Penn holds off Harvard, 55-52, to advance to Ivy League Tournament final

To paraphrase Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, “This is the close game Ivy basketball fans deserve, but not the one it needs right now.”

After three games, a thirty minute delay for a broken shot clock, and eight hours of blowout playoff action, the Penn and Harvard women gave the Ivy hoops faithful a game that went down to the wire with the Quakers pulling out the 57-52 victory.  While both offenses struggled throughout the night, the defensive effort was elite. The first quarter ended in a 8-8 tie with the Crimson shooting 16 percent and the Quakers hitting 13 percent of its attempts. The teams improved slightly in the second quarter with Harvard moving up to 33 percent and Penn shooting 29 percent.  With both teams hitting the same number of two and threes in the first half, the Quakers went into the locker room up 23-18 on the strength of its 5 point advantage at the free throw line.

In the third quarter, Penn shot 50 percent, but came up empty from three.  Harvard, meanwhile, only shot 25 percent, but Katie Benzan hit 3 three pointers from NBA range and the team had a four point advantage from the charity stripe to cut the Penn lead to 37-35 with 10 minutes to go.  The Red & Blue put more defensive pressure on Benzan and the offense finally hit shots, including threes from Ashley Russell and Phoebe Sterba, to open up a 7 point lead with 4:37 left in regulation. After the Crimson got the game to 51-48, Penn senior guard Anna Ross hit a huge three with 91 seconds remaining.  Benzan then missed three attempts from long range to end any hope Harvard had of forcing the game into overtime.

For the night, Ross was the only double digit scorer for Penn with 15 points, 9 in the decisive fourth quarter.  Senior forward Michelle Nwokedi also had a big night with 8 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks and junior forward Princess Aghayere came off the bench to give the team 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 19 minutes of action.  Benzan led all scorers with 6 three pointers and 20 points. Senior forward Taylor Rooks added 10 points and 12 rebounds (6 offensive), while sophomore forward Jeannie Boehm had 8 points, 14 boards and 3 blocks.

Penn coach Mike McLaughlin’s fourth quarter move to take Ross off of Benzan and replace her with Russell proved to be a decisive defensive decision.  Russell got in Benzan’s face and forced one of nation’s leading three point shooters (46.2 percent overall and 50.0 percent in league play) into 1-7 shooting in the fourth quarter.  Offensively, his team’s leadership came through with Ross hitting two key three pointers after going 0-4 from beyond the arc and fellow senior Beth Brzozowski going 2-2 from the line to make it a two possession game with eight seconds remaining.

For Harvard, they suffer their tenth road loss of the year and their second straight first round exit as the number three seed in the conference tournament.  In the short term, their 18 overall wins, 10 Ivy victories and #51 RPI ranking should insure a postseason bid later this week. For next year, the team does graduate starters Kirby Porter and Taylor Rooks, but they have Sydney Skinner and Jadyn Bush to move into those spots, as well as a solid nucleus and a promising group of underclass athletes.  While things did not work out for the coach and her players on Saturday night, things look good for the program to extend its top three streak to 16 seasons in 2019. With the rumored move of the Ivy Tournament away from the Palestra, a venue where the team has gone 0-8 since the winter of 2012, the third time may ultimately prove to be the charm for the Crimson.

With the win, the Quakers set up a return match against top seed Princeton,  This will be the second consecutive year the historic rivals meet for the league’s automatic bid and the second time it will be played on Penn’s home court.  As the number one seed last year, there were no issues with that location. As the number two seed, many, including Princeton’s coach, feel the game should be played at Jadwin Gymnasium.  

While Penn understands its fortune at playing this game on its home court and its boisterous fans, the team knows that the Tigers have soundly beaten them twice this year, including a conference opening 70-55 defeat at the Palestra.  Adding that to the dominant performance Princeton had over Yale early Saturday night and the offensive difficulties his team had against Harvard, Coach McLaughlin knows his team has got to improve on offense to have any chance at the upset.  “We’re gonna have to find a way to find a way to play them in the 60s tomorrow. We have to get out of the 40s and 50s with them. So, I think we have to win side out-of-bounds, deflections in the scorers, all the little things that maybe can give us the chance of getting into the 60s with them.”  If they can manage to make it to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year, the Red & Blue will look to avenge last year’s epic first-round collapse against Texas A&M.  However, they first need to get through a talented, deep, and confident Princeton team that is looking to send a message to league officials as they seek to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2016.

Ivy League Tournament semifinals – men’s recap

No. 1 Harvard 74, No. 4 Cornell 55

Harvard (18-12, 13-2 Ivy) looked pretty shaky at first, getting sped up by Cornell’s aggressive defense, committing three turnovers in the first 3:20 and sending Cornell (12-16, 6-9) into the bonus 9:14 into the game. The Crimson trailed 28-21 with less than three minutes to go in the first half, shooting 2-for-11 from long range and struggling with a patient Cornell offense firing on all cylinders.

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Celebrating Penn’s regular season title with a shower of realism

For more than half a decade, I’ve spent my Fridays and Saturdays checking Ivy basketball scores, waiting for Penn to get another Ivy title (on the men’s side at least, I’ve seen the women do it a few times!). However, on one of the more consequential weekends in that pursuit, I was struck with a bout of indifference and a twinge of disappointment.

