Penn tops Monmouth, 101-96, in wild, four-overtime game

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — Penn spent the entire second half at the Ocean Front Bank Center trying to find a way to lose a game it seemed to have won by halftime. What the Quakers did not know was they were going to have to play the equivalent of three halves to decide a game at Monmouth that seemed as if it would never end.

Trailing by five 50 seconds into a fourth overtime, Penn found its fourth wind, took the last of 15 lead changes and held on to win, 101-96, in, yes, four overtimes.

“I’ve never been in a four-overtime game,’’ said Penn coach Steve Donahue, who, like everybody else, was trying unsuccessfully to recreate what went down in the frantic final minutes of regulation and all those overtimes.

“We kind of laughed at it after a while,” Donahue said.

Penn had a 15-point lead early in the second half, but spent the rest of the half trying to give it up. The Quakers finally did after the ever-popular six-point play with 36.9 seconds left in regulation, and looked to have it won on freshman Eddie Scott’s tip in with 20.2 seconds left, only to see Monmouth’s Austin Tilghman bank in a wild shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Tilghman hit a three just before the third OT buzzer to keep the game going.

How does Penn go from playing near perfect basketball for the final 15 minutes of the first half to missing nearly every shot in the second half? Who knows?

The six-point play? Foul a shooter (George Papas) on a made three-pointer. Commit another foul when he misses the free throw. Get a technical arguing the call, watch Papas make two, then watch Ray Salnave make one of two.

It was bizarre. So was the fact that the Hawks had three, count them, three lane violations on free throws in the game’s first 14 minutes, costing them one point and perhaps two, while giving Penn three points after initial misses.

In the end, it was who would miss more free throws? The answer was Monmouth (2-4), which managed to miss 27, while Penn (5-3) missed only 20.

“It came down to who was going to allow the other team to lose,’’ Donahue said.

The Hawks missed 11 foul shots in the overtimes. Fouling was great strategy.

Scott was just great, going 8-for-8 from the field and throwing down two highlight-film dunks on his way to 21 points and 13 rebounds.

“This was the coming-out party for Eddie Scott,” Donahue said.

Penn’s Ryan Betley (26 points in 55 minutes) looked to have won it in the third OT with the last of his six threes. Betley and Antonio Woods (23 points) were two of the players who actually made free throws in a game in which every point counted.