NEW HAVEN, CONN. -- Following its 85-77 loss at Brown on Friday night, the Penn men's basketball team found itself in unfamiliar territory entering Saturday's contest with Yale. A Quakers' loss coupled with a Princeton win at Brown would have ended Penn's two-year reign atop the Ivy League. But with their backs to the wall, the Red and Blue turned in their best defensive performance of the year, soundly beating the Elis, 63-38. "The first half I think we really set the tone with our defense," Penn freshman Jeff Schiffner said. "We made some big shots... and I think we kind of fed off our energy on defense." The Quakers played a solid half of offensive basketball, pouring in 35 points, but it was their amazing defense that gave the Red and Blue an insurmountable lead by halftime. Penn limited the Elis to merely four first-half field goals and only 13 points -- the lowest point total for a Penn opponent in one half this season. The key for Penn was shutting down Yale's two biggest offensive threats -- sophomore guard Chris Leanza and senior center Neil Yanke -- who had averaged 13.7 and 13.0 points per game, respectively, before Saturday's date with the Quakers. Four weeks earlier, when these teams met at the Palestra, Leanza led the Elis with 10 points in their 61-51 loss. Saturday, Dunphy's game plan worked to a T, as the Quakers held the Yale shooting guard to just one point. Leanza did not convert on six field goal attempts. "We did a good job of what we call blasting of Leanza," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "He couldn't turn the corner, and he had to go east and west." After going 0-for-3 in the first half, Yale desperately needed Leanza to drain some threes in the second half for Yale to erase Penn's 22-point halftime lead. The Quakers, however, didn't give an inch, and Leanza had another 0-for-3 performance after the intermission. While Penn's backcourt took Leanza out of the game, the Quakers' frontcourt neutralized 6'11" Yanke down low. Yanke missed the first Penn-Yale matchup due to a sprained ankle, but his presence this weekend was a non-factor. "Geoff [Owens] has Yanke's kind of size, if not bigger, and he didn't go for any fakes," Dunphy said. "[He] just kind of held his ground and really changed some of Yanke's shots." The Yale center shot a measly 16.7 percent from the floor, and the team as a whole shot 31.8 percent. Moreover, the Elis shot only 21.1 percent in the first 20 minutes. "We really buckled down and forced them into making tough shots," Schiffner said. "We put them in a position where we gave them one shot and rebounded very well." Rebounding on the defensive glass was a big difference between the loss to Brown and the win at Yale. The Bears grabbed 14 boards off of the offensive glass and scored 10 second-chance points in the second half. The Quakers made a 180-degree turn the following night, when they prevented the Elis from scoring a single second-chance point and limited them to just one offensive rebound during the first half. And thanks to the defense's revitalization on Saturday, the Quakers still have a chance to retain the Ivy League crown.Comments powered by Disqus
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