By ADAM BOOTH
The Quakers came into this game with one thing on their mind. Revenge. It was an early conference loss in Hanover that stymied the Quakers momentum going into a crucial match up with Harvard. Penn was leading for most of the contest, but technical fouls in the second half put Dartmouth ahead for good and unraveled Jerome Allen’s team.
Now, with the Big Green on their home floor, Penn used strong defensive play in the second half to close out a pesky Dartmouth team. Combine that with some timely shooting from their backcourt down the stretch and Penn can celebrate their fourth conference win of the season.
The beginning of the first half was marred by sloppy play on Penn’s part. Empty possessions and some relaxed defense allowed Brandon McDonnell and the Big Green to stake an early lead.
The Quakers were aware of their size advantage down low, but had trouble taking advantage of it. More than a few missed lay ups by Fran Dougherty and Darien Nelson-Henry frustrated themselves as well as the Penn faithful.
Around the 10:12 mark in the game, the Quakers figured out what would be effective against their opposition. They decided to revive the last art known as the mid range jump shot.
Tony Hicks got hot from around 18 feet and turned that into 12 first half points. Once those shots started to fall, the Quakers were allowed to start getting inside like they wanted to.
“Just try to get into the paint, and create for my teammates. Nothing to out of the ordinary.” exclaimed Hicks.
The Quakers rode a 12-0 run to stake a 10-point lead in the latter stages. However Dartmouth went on a 9-0 run after that to cut the Quaker lead to one. Penn would take a four-point lead into the half.
It seemed like both teams found their strides in the second half. Although Penn gave themselves a cushion as big as 10 in the beginning of the half, it never seemed comfortable.
McDonnell put the Big Green on his back scoring 18, while grabbing seven rebounds. His teammate Alex Mitola helped dished out six assists helping the Big Green cause but it wasn’t enough.
Mitola hurt the Quakers last game scoring 25 points in the nine points win for Dartmouth. This game he was held to a slim four points on 1-4 shooting. He missed all of his three point attempts.
“He’s a pretty good player, pretty important player to them.” Said coach Allen. “We just wanted to limit ball screens, and opportunities and transition. Just wanted to get the ball out of his hands.”
“Mitola is the engine for the team, so we just tried to press up on him, get the ball out of his hands, and make someone make some plays.” said Hicks.
Around the 7:45 Penn locked down on defense, forcing Dartmouth into bad shots and committing turnovers. For one of the few times this season Penn actually won the turnover battle only committing 11 to Dartmouth’s 14. The Quakers came in next to last in the NCAA in turnovers, averaging just over 17 a game.
“I applauded the guys at the end of the game for valuing the ball. It’s been a struggle for us but I had faith we would eventually play the offense the right way.” said coach Allen candidly.
Penn also shot well from behind the arc going 6-14 for 42 percent. A few of those fell for daggers that really separated the two teams late.
Hicks paced the Quakers with 18 points. But for the second night in a row the ball was spread out amongst the players. Six of the eight Quakers who saw significant minutes posted double digit point totals.
Three players came close to double doubles on the night. Miles Jackson-Cartwright had 15 points and nine assists. Dougherty had 13 points and eight rebounds. Finally Henry Brooks was huge for the Quakers off the bench pouring in 11 points and grabbing nine boards.
“I thought he played within himself, played with the right energy, and I thought he was huge.” Said coach Allen about his junior forward.
Senior Steve Rennard was perfect from the field going 3-3, all coming from behind the arc, as well as 2-2 from the foul line.
The Quakers put together another complete game and beat a team many believe they should be able to. With two weeks left in the Ivy season, games like these will be needed from here on out.
Penn will hope to bottle this momentum into their last two home games of the season, as Brown and Yale pay a visit to the Palestra. Season hanging on by a thread, these home games will be critical.
Harvard 83, Penn 63
If the Penn Quakers have shown anything this season, it’s a lot of heart. The Quakers held tough against their Ivy League rival, but eventually fell 83-63 on Friday night.
Jerome Allen’s team came in with their backs against the wall. Losers of two straight and four out of their last six, the Quakers had zero margin for error against the conference leaders, the Harvard Crimson.
For Penn to have any hope in challenging for the Ivy League title and get into the post season, they needed this game. It just wasn’t in the cards.
Penn started out the game hot with a 6-2 lead in the early stages while playing smothering defense. However in the latter stages of the first half, Harvard put themselves into the diver seat for good.
The Crimson would out score the Quakers 39-23 from that point on, and carried a 12-point lead into half time.
Harvard took advantage of 12 Quaker turnovers in the first half, scoring 15 points off of them. Penn has been dead last or at least close to the bottom in turnovers nationally all year, averaging 16.8 a game. They finished up with 20 on the night, that Harvard turned into 24 points.
“I’ve said it before, we’re not going to win too many games turning the ball over at he clip we do,” Said coach Allen candidly “At the end of the day it falls back on me.
Harvard also benefited from what seemed at times to be a parade to the foul line. The crimson attempted 35 free throw attempts making 77 percent of them. Penn only saw the line 21 times.
Fran Dougherty, who had 15 points on 6-9 shooting from the field, paced the Quakers offensively. He was helped out by strong play from Tony Hicks who put in 13 points of his own. The Quakers as a team shot 47.8 percent and hung tough of the boards grabbing tying Harvard with 28 rebounds a piece.
However the Quakers could do nothing on defense to stop the onslaught.
The Crimson were led in scoring by, Steve Moundou-Missi, who finished up with 14 points. But it was a team effort overall. The scoring was spread as four of the five starters scored in double figures.
Even Brandyn Curry got into the action picking up nine points off the bench. Harvard also shared the ball well assisting on 17 of the 26 shots made on the night. Siyani Chambers had 10 assists for Harvard and caused Penn a lot of headaches with his passing.
“He dominated the game… played the pick and roll probably as well as I have seen played all season.” Said coach Allen about Chambers “He is doing a pretty good job this year. They do any excellent of spreading the floor, always. “
Unlike like Penn, Harvard did a great job protecting the ball. They only had eight turnovers for which Penn could only pick up two points from. It was just a complete game for the Crimson, much like the last game played in Cambridge.
“They play hard, they go after every offensive rebound. They are all over the place on defense.” Said Dougherty. “But it doesn’t matter who is out there, we have to match their intensity, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Penn has been hit with injuries all year long. Six different players did not dress of this game, which lead Jerome Allen with a unique problem that is reminiscent of the Los Angeles Lakers for most of this season. They need extra players.
Earlier, Penn soccer player and JV basketball contributor Matt Poplawski dressed tonight for the Division I club. This turned out to be “A dream come true.” Said Poplawski.
“I have been in the JV program for a while … to play Division I ball, this is a really cool experience for me.”
He finished up with two points on free throws in the latter stages of the game.
Penn will have to have a short memory as they will take on Dartmouth tomorrow night at the Palestra in a must win for Jerome Allen and company.
“Its never easy losing, but from a professional stand point, we have a quick turn around. You have to prepare for the next outings.” Said Allen.
“We have to reflect on tonight and the things we weren’t capable of doing and apply those to another opponent.”
The game will tip off at 7pm and can be heard on WNTP 990AM. The Quakers hope to halt a three game losing streak.