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Another Hard-Fought Three-Point Loss to Penn, 57-54

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Freshman John Golden     By David Silverman(
HANOVER, N.H. — In a game that featured nine lead changes and five ties, the Penn men’s basketball team was able to escape Leede Arena with a 57-54 victory over host Dartmouth on Friday night. Zack Rosen single-handedly made sure the Quakers (16-11, 8-2 Ivy) maintained their second-place standing in the Ivy League by scoring the final 16 Penn points spanning the last seven minutes, finishing the night with 27. Freshman John Golden led three Big Green players in double figures with 13 points.

Dartmouth (5-22, 1-10 Ivy) uncharacteristically struggled at the free throw line, converting just 15-of-28 (.536) and only 9-of-20 (.450) in the critical second stanza. Entering the game, the Big Green were shooting 70.9 percent at the charity stripe and even better at home (73.3 pct.). From the floor, Dartmouth hit 17-of-42 (.405) compared to Penn’s 21-of-50 (.420) and dominated the glass with a 38-26 rebounding advantage.

Rosen, who hit a game-winning three-pointer in the final seconds two weeks ago against Dartmouth, made the plays down the stretch to keep the Big Green at bay. After Rob Belcore gave Penn the lead once and for all with a three-point play and 7:18 remaining, Rosen completely took over the offense. He matched Belcore’s traditional three-point play moments later, then knocked down a 16-footer for a 46-39 lead.

Sophomore Tyler Melville ended the eight-point Quaker spurt with a 12-footer on the baseline, then freshman Gabas Maldunas was fouled after rebounding a Rosen miss. He managed to knock down one of his two foul shots, but another Rosen bucket kept the Dartmouth deficit at six, 48-42, with 3:42 left to play.

Maldunas came through again on the boards, this time at the offensive end, and scored on a putback. When Rosen misfired on the front end of a one-and-one, he then fouled Melville at the other end. Melville canned both free throws to bring the Big Green within two, only to watch Rosen drive to the bucket, get his layup to fall and get fouled by Maldunas, his fifth. Rosen, an 88 percent free throw shooter, did not miss this time, putting Penn back up five, 51-46, still with 2:09 to go.

Dartmouth immediately went back inside, this time to freshman Jvonte Brooks, who was fouled while going to the rim. He was able to sink only one of his two freebies, but another Rosen miss led to a three-pointer by Golden to make it a 51-50 game. Rosen answered with a 10-footer and 40 seconds left, which was matched by senior David Rufful’s floater in the paint 14 seconds later, keeping the difference at one.

Two Rosen free throws led to a three-point attempt by junior R.J. Griffin, which was off the mark. But Brooks was there to catch the carom and put it through the hoop while getting fouled. His free throw to tie the game only drew iron, and Penn caught a break when Henry Brooks, a 61.5 percent free throw shooter, rebounded the ball but was given a timeout before being fouled. The Quakers then inbounded the ball to Rosen, who calmly canned both shots at the charity stripe to maintain the three-point edge, 57-54.

Dartmouth got one more shot at the buzzer, but Griffin’s three-pointer was too strong, leaving the Big Green with a three-point loss to the Quakers for the second time in two weeks.

The Green started the second half trailing by seven, and Penn stretched it to nine with a Brooks basket to start the period. The Dartmouth defense held the Quakers scoreless for nearly six minutes while the offense tallied 10 straight points to take a 30-29 lead with senior Jabari Trotter scoring on a backdoor layup for the lead.

Belcore canned a pair of free throws before Golden rained in a long trifecta and Trotter drove for another layup for Dartmouth’s biggest lead of the game at 35-31. But three consecutive turnovers in little more than a minute led to seven Quaker points, putting them back up by three. The Big Green did not panic, though, getting a Golden free throw and a Trotter triple to retake the lead before Rosen’s heroics.

Golden, who was perfect in his three three-point attempts, was joined in double figures by Brooks with 12 points and Melville with 11. Trotter contributed seven off the bench, the only points provided by a reserve for either team. Maldunas led the Green with 10 rebounds while Brooks grabbed nine, just missing out on a double-double.

Rosen fired up 20 shots, making 10, and was 6-of-7 at the line in scoring his 27 points. Belcore had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, plus had four of Penn’s nine steals on the night.

The hometown Hanover fans have one more chance to see their Big Green and seniors Kirk Crecco, Rufful and Trotter play on the hardwood at Leede Arena on Saturday night when they host Princeton (15-11, 6-4 Ivy) at 7 p.m. Penn travels to Cambridge to take on league-leading Harvard (24-3, 10-1 Ivy) at 7 p.m., needing to beat the Crimson to have more than a mathematical chance at a share of the title.