For one of Penn men's basketball's biggest games of the year, the Palestra crowd was rocking Monday night as the Quakers (9-10, 2-3 Ivy) faced off against Princeton (13-5, 4-1) in another edition of a heated rivalry. The two teams were ranked first and second, respectively, in an Ivy League media poll before the season, and each had something to prove after suffering tough losses in recent matches.
However, the Quakers were unable to pull ahead in the second half and fell to the Tigers 72-60.
Before the game, junior guard Jordan Dingle and coach Steve Donahue each received honors to celebrate scoring 1,000 career points and winning 300 games, respectively. The celebration energized the crowd before tip-off — an energy that continued throughout the game.
“Doesn’t mean anything to me,” Donahue said. “Coaches are here for the players, I don't need to be celebrated. Jordan deserves to be celebrated for his accomplishments, and I’m happy he was.”
Both teams started slow, combining for 18 points in the first eight minutes, but the student section roared for every Penn bucket and possession — such as an impressive pick and roll by Dingle and senior center Max Lorca-Lloyd resulted in a slam dunk that got the arena on its feet.
As the game progressed, Dingle and junior guard Clark Slajchert struggled to find an offensive groove while sophomore center Nick Spinoso dominated the paint against smaller Tigers defenders. Quakers continued to run the offense through Spinoso who demanded doubles in the low post, which Spinoso passed out of for good looks on the perimeter. Spinoso finished the half with eight points on four shots.
The Tigers kept the game close with an impressive scoring performance from the reigning Ivy League player of the year, Tosan Evbuomwan, who scored 11 throughout the first half and led his team in points and assists.
“[Evbuomwan] made some individual plays that I thought were amazing,” Donahue said. “I thought we did a really good job overall, but then we got spaced out on the floor.”
As time winded down in the half, both teams traded defensive stops, with the Tigers mishandling a pick and roll pass into the hands of junior forward Max Martz and junior guard Andrew Laczkowski being called for an offensive foul on an impressive cut and finish. Right before the buzzer, the struggling Dingle was fouled while shooting to put the Quakers up 26 to 25.
The Quakers continued to rely on Spinoso for offense into the second half. However, after missing their first shot to start the half, the Tigers were able to grow a small lead with 14 minutes left to play. Penn struggled to mount a comeback with Dingle and Slajchert missing tough shots and Princeton capitalizing on multiple offensive rebounds. Dingle and Slajchert would go 7-32 overall, and the team ended the game shooting 33% from the field.
“It felt like a slug fest,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. “It was a very physical game, we were struggling to hit shots as well until late in the second.”
One big factor leading to the tough shots was the Quakers' lack of three-point scoring — going 0-12 in the game — and an uncharacteristically inefficient offensive outing by Dingle, who needed 22 shots to score 21 points.
“I thought Jordan and Clark took shots they usually make," Donahue said, "But we became self-reliant on them when we got behind and we could’ve run a better offense.”
The crowd fell to a whisper late with Penn falling behind by 14 with six minutes to go, a lead they would fail to overcome despite a late push fueled by a couple of Dingle and-one plays. The game finished at a disappointing score of 72-60, marking Princeton’s seventh straight win over the Quakers.
“With the history of the two programs, coach [Henderson] makes sure to let us know how important it is to get wins in [the Palestra],” Evbuomwan said.
The Quakers' next time back on the court will be at Yale on Saturday at 6 p.m. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.