After a hard-fought 79-65 win against Cornell (9-5, 1-2 Ivy) on Friday night, Penn men's basketball fell to the Columbia Lions 73-69 at the Palestra on Saturday night.
With both teams playing on a back-to-back — Columbia (4-10, 1-1 Ivy) having come off a road loss to Princeton — the heavy edge that oddsmakers favored Penn with was wiped away, as the Lions appeared better prepared for the challenge. The Quaker offense struggled to get much of anything going in the way of shot-making throughout the game, especially from the three-point line, as the team finished 8-26 from behind the arc. And when they missed shots, the Red and Blue weren't exactly snatching every offensive rebound, losing in that category by a whopping 16-5 margin to the Lions. Penn also struggled to contain Columbia forward Ike Nweke, who put up a game-high 21 points, many of which came in crucial moments down the stretch.
“[Columbia’s] not playing well, we’re coming off a couple wins… I think that gave them a boost; they came out of the gates and got up," Donahue said of the scenario coming into the matchup. "I do give our guys credit, we fought hard. I just sensed that we weren’t understanding how hard this game was going to be.”
Columbia opened the scoring with a basket from behind the arc, quickly responded to by freshman guard George Smith of Penn (5-11, 2-1 Ivy) who tied the game at three apiece, and finished the game tied for a team-high 14 points.
An early timeout by coach Donahue was called two minutes in after a messy Penn offensive possession helped Columbia pull away, 8-3. Unable to avoid Columbia’s high field goal percentage, Penn was down 17-7 after Columbia’s Liam Murphy hit a three-pointer five minutes in.
“I thought Columbia from the go get really did a great job on the offensive glass…I give them credit," Donahue said. "I was disappointed in our ball movement, our offense… we just weren’t our normal selves in moving the ball."
Sophomore guard Clark Slajchert got a much-needed two for the Quakers followed by a three-point jumper from junior guard Jonah Charles — who played about 13 minutes as he continues to work his way back into the rotation — to cut Penn’s deficit to six at 19-13 nine minutes in.
After an offensive foul was called on Columbia, Slajchert weaved through the Lions' defensemen twice to put up four points, cutting the Lions’ lead to five. Soon after, junior forward Michael Moshkovitz cut the Lion lead to two with a three-point jumper, making the score 22-20.
The two teams exchanged points for the next six minutes with impressive drives to the net by several Quakers including Smith and sophomore guard/forward Max Martz, who put Penn within two at 30-28. Columbia, soon after, went on a 9-2 run to extend its lead to nine at 39-30.
The Red and Blue were able to quickly respond, gaining momentum thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from Charles to make it a one-possession game at 39-36.
At the half, Columbia led by five, 41-36. Penn would have to play from behind in the second period, though it'd proven to be successful at closing gaps multiple times this season.
The second half opened with a steal and score from sophomore guard Jordan Dingle, who didn't manage to find the basket in the first half and uncharacteristically struggled on the offensive end, finishing the game 3-13 from the field and 1-6 from deep. Dingle went on to dial in a three in the next possession to put Penn within two at 43-41. Martz — who finished tied for a team-high 14 points — rattled in a three to tie the game at 44.
The Quakers constantly crept within two of the Lions and tied the game at 48 but were not successful at grabbing the lead.
“We did tie it up a couple times… we just didn’t execute enough on the offensive end," Donahue said. "We are such a young, inexperienced group. We just gotta stay with the plan, keep working hard to get better.”
The Lions rebuilt their lead to six before a media timeout was called with 11:35 left in the second. After Smith got two for the Quakers, Columbia managed to extend its lead to 11 at 61-50.
Penn’s intensity picked up with about six minutes left, sparked by a forced turnover and layup by junior guard Lucas Monroe to force a Lions timeout at 63-56. Down the stretch, Monroe played a crucial role, making some big defensive stops and grabbing some difficult rebounds.
Despite hard-fought attempts to close in on the Lion lead, it seemed that the Quakers were unable to get baskets to land late in the game. However, a three-point play from Smith and a layup from Slajchert gave Penn life, as it trailed 67-64 with 30 seconds left.
After a Quaker timeout, Penn was looking for a 10-second violation but was instead met with a questionable foul call that put the Lions on the line. Columbia went up 69-64 until Dingle drew a foul and dialed in both free-throws to make the game 69-66.
A wild three-point shot by Martz revived the Quakers once again as they now trailed by only two with 3.8 seconds left. However, the Red and Blue were unable to sneak away with the win. Columbia managed to take its first Ivy League victory by a score of 73-69.
“There’s a lot of growth that can be made on our passing, our cutting, shot selection, ball movement. I also think on defense we can continue to grow,” Donahue said. “This league is wide open, and we’re gonna keep competing and keep getting better.”
The Quakers look to flip the script as they host Dartmouth (4-9, 1-1 Ivy) at the Palestra next Saturday at 2 p.m.