As you surely know reading this site, Penn clinched a co-regular season championship with Harvard on Saturday, ending an 11-year drought between Ivy crowns. It’s been way too long and there’s certainly some satisfaction as a fan watching them pull it off.

The disappointment is understandable: The Quakers had blown their opportunity to win the outright title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Ivy League Tournament, which would have not only given them a chance to play a No. 4 seed they had swept in the regular season but also an automatic bid into the NIT if they didn’t win the tournament.

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A turnaround to remember for Penn basketball under Steve Donahue

I must admit that there were times over the last 10 years that I began to despair.

Penn basketball has always been an essential part of my sports spectating life, and yet, inexplicably,
there was the “crown jewel” of Penn Athletics in shambles. For those of us who had always witnessed greatness on the hardwood from the Red and Blue, the past decade has been nothing less than a gut-wrenching, surreal descent into irrelevance and thus humiliation.

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Finding yet another way to win, Penn musters knockout blow at Columbia

NEW YORK – For the last eight years, Levien Gymnasium has been a house of horrors for the University of Pennsylvania. Penn men’s basketball had lost seven of the last eight at Columbia, including five straight. There have been blowouts, ejections and a couple of photo finishes that went the home team’s way.

So when the Lions jumped out to a 17-6 lead, it followed an unsurprising trend.

“We definitely started off slow,” Penn sophomore Devon Goodman said. “They hit us first.”

Unlike previous seasons, the Quakers hit back, in large part thanks to a career night from Goodman, who scored a career-high 23 points with five assists and five boards. Add that to an impressive second half and an 18-0 run down the stretch and the Red and Blue staged a comeback to win 74-62 over the Light Blue on Friday night.

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Princeton’s peak performance pummels Penn

The Princeton women (17-4, 7-1 Ivy) made a strong statement on the first night of league play, when they defeated two-time defending champion Penn (15-5, 6-2) at the Palestra, 70-55.  After Tuesday night’s even more convincing 20-point blowout of the Quakers at Jadwin Gymnasium, the Tigers have put the rest of the conference on notice that they are the clear favorites to take the regular season and tournament titles.

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Inside Ivy Hoops – Feb. 15, 2018

Brett Franklin and Jill Glessner return as hosts of Inside Ivy Hoops this week to talk with Brown men’s coach Mike Martin and Penn women’s coach Mike McLaughlin and break down a slate of crazy results so far on both the men’s and women’s sides.

Brett and Jill recap an Ivy Friday night to remember on the men’s side, explain why Matt Morgan is more than a gunslinger, and much more:

Jill and Brett detail why and how Princeton is the deepest team in conference on the women’s side, focus on Cornell’s “shocking” win over Brown, Yale’s first weekend road sweep in five years, the vital presence of Leslie Robinson for the Tigers, looming Ivy League Tournament tiebreakers, two potentially significant injuries on the women’s side and more:

Mike Martin reflects on Brown’s multiple game-winning shots this Ivy season, what went wrong Friday night versus Cornell, Desmond Cambridge’s progress following an injury sustained Saturday night, the dynamic duo of Matt Morgan and Stone Gettings, keys to besting Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion, his Espresso awakening and much more:

Mike McLaughlin talks about the Philadelphia Eagles ‘ Super Bowl parade, Penn’s win over Villanova and the void Eleah Parker helped fill while also reflecting on the program’s rise from his two-win first season in 2009-10, what makes Princeton so tough, his time with the Washington Generals and more:

Inside Ivy Hoops – Feb. 8, 2018

Joined by Yale coach James Jones and Ivy Hoops Online’s Princeton beat writer George Clark, IHO editor Mike Tony fills in for Jill Glessner and Brett Franklin as host of Inside Ivy Hoops this week.

Mike and George look back at the Penn men’s 82-65 rout of the Tigers at Jadwin Gym Tuesday night while considering what to expect from Princeton and Penn on both the men’s and women’s sides down the stretch, touting the strength of Ivy women’s basketball and much more:

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Penn pounds Princeton, 82-65, at Jadwin Gym

Last month, Penn reached for the reset button on its rivalry versus Princeton, beating the Tigers for the first time since 2014 with a 76-70 triumph at the Palestra.

Tuesday night, Penn slammed that reset button down.

Penn stomped Princeton at Jadwin Gym Tuesday night, smacking Princeton, 82-65, for its first win at Jadwin since 2009, first regular season sweep of the Tigers since 2008.

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Ivy women’s Saturday recap – Jan. 13, 2018

Princeton 75 vs Cornell 54

Cornell (4-11; 0-2 Ivy) challenged the Tigers (13-3; 3-0 Ivy) in the first half, finishing the second quarter down 36-34.  Princeton came out of the break on a 17-0 run in the first five minutes, completed the quarter up 22 and coasted in the fourth stanza for a convincing 21-point victory over the Big Red.

Leslie Robinson had 16 points and Bella Alarie scored 13, while Gabrielle Rush continued her hot hand in league play with 75 percent three point shooting and 11 points.  Cornell’s Samantha Widmann, from nearby Lawrenceville, led the Big Red with 17 points and seven rebounds.

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