NEW YORK, N.Y. - Columbia coach Jim Engles probably didn’t envision getting a technical foul less than two minutes into his team’s game against Penn on Friday night.
It was an early indicator for how the night would go for the Lions (4-15, 1-6 Ivy), who fell to the Quakers (8-12, 6-2) by a score of 81-66 in New York City.
The foul and resulting free throw made by sophomore guard Jordan Dingle – the first of his 23 points – came after the coach voiced anger at an official. Engles’ frustration did not end soon, however, as he was forced to call timeout shortly thereafter, as the Quakers got off to a hot 11-2 start.
"Come out, play hard, don’t worry about mistakes, and good things happen," coach Steve Donahue said. "I thought we did that in both halves; executed on offense in the second half. First half, I thought it was more defense."
Thanks to some good paint play by junior forward Michael Moshkovitz, a couple classic Dingle drives, and a three from junior forward Max Martz – not to mention some poor shot selections from Columbia – the Quakers were rolling so smoothly that a mere timeout wasn’t going to slow them down.
Coming out of the break, the Red and Blue went on another 8-2 run and didn’t look back from that point on.
With Penn up for most of the game, the Quakers slowed down their pace for much of the night, frequently moving the ball around and taking their time to find the perfect shots. With that being said, the Red and Blue never hesitated to take open shots when they found them – even early in possessions.
The Quakers’ relatively slow pace of play did result in arguably their biggest mistake of the night, as senior guard Jelani WIlliams passed the ball to the outside for a three-pointer as the shot clock was expiring, resulting in a violation.
The mistakes were few and far between for the Quakers, though, and especially for Williams, who has gained great experience this season, being the only Penn player to have started every game this go-around.
Despite the hot start for the Quakers, a late first-half run by Columbia sent Penn into the locker room up by just eight, 35-27. However, another hot start to the second half put the Red and Blue up for good, taking a lead as large as 20 points in one instance.
Continuing his recent hot streak was two-time defending Big 5 Player of the Week Dingle, who finished the game with 23 points. Most of his points came in the paint, including a menacing two-handed driving dunk soon after the start of the second half, forcing a Lions timeout.
"We’re number one in the league in two-point percentage, offensively and defensively, which I think is a good mark," Donahue said.
In addition to the expected output from Dingle, Penn was boosted by Moshkovitz, who had arguably the best game of his career, stuffing the stat sheet with 13 rebounds, his first time recording double-digit boards. After a slow start in non-conference play, Moshkovitz has been a key part of the Quakers’ Ivy League success.
“I just felt good starting the game," Moshkovitz said. "I felt that I had a good sense for the ball today; I just knew where to go.”
Finally, the Quakers found help from an unexpected source in sophomore guard Andrew Laczkowski, who, in a breakout performance, scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, both career highs.
"He’s starting to really play well over the last two months," Donahue said. "Every day in practice, he’s hustling, he’s making shots, he’s cutting, he plays with great energy, he’s got good size. He knows how to score."
The result tonight may not have been a surprise to many, as in recent years, the Quakers have usually had their way with the Lions, including winning the last time they came to Manhattan. However, earlier this season, a relatively weak Columbia team pulled off an upset at the Palestra, eking out a 73-69 win.
Donahue and Moshkovitz both noted that the team was tired going into that game after its first back-to-back in some time.
Naturally, the Quakers were looking to even the season series on Friday, and take care of business they did.
The game featured a notably small lineup, with the tallest player receiving consistent minutes for the Quakers being Moshkovitz, who is listed (perhaps generously) at 6‘7. The Quakers have been rolling with a small lineup in Ivy play to a fair amount of success thus far.
The game was played behind closed doors, as Columbia will not be allowing spectators in their athletic events until Feb. 7. Instead, several dozen cardboard cutouts of Lions fans occupied the stands, including some notable alumni such as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the late former NBA Commissioner David Stern. Given how the game went for the Lions, these fans are probably grateful that they were not allowed to be in attendance.
Despite the big win, Penn showed some signs of weakness, particularly in three-point shooting, a critical aspect of their game, shooting just 20.8% on the night.
“It was a great team performance, especially on defense," Moshkovitz said. "We did a great job. Our offense was sometimes good, sometimes not as good. I believe that we’re capable of shooting much much better.
Next up for the Quakers is a drive out west to Ithaca, N.Y., where Penn will take on the Cornell Big Red, who currently sit in fourth place in the Ivy League and just defeated No. 1 Princeton tonight.
Penn will look to recreate the success it had earlier this season at the Palestra against Cornell, as well as to complete what would be its 25th program weekend sweep of the New York Ivy teams.