Dingle does it again.
Coming off a four-game win streak, Penn (11-12, 8-2 Ivy) took on Harvard (11-10, 3-6) at the packed Palestra on Saturday. For the Red and Blue's first Ivy League home game with fans present in almost two years, Penn students showed up in full force, with free student tickets selling out prior to game time.
“It was really fun to be able to play in front of our fans again. I’m really happy that my seniors got to play in front of their fans as well,” Dingle said.
The matchup was mostly a back-and-forth battle. Every time Penn had momentum, Harvard would find a way to claw back in. In the end, though, the Quakers emerged victorious with a score of 82-74 on the back of yet another monstrous Jordan Dingle performance, as he finished with 33 points.
The game started as a defensive battle with both teams playing hard in the paint and on the perimeter. After the first timeout four minutes in, the scoring started to trickle in, and Penn took a commanding 22-14 lead at the 11-minute mark. Star sophomore guard Jordan Dingle’s pair of threes combined with fellow sophomore guard Clark Slajchert’s two floaters off the bench led the way for Penn.
“[Clark’s] been amazing all year,” coach Steve Donahue said. “He’s another guy who can go get a bucket in a tough Ivy League game. He’s got a great future ahead of him.”
By the next timeout, however, that eight-point lead had been cut in half due to a flurry of fouls committed by the Quakers. The Crimson shot seven free throws compared to only four attempts by the Quakers. Harvard’s offense came mostly from guards Evan Nelson and Luka Sakota. Harvard’s rebounding was also noticeably better as they collected a valuable seven offensive rebounds.
After another timeout, Penn came out red-hot with Dingle and Slajchert at the helm yet again. Slajchert was lights-out towards the end of the half with back-to-back threes, totaling 12 points at the end of the period. Dingle led the Quakers in scoring with 15 points, including an impressive four threes at the end of the period. Junior guard Lucas Monroe added an efficient four points and four rebounds as well. The Red and Blue also netted the better three-point percentage with an impressive 50%. Penn was able to push its lead back to eight with a score of 41-33 after one half of play.
The start of the second half featured a more aggressive Harvard team. Within a few minutes, the Crimson started to come back. However, after a few costly turnovers, they failed to tie the game up. Dingle made them pay with a highlight crossover leading to an emphatic dunk and a score from behind the arc.
Both teams continued to battle hard, but also made some costly mistakes as the game wore on. Harvard’s turnovers kept Penn’s lead going, while the Quakers’ poor rebounding kept the Crimson in the game. With about eight minutes left, the score was tied at 57.
The Quakers needed another scorer to aid Dingle and Slajchert, and they got one: senior guard Jelani Williams. Williams had a strong six points — most off of free throws — four assists, and three rebounds. Unfortunately, he went down with a finger injury with just under six minutes left, which was later re-aggravated when he reentered the game.
This was right around the time Dingle just could not be stopped. Not only did he score, he created offensive opportunities for his teammates with his four assists that came largely off the opposing team doubling him. He and Harvard’s Nelson were trading buckets as the game neared the end.
“I was just trying to make the right play each time,” Dingle said postgame. “I did a good job this week preparing for it and they happened to fall.”
With just two minutes remaining, the score tied, and Penn in dire need of a crucial basket, Dingle — with two defenders swarming him — banked in a shot from downtown to give Penn a 74-71 advantage that the team wouldn't give up for the rest of the game.
“He had three bodies on him, and he kept his poise, kept the dribble, didn’t panic, didn’t try to make a quick one,” Donahue said of Dingle. “Today, he was in an extra zone of really staying in the moment.”
Freshman guard George Smith then hit the dagger three with under a minute remaining to bring the lead to six, electrifying the packed crowd.
Dingle finished with 33 points and shot an impressive 12-17 from the field. Slajchert and Monroe added 15 and nine points, respectively, as Penn improved to 11-12 overall, but more importantly, 8-2 in the conference. Although Brown beat Cornell on Saturday, the Quakers look all but assured to have a spot in Cambridge come March, with current projections putting them at 98.9% to do just that.
Penn will need all the confidence and momentum they can get, as the team is set to face Yale next week on Feb. 18 in New Haven. Yale is Penn’s number-one obstacle to an Ivy League regular season title, as it leads the conference standings. Regardless, Penn's win against Harvard puts it in prime position to make a run at March Madness.