CAMBRIDGE, MA — All good things must end.
Penn men’s basketball dropped its first Ivy League contest of the season Saturday night, falling, 76-67, to Harvard in a contest that it trailed in since the beginning. Sophomore guard Ryan Betley led the Quakers with 16 points in the defeat, all in the second half.
“They played well. We did not play all that well,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “Give Harvard all the credit.”
The loss came on the heels of a 64-61 nail-biter of a victory over Dartmouth Friday night. That win allowed the Quakers (17-7, 7-1 Ivy) to stay undefeated in conference play, a distinction the Crimson would topple a day later.
The Red and Blue trailed for almost all of Saturday’s contest, falling victim to the efficient scoring performances of Chris Lewis and Justin Bassey. Lewis, a sophomore forward, scored 13 of his career-high 25 points before intermission, dominating in the paint as Harvard adjusted to the injury of sophomore guard and reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Bryce Aiken.
“Tonight was really great for us; it was a big confidence booster,” Lewis said. “But at the same time, we’re gonna see them again … and this was their third game this week.”
The Red and Blue will be back in action Friday, when they travel to New York City to take on Columbia (6-14, 3-4). Despite Saturday’s loss, the Red and Blue remain tied with Harvard atop the Ivy League and poised to qualify for the league’s championship tournament.
The tournament provides a key reprieve for the Red and Blue, who needn’t remain perfect in conference play to capture a league title.
“It’s great. I’m a huge proponent of the Ivy tournament,” sophomore guard Ryan Betley said. “It gives four teams a shot; it keeps the rest for the league competitive.”
“It makes these weekends all that more exciting. For the kids, for the fans,” Donahue said. “It’s a great thing all around.”
The Quakers looked particularly weak before halftime, trailing 31-24 at the break. While the Quakers still lost the second half by two points, the Red and Blue experienced clear improvements after intermission. Much of the increased offensive output came from Betley, who scored all 16 of his points after halftime, exceeding the 12 he scored during the entirety of Friday’s contest.
“It was just getting back to what I do. Just playing with a better flow,” Betley said. “I was confident in my shot.”
The Quakers were hampered by the ailment of starting center Max Rothschild. The junior was “not 100 percent” all weekend due to a cyst in his tailbone, according to Donahue.
“He was completely dehydrated, drained, exhausted," Donahue said. "He had sleepless nights coming into the weekend. I’m surprised he even played.”
Luckily, Rothschild and the Quakers will have a full six days of rest before they head back to the road to take on Columbia Friday night.