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Although Saturday night's game against Columbia was senior night for Penn basketball, it was junior Matt Howard's 14 points and seven rebounds that helped keep the game close throughout the first half.

Credit: Ananya Chandra

It was senior night at the Palestra on Saturday night. Unfortunately for Penn basketball, there wasn’t much more to cheer about after the opening tip as the Quakers would go on to lose to Columbia, 93-65.

The Lions (20-9, 9-3 Ivy) jumped out to an early 15-4 lead that had the Red and Blue faithful moaning before too much action had even be played. But thanks to tenacious play by senior center Darien Nelson-Henry and pinpoint shooting from range by junior forward Matt Howard and freshman guard Jackson Donahue, the Quakers (11-15, 5-6) pulled to within two with 9:30 left in the first half.

But getting into a shooting contest with Columbia is tough, and the Red and Blue eventually couldn’t continue to hang on. Therefore, two would be the closest they would come to catching the third-place Lions, who swiftly reminded Penn that while the Quakers may be improved, they are not yet on par with the leagues elite. That being said, Columbia was playing out of their minds tonight, trying to avenge their Friday night loss at Princeton.

“I thought they were locked in, played great,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said.

Columbia coach Kyle Smith added that he thought his squad played its best game of the season.

Due to the night’s outcome the focus after the game was on the seniors, Nelson-Henry and Lewis.

“He’s helped us cover up a lot of warts that we have. Because we don’t have a lot of experience out there,” Donahue said of Nelson-Henry. “For us to be able to compete the way we have, stay in the upper half of this league, has a lot to do with his ability to let us play through him.”

Nelson-Henry and Lewis were honored before the game in a ceremony recognizing them for their contributions to the program. Lewis also got the honor of starting in his final game at the Palestra. Nelson-Henry led the Red and Blue with 18 points and seven rebounds, consistently calling for the ball down low in an effort to walk off the floor with one more win.

But, as much as tonight was about the seniors, Howard showed flashes of how he will be able to take on the load next season as the team’s lone junior. He scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds while playing 35 minutes.

Their efforts were not enough to overcome a stifling Lions defense and an explosive shooting performance by senior Alex Rosenberg. He was unsurprisingly the star for Columbia and scored 26 points on an impressive 10-for-14 shooting.

The performance was a bit of a let down for the Red and Blue who were coming off the high of a season sweep of Cornell. With five Ivy wins the Quakers already have more league wins then last season and with three road games ahead of them they have a legitimate shot to finish with a .500 conference record for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

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