Penn basketball’s hopes of an upset over Harvard were still afloat when freshman forward Dylan Jones found an open lane to the basket with 1:06 to go in the first half with his team down by just seven points.
Those hopes were quickly swatted away by the long arms of Crimson senior forward Kyle Casey as their bodies collided.
Fans shouted for a foul call. None came. At the other end, Harvard senior guard Laurent Rivard nailed an open three to push the lead back to 10.
The battle-tested Crimson didn't need too many of those moments in the second half, as they easily pushed aside the Quakers, 83-63.
Harvard (21-4, 8-1 Ivy) was led by a passing clinic from sophomore point guard Siyani Chambers, who dished out 10 assists on the evening while consistently finding Casey and sophomore forward Steve Moundou-Missi open for pretty inside finishes against Penn (6-16, 3-5).
After the game, Penn coach Jerome Allen could only marvel at Chambers' vision and dynamic speed.
"He dominated the game," Allen said. "He played with his pace and played the pick-and-roll probably as well as I've seen [it] played this season."
Chambers wasn’t the only Crimson player to get involved with the offense. Harvard had four players score in double figures, including Rivard, Casey, and Moundou-Missi.
Shorthanded to the point that Penn soccer player Matt Poplawski had to be called up from the JV squad to fill out the bench, the Quakers hung around with the title favorite Crimson until Casey's block.
Forwards Darien Nelson-Henry and Fran Dougherty were able to find space inside against Casey and Moundou-Missi at first, hitting four of their seven first half shots.
And outside, Penn hit two of their four first half three-point attempts as senior guards Dau Jok and Steve Rennard got in the action.
But once again, turnovers and fouls prevented the Quakers from playing cohesive basketball.
Penn had allowed Harvard to enter the double bonus by the 5:28 mark of the first half, and the Crimson made the Red and Blue pay by hitting 12 of 16 shots from the charity stripe.
At the other end, 12 first half turnovers led to 15 Harvard points, sapping the Quakers’ momentum when it seemed they could get back into the game.
"That's what it seems like, the same thing over and over again," Allen said about his team's constant struggles with giveaways. "Our inability to just not focus in to every possession offensively enough to the point where we at least get a shot at the basket."
Once filled with such preseason promise, the Quakers are now going through one of the most difficult stretches in program history while rostering enough talent on paper to make a strong Ivy run.
"It's tough," Dougherty said. "It's not the way I expected [this season] to go."
The Quakers will look to rebound against Dartmouth on Saturday.
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