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Penn guard Clark Slajchert pivots around Yale's defense on Jan. 21, 2023.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

The turnaround was fast for Penn men’s basketball, as the team took the court against Yale less than 24 hours after leaving Rhode Island with a loss. Entering the matchup, the teams couldn’t have been in more different spots. The Red and Blue, tied for last, entered the game seeking its first conference win since opening day or it would risk missing out on the Ivy tournament for the first time in program history. The Bulldogs on the other hand, entered the game tied for first while going undefeated in league play.

Unfortunately, the underdogs weren’t given a chance as Penn was smothered by Yale in a 74-58 loss.

Much like yesterday, Penn (9-12, 1-5 Ivy) did not get off to the hottest of starts, letting Yale (15-6, 6-0) leap out to a 7-0 run early in the first half. After a relatively quiet night against Brown yesterday, freshman guard Sam Brown had a much better outing, opening up the scoring for the Quakers with a three-pointer. Brown would finish the game with a team-leading 20 points, but it was not enough to keep Penn in the game.

Junior forward/center Nick Spinoso had his hands full from the opening tip-off, tasked with the job of keeping Yale sophomore Danny Wolf quiet. The Israeli national, who played a solid contributing role in the team’s second-place finish at the FIBA Under-20 European Championships this past summer, showed his dominance on the court today, recording a double-double consisting of 24 points and 12 rebounds. Spinoso did a good job of keeping Wolf in check for most of the first half, and the Quakers would head into the halftime break just down six points.

“One thing we did is really dive into the Yale scouting report. We got back to the hotel. We watch[ed] film,” coach Steve Donahue said. “Much of that [was] just getting the Brown game mentally behind [us]. For the most part, I thought the guys did. We played a good first half.”

The second half was a different story. Yale is the reigning Ivy League regular season champion for a reason. The Bulldogs came out of the locker room eager to extend their six-point lead, while the Quakers once again looked lethargic and lost for the opening minutes of the second half. After a career night against Brown, none other than junior guard/forward Ed Holland III was finally able to end Yale’s 12-0 run that saw the Bulldogs extend the lead to 18 points. 

“We really compete for 20 minutes but then we come out of the gate in the second half [and struggle] … [but] that’s what an experienced team does,” Donahue said. “They know it’s a 40-minute game and are ready to deliver a punch and go on a 10-0 run to start it and kind of put us on our heels the rest of the way … There has to be some growth here … the guys have to figure out how important the beginning of the game is and how important the beginning of the second half is.”

After the opening slew of points, a well-timed timeout seemed to have sparked something for the Quaker offense. Mixing up the defenses to throw off Yale stalled the Bulldog attack, and at one point, Penn was able to close the gap to just nine points. Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, a team that is firing on all cylinders like Yale eventually dissected the mix-and-match defensive approach, and Penn simply could not keep up.

Reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week and Big 5 Player of the Week freshman guard Tyler Perkins was held to just two points in the first half. In the second half, Perkins picked it up slightly, but it was a game to be forgotten for the rookie as he would finish the game with just eight points. Still, those eight points were tied for second-most by a Quaker on the night, along with junior guard George Smith.

“At the end of the day, I thought we had some really good shots,” Donahue said. “We just didn’t make them this weekend. Around the rim, open three’s. Just didn’t have the poise on the road. And we’re just going to try to figure this out for the second half of this season.”

The team now gets a slight break before it has to play again. The break is a much-needed one for the team to recuperate and prepare for a matchup against the school’s biggest rival: Princeton. Penn has now dropped five straight conference games, and will be looking to get its season back on track on Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. at Princeton.