NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Quakers just didn’t have it on Saturday.
After a back-and-forth first half in which both teams did not shoot well, Yale pulled away from Penn men’s basketball in the second half, and took the game by a score of 78-65.
In a game that was closer than the score indicated, the Red and Blue (14-8, 2-4 Ivy) were unable to find a spark down the stretch, as Yale (15-4, 5-1) ended the contest on a 16-6 run. Leading the way for the Bulldogs was star junior guard Miye Oni, who finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
The first half saw quick runs from both sides. Penn took an early 14-10 lead after eight minutes of action. However, a cold stretch for the Quakers put them behind, 33-26, after Yale senior guard Alex Copeland’s corner three with 1:38 remaining in the half.
Penn trailed, 34-29, entering the locker room after senior guard Antonio Woods’ and-one free throw with 1:10 remaining. Woods would end up with 16 points, a team-high along with junior guard Devon Goodman.
After shooting just 27.5 percent from the field and 20 percent from three-point range in the first 20 minutes, the Quakers needed a spark on offense. They made three of their first four shots in the second half, but Yale answered with a bucket of its own seemingly every time.
“[Yale] is terrific in transition,” coach Steve Donahue said. “I thought we really guarded those guys [well] in the half court. We stayed in the game because we really guarded them in the half court.”
As Donahue alluded to, the Elis put their foot on the gas pedal every chance they got and had 33 points in transition.
But perhaps the biggest accomplishment for Yale was the way that it guarded forward AJ Brodeur. The junior totaled 14 points on 14 shots, and the Bulldogs forced him to become a passer for most of the night.
Entering the final stretch, Yale held a 47-38 lead with 13:09 remaining in the game, but the Quakers would not go away quietly. A three by freshman forward Michael Wang with 11:04 left cut the Bulldogs’ lead to four.
After trading buckets for a few minutes, the Quakers finally got themselves to within one possession. With 6:09 to go, Woods nailed a three-ball, and Penn got a stop to get the ball back trailing by three. On the next couple of possessions, Wang and Woods each had open looks from deep but were unable to convert.
That was the closest that Penn got for the rest of the game.
From there, it was all Yale. The Elis’ 16-6 game-ending run featured an Oni tomahawk slam over Wang that sent the home crowd into a frenzy. With Penn down 14 at the 2:42 mark, the game was effectively over, and the fans at Payne Whitney Gymnasium began to celebrate.
Even though the Quakers shot just 35.1 percent from the field, Donahue was relatively content with the looks that his team got.
“At times, we just didn’t get our feet set and [stay] poised enough,” Donahue said. “There wasn’t much difference in the shots [from Friday’s game against Brown], but tonight we were just a little frantic.”
Looking ahead, Penn will play its next four games at the Palestra in what will be a much-needed break from traveling after two consecutive weekend road trips.
“Like I said to these guys, this is the journey we’re on; we get to write this story,” Donahue said. “This is part of basketball in this league [with] the ups and downs and the challenges. It’s why you compete.”
The Quakers would surely like to finish their regular season story with a return to Yale for the Ivy League Tournament — but with another loss this weekend, it’s going to be challenging for them to pull it off.
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