Penn 80, La Salle 64
Penn came into this Big 5 matchup with a three-game losing streak, having lost its last three games to La Salle by a combined 53 points. The Quakers’ previous three wins had come against weak competition, including two of the worst nine teams in Division I according to KenPom. After La Salle built a 30-20 lead with 2:42 left in the first half, it seemed inevitable that the Explorers were ready to roll again as a top 150 team over the young Quakers.
Then Penn adjusted, started cracking La Salle’s 2-3 zone and fed a sleeker, faster senior center Darien Nelson-Henry, again and again and again. Nelson-Henry led the Quakers to a 30-9 run and a lead that never vanished again, finishing with 31 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in 35 minutes. Sure, sophomore forward Sam Jones got hot from three later on, but Penn won this game inside out with rebounding and discipline at both ends of the floor, committing just 11 fouls and 11 turnovers. There is something different about this team, a level of poise and cohesion that I haven’t seen in the four years I’ve covered Penn basketball. In other words, coach Steve Donahue’s fingerprints look good enough for Quaker fans to want to shake the rest of his hand already.
Harvard 80, Bryant 45
Our Crimson Crawford wrote earlier today that freshman guard Tommy McCarthy was the key to Harvard’s chances of success this season. McCarthy didn’t disappoint tonight, posting eight assists and just two turnovers while leading all scorers with 16 points. The Crimson shouldn’t have made this one close, and they didn’t, notching their first Division I victory of the season.
Duke 80, Yale 61
Trying to knock off the defending national champion for the second straight season, Yale raced out to a 9-0 lead at Cameron Indoor and clung to a lead as late as the final minute of the first half before Duke claimed a 38-36 first-half lead and held Yale to 25 points in the second stanza. Sophomore guard Makai Mason finished with 13 points and eight assists after a hot start, with senior forward Justin Sears contributing 19 points, six boards and three blocks and senior forward Brandon Sherrod posting eight points and rebounds each before fouling out in the second half. Backcourt depth could be an issue going forward, but otherwise, tonight was just further proof that the Elis are probably a better team than they were last season.
Pitt 93, Cornell 49
Now we get to the blowout portion of the evening. Pitt led wire to wire, holding the Big Red to 19 points in the first half, with its frontcourt outscoring Cornell’s frontcourt 46-7. No Big Red players scored in double figures. Defense and rebounding. Rebounding and defense. Cornell needs some.
Princeton 104, Lafayette 52
KenPom gave Lafayette a 12 percent chance to win this one, but once the game started, Lafayette had zero chance. Princeton kept scoring, converting a staggering 38 field goals and 17 three-pointers en route to doubling the Leopards up in shocking fashion. Princeton attempted 35 threes, with eight Tigers hitting one and five finishing in double figures. This is the same Lafayette team that in overtime nearly two weeks ago beat Saint Peter’s, which in turn gave Princeton all it could handle just four days ago. So this kind of complete domination has to be considered unexpected. It does indicate, though, that the Tigers have as much offensive balance as you could want, and that their defense seems to exude more energy than it has in recent years.