The Navy basketball team that visited Penn last night at the Palestra had something the Quakers still are seeking: an identity.
The Midshipmen, whose calling cards are tough defense and a one-two scoring punch, used both to their advantage and prevailed, 76-65, in the nonleague game.
It was Navy's seventh consecutive win, and its first at the Palestra since Dec. 5, 1959. The Midshipmen are 7-1.
For Penn, it was the fourth loss in a row, dropping the Quakers to 1-6.
Navy featured 6-foot-4 forward Kaleo Kina, the Patriot League player of the week, and a preseason all-conference selection in 6-2 guard Chris Harris.
Kina, a senior who entered the game averaging 19.4 points, had dropped in a combined 59 points in two games earlier this week. He finished with 28 last night. Harris, who was averaging 16.3 points, scored 18.
"With few exceptions, we identified them, but they made plays off the dribble," said Penn coach Glen Miller, who got double-figure scoring from forwards Brennan Votel (14) and Jack Eggleston (13), and guard Harrison Gaines (10). "It was another tough loss. Navy just did a good job of making plays."
After leading by seven points at the break, Navy scored the first nine points of the second half to go up by 44-28 with 16 minutes, 42 seconds remaining. Penn got within 55-45 with 10:42 to go, and the Midshipmen's lead was 67-58 with less than three minutes remaining.
A flagrant foul on Penn's Tyler Bernardini led to two free throws for Harris and a 69-58 deficit for Penn. It was 71-60 with 55 seconds on the clock.
Navy is coached by Billy Lange, a Cherry Hill native and former Villanova assistant under Jay Wright. His team's only loss has been at Towson.
After enjoying its first winning season since 2000-01 last winter with a 16-14 mark, Navy has its best record since the 1983-84 squad opened 8-0.
"For our program, this was a monumental win for us to come in and win in this building," said Lange, a gym rat who spent his share of days watching games at the Palestra. "That cheesesteak is going to taste a lot better tonight going to Annapolis."
In the early going, there were four lead changes, and the game was tied for the fourth time at 16-16 before Navy went up, 19-18, and then maintained a lead for the rest of the first half.
Penn trailed, 35-28, at intermission.