Last year, Yale trumped Penn easily at the Palestra, 75-48, with Makai Mason leading the way off the bench with 14 points. The series finished much closer in New Haven, with the game not decided until the final minute. Yale won, 55-50, partially due to a 32-24 rebounding advantage and 9-for-10 free throw shooting from now graduated Javier Duren.
This year, Yale is far and away the better team. Yale’s one true weakness, backcourt depth, is also a huge weakness for Penn after Tony Hicks left the program in October and Antonio Woods was declared academically ineligible earlier this month. Darien Nelson-Henry is a capable center, averaging 12.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, and he can give either Justin Sears or Brandon Sherrod fits. But then who guards the other Eli big?
Penn’s only hope for a victory is Sam Jones heating up from beyond the arc, but Jones is shooting 5-for-31, 16.1 percent, from three in the past five games. Mason and Nick Victor are paying their best ball of the season and Sherrod, reigning Ivy Player of the Week, has been dominating the boards in all venues, averaging 8.4 rebounds per contest in his last eight games. Meanwhile, Victor is shooting 51.9 percent from the floor.
Prediction: The Bulldogs will extend their winning streak to seven games with a not so close win over Penn, but also with the ever present thought of Princeton on their collective minds.