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Junior guard Lucas Monroe attempts to dribble around Harvard opponents during the game on Feb. 12 at the Palestra. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

The two best teams of the Ivy League faced off on Friday night. The No. 1 ranked Yale Bulldogs had already taken one loss against Penn this season and were looking for revenge. After a long, tough battle with both teams making impressive runs at each other, Yale prevailed with an 81-72 victory.

The game began with both teams being aggressive. Yale took an early liking to the paint, while Penn had the perimeter advantage. Penn guards Jordan Dingle, George Smith, and Clark Slajchert all contributed from beyond the arc. Additionally, Max Martz, who was in COVID-19 protocols last week, made his presence felt early with seven points and four rebounds at the half. Penn, however, made a plethora of mistakes. It committed an astonishing nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game. That number increased to 12 by the end of the half.

“The first half was rough. … I thought we were discombobulated in the first half in particular,” coach Steve Donahue said postgame.

Yale’s defense played the paint extremely well making it hard for Penn to gain momentum. While the Bulldogs were able to get defensive stops, they struggled to knock down their jumpers. Unfortunately for Penn, it was only a matter of time until Yale got going with Jalen Gabbidon who had 14 points and one of the best Ivy League players Azar Swain who had a highlight four-point play giving Yale the lead inside of the final two minutes of the first half. 

The score after one period of play was 36-32 in the Bulldogs’ favor. Dingle and Martz led the way for the Quakers with seven points each. Slajchert and forward Nick Spinoso came off the bench and added five a piece.

The second half started off with extremely aggressive game plans from both teams. The Quakers and Bulldogs traded buckets. Gabbidon continued to feast in the paint, while Penn found offense through multiple contributors. Spinoso was very efficient at the start of the second half, canning a nice three, totaling 13 points at the time.

With about seven minutes left, Yale took a commanding eight-point lead. Swain had come alive hitting jumper after jumper in addition to Gabbidon’s career night. The Quakers seemed to have no answer, but the Red and Blue kept staying within reach thanks to one man: Clark Slajchert. The sophomore stud hit two critical threes in a row around the four-minute mark to keep Penn afloat. Junior Jonah Charles then hit a three of his own to give the Quakers a 71-70 lead.

But it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs scored seven points straight to essentially ice the game with one minute left. Gabbidon led all scorers and finished with 32 points while Slajchert led the Quakers with 18 including four threes.

“I thought we competed so hard, we had the lead under three minutes on the road. You just gotta somehow figure out how to finish that,” Donahue said postgame. “We know we didn’t play our best game [tonight]. We could play a lot better.”

It should be noted how well Slajchert has been playing. His ability to be a multidimensional scorer and make clutch shots is impressive.

“It’s what we expect from him at this point,” coach Donahue said of Slajchert. “He’s got a confidence and a skill set about him that’s as good as anybody in the league in terms of getting buckets. The best thing about him is he just doesn’t get overwhelmed with the moment. … He plays with a chip on his shoulder and competes at a high level on both sides of the ball.”

The Quakers fall to 8-3 and now third in the conference, while Yale remains at the top of the standings. Penn will face Brown tomorrow evening in Providence hoping to bounce back from a disappointing loss. Penn still has the Ivy Tournament clinched and will look forward to that down the line.