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M Hoops vs. Davidson season opener Credit: Michelle Bigony

NEW YORK — Last season, the Quakers learned it doesn’t matter how you start, as long as the finish is strong.

Wednesday night at Manhattan College, that lesson was painfully reinforced.

Though Penn held a 12-point lead with under eight minutes left, the Jaspers scored 17 uninterrupted points to hand the Red and Blue a 59-54 loss.

“We have to do a better job of putting ourselves in a better position to be successful,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said.

While a double-digit lead would have spelled success on most nights, it took Penn (1-1) much of the game to get to that point. For the majority of the first frame, scoring went back and forth.

Center Andreas Schreiber — the only Penn player to get in the paint in the game’s early minutes — put the Quakers on the board quickly, earning the first six points on layups. Manhattan (2-0) responded in kind, however, converting rebounds off the Quakers’ glass to jump out to a five-point lead.

But as the game approached the break, Penn pulled ahead. Five minutes before halftime, junior point guard Zack Rosen landed a shot from well outside the arc to put Penn ahead by four.

Though possession continued to alternate, strong rebounding and shooting from Jack Eggleston allowed Penn to add to its lead. The senior went on to finish the night with 22 points and 11 rebounds, his second double-double in two games.

Penn quickly found the net after the break. With less than 10 minutes remaining, the Quakers held a 51-42 lead. Two minutes later, an Eggleston three brought the gap to 12.

That’s when Manhattan lit up.

A layup from sophomore George Beamon sparked an 11-point run. Though the Quakers consistently grabbed rebounds, poor shooting — Penn hit 26.1 percent from the field after halftime — and numerous turnovers allowed the Jaspers to bring the game within one.

With Penn ahead 51-50 and 2:31 left on the clock, a foul sent senior Conor Turley to the line. But the co-captain missed both shots, and a foul by Zack Rosen meant it was Beamon’s turn at the line.

With a swish and a swish, Manhattan regained the lead.

Kidani Brutus, who led Manhattan with 14 points, drained a three from the corner to ice the win for the Jaspers.

Two desperation three-point attempts from Penn’s Tyler Bernardini and Rob Belcore fell short and Manhattan’s celebration ensued.

With the first road game under Penn’s belt, the Quakers will return to the Palestra Saturday to take on neighboring rival Drexel.

Despite ending the second half on a low note , Allen remains hopeful that the Quakers can rebound.

“We’ll highlight the things that we did well ... and try to get better.”

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