They say basketball is a team sport.
Penn basketball proved that axiom true on Friday, as they downed Brown, 79-74, in a well-rounded effort that featured five different players scoring in double figures.
With the win, the Quakers (10-12, 4-4 Ivy) move to .500 in conference play and avenge their 89-83 loss to the Bears (7-16, 2-7) on Jan. 30.
“We’re playing our best basketball right now,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “Our guys are excited to practice very day. I way really pleased with their effort today.”
The Red and Blue jumped out to a hot start backed by three first-half three-pointers from sophomore Sam Jones, who ended the night with 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting from three-point range. At intermission, the Quakers led, 40-35, meaning Penn is now 17-0 when leading at halftime this season.
However, Brown came out strong in the second half, tying the game at 67 with just five minutes remaining. The Bears were led by freshman guard Obi Okolie, who led all scorers with 23 points. Teammate Cedrick Kuakumensah — the Ivy League’s all-time leading shot-blocker — chipped in with a double-double, scoring 14 points while pulling down 10 rebounds.
“We competed really well,” Brown coach Mike Martin said. “We battled, and make a lot of really nice plays. The ball just didn’t go in the basket.”
Penn senior center Darien Nelson-Henry took over in the second half, scoring nine of his team-high 19 points, part of a 7-for-9 overall shooting effort.
Nelson-Henry was far from the Quakers’ only star of the night, however, as teammates Jackson Donahue, Matt Howard, Darnell Foreman and Jones all also scored at least 10 points.
“We made shots. We made some shots that were really important,” coach Donahue said. “But if they don’t guard us at the three, we’ll shoot. And if they don’t guard us, we’re attacking the rim.”
Foreman played an especially important role at the end of the contest, knocking down several clutch free throws in the game’s final minutes, part of a 9-for-10 effort from the line on the night.
“Darnell did all the little things. Down the stretch, there’s nobody I’d rather have on the foul line,” Donahue said of Foreman, who added ten assists and eight rebounds in a near triple-double.
“The game just slows down. You don’t feel rushed, you don’t feel sweaty,” Foreman said of his game-clinching free throws. “It’s like clockwork, like practice in an empty gym.”
The Red and Blue will face even stiffer competition tomorrow night, as they will square off against Ivy League-leading Yale (17-6, 8-1), a team that beat down Penn, 81-58, in New Haven on Jan. 29.
The Bulldogs were dealt a tough loss on on Friday, however, as they were defeated by Princeton, 75-63, in Jadwin Gym.
“I expect us to be ready. We’re ready to play them,” Donahue said. “But there’s a lot left for us to accomplish this year, and we’re ready. We’re excited.”
The Red and Blue notched a key victory behind a deep scoring effort on Friday.
And on Saturday, they will have to beat the best of the best to be the best.
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