ITHACA - It only took a year.
Last season, Penn beat Brown at the Bears’ home floor on March 8. For the next 365 days, the Quakers would not win an Ancient Eight game on the road.
Seven Ivy League losses later and the Quakers finally ended their drought, defeating lowly Cornell in Ithaca, 69-65.
Playing without Tony Hicks, Penn (8-19, 5-8 Ivy) had to look elsewhere for its offense, and found it from senior captain Dau Jok, who drained six three pointers on his way to a career-high 21-point performance.
Jok, a player known for his leadership off the court just as much as his playing abilities, stepped into the starting lineup for coach Jerome Allen, and found his spot early and often. He played 39 minutes, two times the amount he had played in any other game this season.
"For four years now, coach has always emphasized being ready when your number is called," Jok said. "I was just trying to play as hard as I can. I was just trying to help the team as much as I can."
Cornell (2-25, 1-12 Ivy) came into the contest as one of the worst teams in college basketball on defense, allowing Jok - amongst others - to find himself open for three time and time again.
The game was played at a breakneck pace, with neither team playing patiently. The contest was tailor-made for players like Jok and Cornell star sophomore Nolan Cressler, who took advantage of the lack of defense by the Quakers. Cressler kept pace with Jok all night, scoring 28 points himself.
On the defensive end, the Big Red tried its best to limit the efforts of senior Fran Dougherty and sophomore Darien Nelson-Henry, who sat out the first 10 minutes of Friday’s contest against Columbia for reasons coach Allen would not disclose.
Cornell’s defensive efforts were strong early on, as the Big Red forced enough turnovers off of passes inside to Nelson-Henry and Dougherty to hang tight with Penn, going into half down by just one, losing, 36-35.
"In the first half, I thought we had a few opportunities," Allen said. "We just didn't have the mindset to finish through contact."
But in the second half, Penn’s big men took over. Dougherty and Nelson-Henry paced Penn early in the second half, opening the lead up to seven early thanks to improved spacing and renewed effort. The duo down low scored 20 points combined on the night.
With Dougherty in foul trouble halfway through the second, Cornell went on a run of its own, closing the gap down to two, forcing Allen to call a timeout that allowed the Quakers to catch their collective breaths.
In the huddle, Jackson-Cartwright proceeded to explode on his team, trying to get everyone more into the contest, even getting into it with assistant coach Scott Pera.
The speech lit a spark underneath Penn, as Jok drained another three a minute later to extend the lead back to five before junior Henry Brooks hit a fall away jumper with 4:28 to go to extend Penn’s lead to seven.
Jok did that time and time again, ensuring that any time Cornell went on a run, that he had an answers from long range.
The Quakers would never relinquish the lead, and Jok finished his second last game in a Penn uniform with his best on-court performance in the last four years.
But for a player - and a person - who has made more of an impact during his four years at Penn ways besides draining threes, he was just happy he could help make the end of a tough season a little more bearable.
"I was just glad I was able to help the guys," Jok said. "We needed a win."
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