Penn men pull off a C-suite sweep to remain in second place

Sophomore guard Jordan Dingle averaged 21 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in the team’s wins at Columbia and Cornell this weekend. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

Facing a typical foul-heavy Ivy Saturday night game and a boisterous crowd in Newman Arena, the Penn men survived a furious rally to defeat Cornell, 73-68. Adding the hard-fought victory to Friday’s more comfortable 81-66 win at Columbia, the Quakers have now won four games in a row and remain in sole possession of second place.

Things started out great for Penn, jumping out to a quick 19-4 lead on Columbia in the first five minutes. In a bit of a role reversal from the previous Friday’s game at Harvard, the Lions stopped the bleeding but still found themselves down 23-11 with just over 10 minutes to go in the half.

The Quakers went cold over the next seven-plus minutes, hitting only two of their next nine shots, while the Lions made six of their next 11. After Cameron Shockey-Okeke hit a double-clutch layup and right side three, the Penn lead was cut to 28-27.

But the Red & Blue locked the Lions down the rest of the way and finished the half on a 7-0 run.  An Andrew Laczkowski three from the right baseline put Penn up 35-27 as the teams went to the locker rooms.

Penn didn’t let up at the start of the second half, stretching its lead to 14 in the first two minutes of the half.  The Lions twice cut the deficit to 11 over the three minutes, but that would be as close as they would get the rest of the night.

The Quakers won the game with inside dominance.  Despite a small advantage on the glass (+5, +1%), they made 29 two-pointers on 62% shooting, limited the Lions to 13 made buckets on 32% shooting and had 36 more points in the paint.

Jordan Dingle was the night’s top scorer with 23 and Max Martz added 16 points, while Michael Moshkovitz put up six points, 14 rebounds (four offensive), two assists and two steals. Laczkowski, the latest in a long line of Steve Donahue reserves stepping into important roles in Ivy competition, ended with 12 points, four offensive rebounds and a block.

Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa finished with a team-high 21 points and Shockley-Okeke had 20 points in the losing effort.  Ike Newke and Patrick Harding, who combined for 26 points and 36 rebounds in the Lions 73-69 win at the Palestra four weeks earlier, were held to just five points and 13 boards on Friday.

Facing a Big Red team that beat Princeton a night earlier, Penn had a tougher battle on its hands.

The teams went back and forth in the first half with five ties and five lead changes.  The Quakers were up two at the one-minute mark, when Laczkowski hit a layup and Dingle sank a deep three from the top of the arc right before the buzzer to put the visitors up 29-22 at the half.

Penn locked Cornell down early in the second half and opened up a 21-point lead with less than nine minutes to go in regulation.  This would not be a second straight lopsided win.

Over the next five minutes, the Red began to wear the Quakers down with their fast pace and deep roster.  As Penn continued picking up fouls, Cornell made four of their next six buckets, outrebounded their opponents eight to three, and hit 10 of 13 free throw attempts.  With four minutes to go, Penn was now leading by 13, 61-48.

The under-four media timeout did not help the Quakers.

As Cornell continued to keep Penn from hitting buckets, it chipped away at the lead and were down nine with 75 seconds left on the clock.

Chris Manon missed a three from the top of the key, but Dean Noll was there to grab the offensive rebound.  Noll quickly went into the lane, spun around Moshkovitz, who picked up his fifth foul, and hit the off-balanced jumper.  After making the and-one free throw, the Red made it a two possession game, 65-59, with a minute to go.

Following Dingle’s one for two effort from the line, Noll rushed up the court and nailed a three from the left elbow to make it a 66-62 game.

With both teams well over the limit and heading to the line, Penn managed to increase its lead by one with 25 seconds left.  After Martz missed both of his attempts at the charity stripe, Manon faked a three from the right elbow and hit a mid-range bank shot to make it 69-66 at the 14-second mark, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Jelani Williams got the inbounds to Dingle, who was immediately double-teamed.  Just as he was about to turn the ball over, he found Williams and the Quakers called a timeout with seven seconds on the clock.  Williams called another timeout when he couldn’t find an open player on the next inbounds.

On his second try, Williams was able to get a bounce pass to Martz, who was quickly fouled.  This time, he went 2-for-2 from the line and sealed the game for the Quakers.

The Red & Blue struggled from the field, shooting 43% from two and 25% from three, but managed to make 75% (21-for-28) of their free throws.  While the Red shot a similar percentage from the line (22-for-29) and a slightly higher rate from two (52%, 14-for-27), being limited to only 21% from three and being outrebounded by 9% turned out to be the difference in a close contest.

Dingle and Martz led the way, again, with 19 and 16 points, respectively.  Laczkowski was the team’s only other double-digit scorer with 10.  Moshkovitz, despite being limited to 23 minutes due to foul trouble, added 10 rebounds, four assists and four points.

Despite the tough loss, Noll earned the game’s KenPom MVP award with his 19-point, four-rebound, four-steal, three-assist and three-block performance.  Manon, meanwhile, finished with a game-high 20 points, as well as four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.

Through six weeks of league play, the Quakers have shown they can compete with anyone defensively.  They are second in defensive efficiency (96.9, as well as top two in allowed two-pointers (47%), effective field-goal percentage (47%) and three-pointers (30.1%).  On the other side of the ball, they are third in offensive efficiency (140) and two-point shooting (54.9%).  They may only be fourth in free throw shooting, but their 74.8% is the team’s highest since 2013.

The only blemish is the team’s three-point shooting, which is last in the league at 27.3%.

Sitting just behind league leading Yale (6-1) and ahead of third-place Princeton (6-2), Penn now has a 97.6% chance of making it into the Ivy Tournament, according to the analytical research of Yale alum and friend of Ivy Hoops Online Luke Benz.  With home games against Harvard (February 12) and Princeton (March 5) bookending road matchups Yale (February 18), Brown (February 19) and Dartmouth (February 26), the Red & Blue will look to continue their winning ways to secure their fifth straight trip to Ivy Madness and the best possible seeding to get back to the NCAA Tournament since 2018.