LEXINGTON, Ky. -- For No. 14 seed Pennsylvania, the Ivy League champion that has been to the NCAA tournament three of the past four years, but not won a game, there will always be that one moment in the second half with 13 minutes to play yesterday.
Senior Ibrahim Jaaber, the Ivy League Player of the Year, hit a jumper to give Penn the lead and sudden dreams of upsetting No. 3 seed Texas A&M.;
The moment didn't hold, however, and the Aggies won as expected, 68-52. But the game certainly didn't play out as expected.
"A lot of thoughts were going through my head right there, just trying to make believers out of everyone in the stadium," said Penn senior forward Mark Zoller, who scored 19 points.
"Everyone I felt like was on our side at that point, I guess we were kind of on top of the world."
Penn (22-9) opened the second half with a 21-6 run to pull ahead 39-37. But the Quakers then went five minutes without scoring a point.
Joseph Jones tied the game at 39 with a dunk at the 11-minute mark, then dunked again to give the Aggies the lead for good. He finished with a double double - 14 points and 11 rebounds.
With 5 1/2 minutes to play, Penn trailed by only five - thanks in large part to A&M;'s 15-for-27 shooting from the line - but Texas A&M; guard Acie Law IV helped hold off the tournament's first real stunner down the stretch. He finished with 20 points.
Jaaber left the game with less than a minute to play and finished his college career in tears on the sideline.
"This being my last time, it hurt a little bit more," he said of the first-round exit. "You hope the third time's the charm. That's what they say, but it didn't work out that way for us today."
Texas A&M; was sluggish off the tip, taking only an 11-7 advantage through the game's first 10 minutes.
Penn's fleeting lead in the second half was a turning point for the Aggies (26-6), as well, awakening a team that won't be able to coast through tomorrow's second-round meeting with Louisville.
"We worked too hard this season to put ourselves in this situation," Law said, "and we didn't want to let it go this early in the tournament."
Emily Badger writes for the Orlando Sentinel.