PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/24/2015 – The University of Pennsylvania won its first Big Five game in three years as the Quakers hung on to a lead down the stretch and earned a 56 – 52 win over the Hawks of Saint Joseph’s at the Palestra. It was a significant win for the Red and Blue.
“It means a lot,” said Penn junior guard Tony Hicks who scored a team-best 15 points. “It was my first Big Five win. In the first three years we have been getting beat up on consistently, so it’s a big step going forward. It’s a big step going into the Ivies. It sends a message to the rest of the league, Ivy and Big Five, that we are getting better.”
It was a struggle on offense for both teams in the first half. Penn took a 20 – 17 halftime lead by holding SJU without a point over the last seven and a half minutes of the stanza. In the second half the Quakers kept the lead opening an advantage of 10 points on a dunk by freshman forward Mike Auger with 5:06 to play.
The Hawks would answer with a 10 – 3 run over the next two and a half minutes to pull to within 47 – 44 behind 6 straight points by sophomore forward DeAndre’ Bembry, who led SJU with a game-high 25 points. It was up to Penn to win it at the foul line. They did by making 6 of 8 in the last two minutes to get the win, despite shooting 16 of 28 from the stripe.
A telling factor was that Saint Joseph’s did not shoot the ball well making 20 of 59 from the field (33.9%) and 5 of 24 from beyond the arc. No other Hawk player other than Bembry reached double figures. The lack of overall offense is troubling to Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli.
“We were a one-man offensive team,” said Martelli.
“We had one guy score 25 points and we had 52 in a college game. You can’t win consistently like this.”
It was the second week Penn played in front of a sold-out Palestra. This week the Red and Blue got a better result.
“We did not try to make this about what happened against Villanova,” Penn Coach Jerome Allen said. “Tonight we seemed like a team that was determined, focused, and ready to play. When you’re young, you go through these things and hopefully this is a springboard to a positive Ivy season.”
Junior center Darien Nelson-Henry scored 14 for Penn and senior forward Greg Louis added 10. Freshman guard Antonio Woods handed out a career-high 7 assists. Saint Joseph’s senior guard Chris Wilson pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds.
And at the end of this Big Five game the scene was as it should be. The Saint Joe’s faithful sang “The Hawk Will Never Die.” Penn’s rooting section followed with “The Red and Blue,” and accented the song with throwing streamers of the school colors. A scene to preserve.
Written By: Glenn Papazian