Cartwright leads Penn to first conference win

Cartwright leads Penn to first conference win
February 1, 2013, 10:30 pm
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On the day Penn’s leading scorer and rebounder, Fran Dougherty, made his long-awaited return to the basketball court, it was another junior captain who stole the show for the Quakers.

Fueled by a game-high 22 points from Miles Cartwright, including each of Penn's eight points in the final two minutes, the Quakers held on for a 62-58 win over hard-charging Columbia in their Ivy League home opener Friday night at the Palestra.

The win was an important one for the Quakers (4-15 overall, 1-1 Ivy League), who had lost 10 of their last 11 and 15 of their last 17 entering Friday’s game. But they managed to unsettle a talented Columbia team that some viewed as a darkhorse candidate to contend for an Ivy League title.

“I just wanted to be aggressive from the start,” Cartwright said. “That was the key. It got down late in crunch time and I just knew we needed something, whether it was a bucket or a pass or anything. We haven’t been particularly great in these types of situations this year, but I’m really grateful that we pulled out a win.”

Despite a couple of second-half runs from Columbia that tied the contest, Penn never trailed in the second half. The biggest shot of the game came with just less than 30 seconds remaining when Cartwright drilled a go-ahead jumper following a game-tying three-pointer from Columbia’s Brian Barbour (21 points).

Cartwright also went 6 for 6 from the free throw line in the final two minutes and 10 for 10 for the game. As a team, the Quakers shot an impressive 26 for 29 (89.7 percent) from the charity stripe. For the season, by contrast, Penn is shooting less than 70 percent from the line.

“That was big,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “Especially when teams are making runs and are put in a situation where they have to foul to stay in a game, you need guys to step up and make free throws. And I thought we did a pretty decent job of that.”

The Quakers were certainly boosted by the return of Dougherty, who was playing the best basketball of his career before being sidelined for the last eight games because of mononucleosis. The junior forward showed some rust, scoring just five points on 1-for-5 shooting, but had a big block in crunch time and seemed to mesh well with freshman center Darius Nelson-Henry in the paint.

Nelson-Henry, a rising star for the Quakers, continued his strong play of late, scoring 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, while blocking four shots and registering three steals. He also had four rebounds and two assists in the win.

“I’m not used to working with Fran because we’ve always been going against each other [in practice],” said Nelson-Henry, who played sparingly earlier in the season while Dougherty was healthy. “But I think we complement each other really well, so with him back and me playing extended minutes, it’s going to be nice to see what we can do.”

One other thing Nelson-Henry needs to get used to are the Friday-Saturday games that are a staple of the Ivy League slate. The freshman will get his first taste of the second half of the back-to-back on Saturday when Penn hosts Cornell at 7 p.m. at the Palestra.

His teammates and coaches, he said, have been prepping for him for what it’s going to be like.

“They just want to make sure we’re prepared for the back-to-back games,” Nelson-Henry said. “It’s pretty difficult to give maximum effort two days in a row, but we’re all ready for it and we’re all ready to play Cornell (Saturday) night.”

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