The Quakers live to see another day.
Playing in its first postseason game since 2006-07, the Penn men’s basketball team continued what it has done for much of the season and found a way to win. The Quakers defeated Quinnipiac, 74-63, Wednesday night in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational at the Palestra.
“I’ve been overly impressed with their grit … guys find ways to make plays, and that’s what good teams are made of,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “The last forty minutes of the regular season is not really indicative of who we are as a team and what direction the program is headed in.”
The Quakers (20-12) will face Butler on Mar. 19 at home in the second round of the CBI.
“Coach said we’re not dancing, but we’re dancing,” said Zack Rosen of the opportunity to play in the CBI. “A bunch of guys feel like we came up short [against Princeton], but we got this opportunity to play now and go forward with it.”
A victory was anything but guaranteed for much of the first half — the Quakers had just a four-point lead headed into the locker room — but with a spurt in the second period, Penn built up a 19-point lead.
Quinnipiac (18-14) would not go down easily, though. An 11-3 Bobcats run, combined with a sustained press, forced Penn to sweat out the last five minutes.
“You don’t expect [Miles Cartwright and Rob Belcore] to go 8-for-11,” Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore said of Penn’s three-point shooting. “I thought in particular Belcore’s one in the corner was a real heartbreaker with about four to go. That was our last chance … to make a run.”
Moore’s squad couldn’t dig itself out of its hole. With 16:48 left in the contest, Rosen, who during the game broke Penn’s single season mark for assists, came down the floor and nailed a three from straight away.
On the next possession, Rosen knifed his way into the lane and although he missed the layup, Henry Brooks came up with the rebound underneath and laid it in to put Penn up, 44-36.
The Bobcats, who missed seven of eight shots during the five-minute stretch, couldn’t seem to find their rhythm. Cartwright — who scored a game-high 23 points — hit a three from the top of the key. Belcore followed suit with another trey from the corner to give the Quakers their largest lead of the night and cap a 19-6 run.
“I just made sure my feet were set and I was ready to shoot,” said Cartwright, who went 5-for-6 from behind the arc.
Allen went to his bench early and often. With a little over nine minutes remaining, guard Steve Rennard went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury. The sophomore did not return to the game — his status going forward is unknown — and Allen went to freshman Camryn Crocker to pick up the slack. Penn was also playing without injured seniors Tyler Bernardini and Mike Howlett.
The Quakers got off to a slow start, missing their first three shots, but solid defense helped them limit the Bobcats’ chances. Quinnipiac missed many wide-open looks and never really took advantage of its size advantage down low.
“I thought they really did a very good job boxing out, physically,” Moore said. “Their inside guys played more physical on both blocks than our inside guys … and I was surprised at that.”
The strong team effort bodes well for the Quakers as they head into their matchup with last year’s national runner up on Monday.Comments powered by Disqus
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