BOSTON – Penn men’s basketball may have shipped up to Boston this weekend, but it couldn’t right the ship.
After hanging tight early, the Quakers let high-powered Harvard run away with an 80-50 victory, losing their second Ivy contest in as many nights after falling to Dartmouth, 67-58.
Penn (4-13, 1-2 Ivy), a team desperately needing to wash away its nonconference woes, failed to do so on Friday and Saturday night against a struggling Big Green (9-9, 2-2) and the Ivy-League leading Crimson (17-3, 4-0).
The Quakers led Dartmouth at the half but their offense struggled while sophomore guard Alex Mitola took over, scoring 23 second-half points to pace the Big Green.
And vs. Harvard — in a similar fashion to its loss vs. St. Joe’s — Penn was done in by halftime, largely thanks to the three-ball. The Quakers were outscored beyond the arc, 36-3. Penn has now been outscored 111-36 from three in its last three losses.
The Red and Blue’s bench effort also closely mirrored its underwhelming performance against the Hawks two weekends ago, with Penn’s bench players failing to score in the first half and then playing the majority of the second half.
Sophomore guard Tony Hicks paced the Quakers with 14 points, but he only shot 5-for-13 from the field.
Senior guard Laurent Rivard led the scoring way for the Crimson, with a season-high 22 points on six threes.
“He does an excellent job of moving without the ball, having the right spacing,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said of Rivard. “When he’s open, he’s not gonna miss.”
Penn came out with defensive intensity, not allowing Crimson any easy buckets for the first nine minutes of the game.
Penn sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry had four buckets in the same span, all assisted by different players. The Quakers were exhibiting the inside-out game, which they have been so effective at, for stretches of games this season.
But then things changed for good.
Harvard went on a 14-0 run — aided by three Penn turnovers — from 11:07 to 7:18 to gain a 29-18 lead it would not relinquish.
Penn started taking long, contested jumpers that failed to fall, while the Crimson started to vigorously attack the rim.
Junior guard Wesley Saunders had seven first-half points for the Crimson, repeatedly slashing to the rim and drawing fouls. Harvard three-point specialist Rivard also converted on back-to-back three point plays during the run.
Harvard senior forward Kyle Casey had eight points in the first half as well.
After picking it up on offense, the Crimson ended the half shooting 57 percent to Penn’s 37 percent.
The Red and Blue struggled to climb back, missed a bevy of close looks and allowed the Crimson to lead at the half, 44-23.
“Harvard’s a solid team,” Allen said. “They probably play the best brand of selfless basketball in our league.”
The game did not get any closer in the second half, and the Crimson led by as many as 32.
“We try to talk to the guys about playing until there’s zeroes on the clock — playing hard, playing the right way, competing,” Allen said. “I just think this weekend, in general, we didn’t compete.”
Hicks and senior guard Miles Jackson-Cartwright had some success driving to the rim midway through the second half, but it was too late at that point.
“Right now, we don’t have what it takes to compete for an Ivy League title,” Allen admitted after the humbling defeat. “Things are going to have to change.”
The Quakers will look to reverse their Ivy fortunes at home against Cornell and Columbia next weekend.
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