With under a minute to play and the ballgame tied, it was the Quaker captain that brought home the victory.
Penn forward Miles Cartwright hit a leaning mid-range jumper with 30 seconds left to play and hit four free throws down the stretch to secure a 62-58 win against the Columbia Lions (9-8, 1-1 Ivy).
“I just wanted to be aggressive from the start,” Cartwright said following the victory. “That was a key for all of us, to be aggressive and try to make plays. It got down late, into crunch time, and I just knew that we needed something. Whether it was a bucket or a pass or anything, I knew we needed something down the stretch. We haven’t been particularly great in these types of situations this year, but I’m really grateful that we pulled out a win.”
Cartwright was the driving force for Penn throughout the game, as he scored a game-high 22 points off of 6-of-14 shooting (42.6 percent) while adding five rebounds.
Penn (4-15, 1-1 Ivy) also got a big boost from center Darien Nelson-Henry, who did it all for the Quakers on Friday night. The freshman scored 11 points off of 4-of-6 shooting (66.7 percent) while recording four rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
The Quakers used a 9-2 run in the second half, led by four Cartwright points, to build a cushion between themselves and the Lions to take a nine-point lead. That quickly evaporated, however, as Columbia went on a 9-0 run to tie the game.
From there, the two teams traded buckets and trading fouls. Neither team took a lead of more than three and, for a period of more than two minutes, no one scored any points. That streak was broken by Columbia’s Mark Cisco, who hit an easy layup with 1:55 left in the game to draw the Lions back to one point.
Down three, Columbia’s Brian Barbour hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 56 apiece, but then Cartwright gave the Quakers a lead they would not relinquish. The Lions continued to fight and foul until the very end, but Cartwright hit four straight free throws to put the game out of reach.
“Just have to knock them down,” Cartwright said about his thoughts on those final free throws. “We work on our free throws every day, so it’s nothing new. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, I just try to step up to the line and knock them down.”
“What I expect out of him is to lead the group,” Allen added. “Whatever that may be, making sure we’re in the right set, making sure guys are locked in or communicating defensively. To his credit, he stepped up and made free throws when we needed them…His ability to have an effect on the game outside of scoring is something we’re going to need from him coming down the stretch.”
While the Quakers didn’t have the best shooting display in the first half, they continued to stay aggressive and tried to drive to the hole more often. Those drives led to more trips to the free-throw line, which Penn took advantage of. The Quakers went 9-of-10 from the charity stripe in the first half and ended up shooting 26-of-29 (89.7 percent) from the line overall.
“It was big,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “Especially when teams are making runs or they’re put in a situation where they have to foul in order to stay in the game, you need guys to step up and make free throws. I thought we did a pretty decent job of that.”
Penn’s defense was on put on full display in the first half, as the Quakers forced the Lions to shoot just 7-of-28 (25 percent) overall and 1-of-8 (12.5 percent) from beyond the arc. Columbia rebounded in the second half to shoot 19-of-56 overall (33.9 percent), but leading scorer Barbour was held to just 5-of-16 shooting (31.3 percent), yet scored a team-high 21 points.
“In the second half, they scored almost 40 points,” Allen said. “That can’t be our signature, that we’re just going to outscore teams. I think our stamp is that we’re going to defend and it’s going to be a hard-fought game. In the first half, we gave up 19 points and that was including nine offensive rebounds. That’s pretty solid, but in the second half, I thought there was a long stretch where they either got fouled or scored, we can’t allow that to happen.”
Despite forcing those tough shots, Penn struggled to get an edge on the glass. The Lions outrebounded Penn by a 39-26 margin, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds along the way.
Quaker forward Fran Dougherty, who missed the last eight games dealing with mononucleosis, subbed in five minutes into the game, but played sparingly in the first half due to early foul trouble. The second half was kinder to the junior, who ended the game with five points and four rebounds.
Penn finishes the second stint of back-to-back games against the Cornell Big Red (9-11, 1-2 Ivy) Saturday at 7:00 PM at the Palestra. The Big Red lost to Princeton Friday night, 76-59.