PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Darien Nelson-Henry had a day Wednesday night for the Penn Quakers, who now, after beating the La Salle Explorers 80-64 to claim their first Big 5 win of the 2015-16 campaign, sit at 4-1.
Nelson-Henry had one hell of a career night, helping Penn (4-1) break an eight-game losing streak against La Salle with a personal high of 31 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks in a one-turnover performance for the Quakers. He shot 14-19 from the field and grabbed six of his boards under the offensive glass.
Penn was down 32-29 at halftime, but exploded out of the second-half gate for a 21-7 run to take an 11-point lead with 13:37 left in the second. DNH scored 13 of those 21 and had 18 in the final half.
Freshman Sam Jones added 16 of his 18 points in the second, hitting four threes in six attempts and also grabbing six rebounds on the night. Matt Howard also reached double-digits with 10 points and no turnovers on 4-6 shooting. The Quakers shot 32-65 on the night.
Cleon Roberts led La Salle (3-1) with 20 points and four steals, scoring 15 in a first half that saw the Explorers' greatest lead at ten points on a Yevgen Sakhniuk layup to make it 30-20 with 3:21 left in the first half. Penn would close the gap to three on a 9-2 half-closing run. Jordan Price added 18 points and a pair of steals but shot just 5-16 on the night.
La Salle cut the lead to just five at the 8:21 mark in the second, but the Quakers closed it out with a 10-0 run over the next three minutes which was capped off by an Antonio Woods floater. Woods finished with nine points on the night.
The Quakers grabbed their biggest lead at 80-61 in the final minute off a Darnell Foreman three-ball. They held the Explorers scoreless until the final possession, sealing a big 16-point win over their in-state rivals to improve to 4-1 under coach Steve Donahue.
Free throws were an area that could have hindered the Quakers' task, as Penn went just 8-16 from the line while La Salle hit all ten of their charity stripe shots. The Explorers, luckily for Penn, shot a woeful 23-63 on their field goals, and that was certainly not enough to take down a new-look Penn team at the Palestra.
La Salle, now 3-1 after the loss, plays next on Saturday, heading off for a 3:00 PM EST tip with Rowan. Penn will face off next Sunday, traveling a few hours in the state of PA to Easton to take on Lafayette. That game is scheduled for a 2:00 PM EST tip.