut Penn’s lead to just five, but senior guard Miles Jackson-Cartwright stripped the ball and hit a three-pointer on the other end, keeping Columbia at bay.
But a late run by Columbia put a scare into the Red and Blue. Led by some timely shooting from junior Meiko Lyles and some favorable foul calls, the Lions cut Penn’s lead to just six.
And after Steve Rennard missed a three while absorbing contact with just under two minutes left, fans became fed up with the officials. The calls even caused Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky to leave his seat and approach press row, where he expressed frustrations with the head official.
The referee called a quick foul on Columbia, but the game was ultimately decided by the players as the Lions couldn’t make a shot in the final minute, squandering the chance to get within a score of Penn. The trio of Lyles, Lo and Rosenberg failed to convert late opportunities.
Dougherty led all scorers with 23 points while freshman Matt Howard came up with eight points to help off the bench.
“I thought [Howard] was tremendous,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “Last night and tonight, we ran plays for him. He had the right reads defensively and on the glass.
“If not for Matt, I’m not sure we [would have won] this game today.”
The win moves Penn into the middle of the Ivy League table at 3-2, while Columbia fell short of its first sweep of the Princeton-Penn road trip in its history.
The Red and Blue will go on the road next week, taking on Brown and first-place Yale, with some renewed hope to stage a comeback in the Ancient Eight standings after a sweep this weekend.
“Obviously, it’s really important, and now we’re still in the chase,” Dougherty said. “I think it brought back a lot of confidence for our guys, and I think you saw it out there tonight.”