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Freshman forward Max Rothschild failed to build on his 18-point performance of a game ago, shooting just 2-for-12.

Credit: Lizzy Machielse

Penn basketball, playing with newfound confidence, continued to move in the right direction by recording its second straight Ivy League win in a 67-57 thrashing of Harvard. 

The victory, which completed the weekend sweep for the Red and Blue, was their first over the Crimson since March 2013.

Before the season began there were very few similarities between Harvard (8-11, 2-3 Ivy) and Penn (9-13, 1-5). The former was coming off its fifth straight league title and NCAA tournament appearance while the later was trying to forget a seventh place finish in the Ancient Eight.

But when the Quakers and Crimson entered the Palestra on Saturday night, their storylines were starkly similar. Both were without their starting backcourts from the previous season — albeit under different circumstances — and neither had defeated an Ancient Eight foe outside of Dartmouth.

So when odds makers had Penn favored by one before the opening tip, something that would have been unthinkable just months ago, few on either side could have claimed to be surprised.

Nevertheless, it was the Crimson who burst out of the gate, notching a 7-0 run to start the contest. But the Quakers were unfazed. After falling behind 8-0 to Dartmouth on Friday night Penn bounced back and snagged a seven-point win. So, the Red and Blue were as cool as the other side of the pillow against Harvard. It only took six minutes for Penn to grab its first lead of the night when freshman forward Max Rothschild converted a bucket on a pretty touch in traffic to make score 12-10.

Rothschild who notched one of those three Red and Blue double-doubles was a consistent force all game. He corralled 11 rebounds and scored 14 points while only committing two fouls.

Penn coach Steve Donahue had nothing but praise for his young big man.

“He really competes. The moment’s not too big. He just brings so many different things that help you win.”

Rothschild was just one part of the puzzle down low, as the Quakers would go on to outscore Harvard 46-26 in the paint thanks to exceptional tenacity.

“We have an advantageous in the post with Darien [Nelson-Henry],” Rothschild said, “Every night we try to pound it in the paint because our offense works inside out and that’s how we get those threes.”

Their interior presence allowed Penn, which led 27-25 at the break, to begin the second half hot. They were up by as many as nine multiple times over the first seven minutes of play before Harvard started to chip away at the lead.

With 9:30 left to play the Crimson got their best chance at drawing even when Agunwa Okolie got to the line down, 43-41. But after the Crimson forward missed the front end of the one-and-one, Penn junior Matt Howard made Harvard pay with a midrange jumper to increase the lead to four.

After a quick Harvard two on the other end, it was Howard again who kept the Quakers’ heads above water by scoring three the old-fashioned way after getting mauled on his way to the hoop. The proceeding free throw touched nothing but net and Penn never looked back.

Those were the first five points of a 15-6 run that had the Palestra bouncing with under five minutes to play.

A three by Patrick Steeves briefly halted the Red and Blue surge, but it wasn’t a sign of things to come as Penn never let up.

Donahue has emphasized “C.A.S.” with the team, which he says stands for ‘compete after the shot.’ The effects of that gameplan were especially evident on the glass, where Penn outrebounded the Crimson 53-32 and were never apprehensive about playing with aggression.

“The team that’s willing to make the most mistakes is gonna win this game,” Donahue said. “We weren’t afraid.”

Harvard however, may have been frightened when running back on defense. Nelson-Henry, Rothschild and Howard could seemingly do nothing wrong with the ball in their hands. They combined to score 44 points on 21 of their 33 shots.

The Crimson, playing without junior center Zena Edosomwan, just couldn’t combat the physicality of the Quakers, who walked off to a roaring standing ovation courtesy of the 4,018 Red and Blue faithful in attendance.

Sophomore forward Sam Jones gave a spirited performance notching 13 minutes despite being under the weather. Unfortunately however, sophomore big man Mike Auger, who is suffering from a broken nose and a concussion was unable to even make it to the Palestra for the game.

Next weekend Rothschild will lead his squad to the Empire state where they will where will they try to continue their winning ways against second place Columbia before heading to Cornell for coach Donahue’s homecoming.

They may not be favored to win in their first game in the Big Apple, but the Quakers aren’t concerned with failure.

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