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Credit: Ilana Wurman

Yale men’s basketball came into the Palestra in first place in the Ivy League. For 40 minutes, the Elis certainly looked the part.

Penn basketball stood little chance against first-place Yale, falling 75-48 in the Friday night affair. The loss dropped the Quakers to 2-4 in conference play and 7-12 overall.

The game began with a Penn turnover, a sign of things to come. Neither side was able to get anything going, with the contest slowing to a crawl for the first six minutes. From there, junior captain Tony Hicks began to catch fire for the Red and Blue, scoring all 12 of his points in the first half.

But with Hicks going strong for Penn, Yale’s entire squad found its rhythm, leaving Hicks and company in the dust.

“For us, I don’t think we have too much room for error in our defensive assignments,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “I felt like primarily at the midway point of the first half, everytime we didn’t execute … they made a shot.

“Shots went up and they went to the glass. They just played the right way at their pace. It seemed like we struggled to score and they just had the ball floating like it was water.”

Junior forward Justin Sears led the charge for Yale (17-7, 6-1 Ivy) as usual, bolstering his Ivy League Player of the Year candidacy with an all-around dominant effort. The Bulldogs’ offense ran through the junior star, who made easy layups while finding open players with ease.

But Sears wasn’t done there, taking over on the defensive end as well with a plethora of blocks. Sears didn’t even score in the second half, but his presence was felt throughout the contest. He added three blocks and three assists after halftime for a seven-point, six-assist, five-block effort to stymie the Red and Blue while making the only two shots he took.

“I think that things get contagious and the fact that he shared the ball helped everyone else out,” Yale coach James Jones said. “I think if he tries to force the issue there, he makes it difficult for us to win.”

Outside of the junior forward, the Elis were powered by a pair of pesky guards – freshman Makai Mason and Jack Montague. The duo combined for 27 points on 8-for-11 shooting from three-point range. Overall, the Elis had 19 assists on 27 made field goals, with Sears contributing six of those assists.

“I think his belief in his teammates is really important for us to be successful because you feel it,” Jones said. “When a teammate passes you the ball out and you’re open and he has a shot at the basket or could force something at the basket, that makes you feel good about who you are.

“I’m a firm believer that when you pass the ball, the energy from one person goes to the next and I think that certainly helped us.”

Meanwhile, Penn tried running its offense through center Darien Nelson-Henry during the first half, which proved unsuccessful with the Elis frustrating the junior big man all game. Nelson-Henry turned the ball over five times in the first half while missing his only two shots.

While freshman forward Sam Jones made three shots from beyond the arc in the second half, it was far too little, too late. Yale took a 38-23 halftime lead and added a 17-2 run to stretch its lead to a whopping 30 points. The Quakers were unable to get within 20 the rest of the way, falling handily to the Bulldogs.

The Quakers have now lost by at least 25 points in three of their last four games. The 27-point loss to Yale surpasses the Jan. 31 loss to Harvard as the largest home Ivy loss in Allen’s tenure as coach.

Penn will try once again to regroup, facing last-place Brown on Saturday evening at the Palestra as the Quakers try to engineer another Ivy weekend split.

“The first two Ivy weekends, we were solid defensively the first night and struggled the second night,” Allen said. “I hoping it’s the flip-flop this weekend.”

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