After notching their third Ivy League win over Dartmouth on Saturday at the Palestra, the Quakers couldn't secure a fourth against Princeton on Monday afternoon. With the 74-64 win, the Tigers (14-3, 4-0 Ivy) remain atop the Ivy League.
Despite an impressive first-half performance from Penn (6-12, 3-2 Ivy), the Red and Blue were unable to steal the lead from the Tigers in the second half. Some positives, which included Penn’s eight steals and freshman guard George Smith leading both teams in rebounds (almost getting his first double-double), couldn't make up for a season-low number of threes and free throws made, as well as some other missed opportunities.
"I think the common theme, unfortunately, was how we gave up the lead and eventually lost the game: opportunities at the rim that we missed easy shots, and then we had some really unforced turnovers that – to me – was the difference in the game," head coach Steve Donahue said.
There was a lot of energy from the start for both teams, with strong offensive plays on both ends of the court. Penn struck first with a layup by junior forward Michael Moshkovitz.
A steal by Smith put Penn up 6-2. Soon after, Princeton took the lead at 7-6 until Moshkovitz netted a layup that closed out the first five minutes of the game with Penn leading 8-7.
Sophomore forward/guard Max Martz notched a two-point jumper that put the Red and Blue up by five, 14-9. A deep three from Smith then put Penn in the lead at 17-11.
The Tigers responded with back-to-back threes to tie the game at 17 about halfway into first-half play. The 11-2 run from Princeton later put the Tigers up 22-19 with 7:20 remaining in the first half.
Princeton continued to widen the gap, leading 32-25 with under five minutes remaining before halftime. Penn, however, did not back down. A key three-pointer from senior guard Jelani Williams put the Quakers behind by just four, 32-28.
Although Penn led for a majority of game minutes, Princeton reigned 34-28 at the end of the first half.
"I thought we guarded really well for most of the first half, although we let our guard down a few times," Donahue said. "Princeton hurt us with some threes towards the end of the half."
Princeton opened the scoring in the second half, going up by 11 after quick two- and three-point sequences. The Tigers' fast pace and high three-point field goal percentage helped them take a 44-32 lead three minutes in, which the Quakers struggled to recover from.
A turnover recovered by Moshkovitz led to an open layup, cutting the Orange and Black’s lead to eight, 44-36. A three-point play led by Martz and a solid jumper from sophomore guard Clark Slajchert cut Princeton’s lead to five, 46-41.
The Quakers kept up with the Tigers’ fast-paced tempo, continuing to push for the lead. The Red and Blue were only down by two, 51-49, halfway into thsecond half thanks to Martz’s hard layup off a drive to the net.
"In the second half, we got shots at the rim," Donahue said. "We ran good offense, and we really took our time and finished, which we didn’t do in the first half at times. But once again, I thought the turnovers … once we got close – unfortunately, we’re very inexperienced, and we’re learning and getting better. You just can’t do that on the road against a good team."
Several attempts by Penn to tie the game up were halted by Princeton defense and missed shots from the Quakers. The Tigers were able to capitalize, extending their lead once again to eight at 57-49.
A key three from sophomore guard Jordan Dingle and a Tiger turnover were not enough to prevent Princeton from taking a 10-point lead, 66-56, with a little over three minutes remaining in the game. Donahue then called a timeout in hopes of shifting the momentum of the game.
Princeton remained on top 70-62 with under a minute, as Donahue called another timeout. However, Penn was unable to catch up to Princeton as the game wore on, handing the Tigers their fourth Ivy League victory by a score of 74-64.
The Quakers look ahead to their matchup with Yale (8-8, 2-0 Ivy) next Saturday at 4 p.m, which Donahue sees as another key test of his team's work ethic this season.
"I think the simple answer is that we keep working hard to get better, and if that happens, I think good things will happen on Saturday."