It wasn’t pretty.
On its farthest road trip of the Ivy League season, Penn men’s basketball dropped two critical games to Harvard and Dartmouth, blowing an early lead in Cambridge before falling to the previously-conference-winless Big Green.
After jumping out to a massive early lead, Penn basketball regressed substantially over the game’s final 30 minutes en route to a 69-59 loss to Harvard Friday night. With the loss, the Red and Blue (7-11) dropped to 0-4 in Ivy play — a mark that was extended to 0-5 a day later.
Despite having not played a game in over a week, the Quakers came out firing on all cylinders. Fueled by excellent play from senior forward Matt Howard and junior guard Caleb Wood, Penn sprang to leads of 11-0, 19-4 and 25-14. The early success, though, was fueled largely by unsustainably high field goal percentage; the Quakers made eight of their first ten shots.
“We weren’t tired. Most teams in college basketball have a lot more games,” Penn coach Steve Donahue noted. “The guys were excited; the guys were confident.”
In the game’s second half, Penn’s shooting went frigid, as the Quakers shot just 20.7 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, including a 1-of-14 performance from beyond the arc.
Five different Crimson players scored in double figures, led by guard Siyani Chambers’ 13. The Quakers were actually quite efficient at slowing the fifth-year star, though, as Chambers shot just 3-of-11 from the field.
Turnovers proved to be the death knell for the Red and Blue; the Quakers turned the ball over 19 times, well above their season average of 12.9 per game.
Donahue, though, felt that that figure was well below what it could have been.
“They jumped passing lanes; that’s what they do. But to be honest with you, they didn’t jump as many as they typically do,” Donahue said of the Crimson defense. “We just didn’t take care of the basketball.”
The next night at Dartmouth (7-11, 1-5), things were not much better. Though the Quakers turned the ball over just eight times and made 47 percent of their shots, a lack of offensive starpower prevented the Red and Blue from asserting themselves. The Big Green never looked back after going on a 14-2 run early in the second half. Junior guard Darnell Foreman — playing all 40 minutes — led the team with 15 points and four assists.
Both games brought disappointing performances for freshman forward AJ Brodeur. Fresh off scoring 35 points against La Salle on Jan. 25, the young star struggled both evenings, scoring just sixteen points between the two contests.
“In his defense, we rely on him so much,” Donahue said. “If he doesn’t score at times, we struggle.”
Winless in the Ivy League, the Red and Blue are now all but eliminated from the conference’s inaugural tournament.
While the team is certainly capable of dominating for stretches — as was the case early Friday — the team’s propensity for mental mistakes and streaky shooting has doomed the squad to likely watch postseason play from afar.
The Red and Blue will look to notch their first Ivy win when they host Princeton Tuesday.