Another huge game for Jordan Dingle as Penn men complete season sweep of Harvard

Sophomore guard Jordan Dingle became the first Penn player in program history to record three 30-point scoring games against Ivy opponents in a season in Penn’s 82-74 victory over Harvard Saturday. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

ESPN thinks Yale’s Azar Swain and Noah Kirkwood have the inside track to the Ivy League Player of the Year award. But don’t expect Vince Curran and the Penn faithful to agree.

Jordan Dingle, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, scored a game-high 33 points to help the Quakers defeat Harvard, 82-74.  This was Dingle’s third Ancient Eight contest putting up 30-plus points and fourth during the entire 2021-22 season, making him the first Penn player to accomplish that feat since Stan Pawlak in 1964-65.

The victorious Red & Blue (11-12, 8-2 Ivy) remain in second place and inch closer to finalizing a spot in Ivy Madness, while the Crimson (11-10, 3-6), losers of three in a row, fall to sixth place and face an uphill climb to earn a berth in the conference showcase being held at Lavietes Pavilion from March 11-13.

Penn and Harvard entered the game as two of the most injury-depleted teams in the league.  The Crimson recently welcomed back Malcolm Forbes and Spencer Freedman, but were still without Chris Ledlum, Idan Tretout and Louis Lesmond.  The Quakers, who have been without starting forwards Max Lorca-Lloyd and Michael Wang for most of the year, added starting small forward Max Martz, whom the announcers said was out for Saturday’s game due to COVID-19 safety protocols.

The first half was a series of runs between the two Ancient Eight rivals.

After Kale Catchings scored 5 quick points to give Harvard a 5-2 lead, Penn used 7-0 and 8-0 runs to open up a 17-7 advantage at the 14-minute mark. Harvard scored the next seven points and Penn responded with the next five to make it 22-14 at the under-12 media timeout.

With the Quakers up 27-19, the Crimson used another run to tie the game at 27 with just under six minutes remaining in the half. Clark Slajchert then scored the next eight points, including two triples from the left side, to lead Penn on a 11-2 run to make it 38-29.

After Kirkwood hit a reverse layup at the three-minute mark, his first basket of the half, Dingle nailed a left side three to get the Penn lead back to 10 with two minutes to go.  A Sam Silverstein layup with 46 seconds remaining finished the scoring for the half and Quakers went into the locker room up 41-33.

Perhaps knowing that Penn was eighth in the league with a 27.3% rate from three, Harvard forced the Quakers to the outside in the opening minutes. Fortunately for the 2,776 fans in attendance, most of whom were making their first visit to the Palestra in 2022, the Red & Blue connected on 50% (8-for-16) of their long-range shots.  Penn, meanwhile, the Crimson to only 25% (3-for-12) from deep.

Dingle led all scorers at the half with 15 points, including 4-for-5 from three, and Slajchert added 12.  Evan Nelson came off the bench to lead Harvard with eight points, going 2-for-2 from outside the arc, and Luka Sakota put up six points on a 3-for-6 effort.

Lucas Monroe, who replaced Martz in the starting lineup, helped hold Kirkwood to only four points in the first 20 minutes.

The runs continued into the second half, with Harvard scoring nine of the first 11 points to cut the deficit to one. Penn would bounce back with its own 8-0 run, including an emphatic Dingle slam off a Michael Moshkovitz steal and another Dingle three, to make it 50-42 at the first media timeout.

After Harvard scored six of the next eight points, Nelson hit a step-back three from the left baseline to again make it a one-point game.  Sam Silverstein went 1-for-2 from the free throw line, following Moshkovitz’s fourth foul, and tied the game at 52 at the midway point of the second half.

Kirkwood spun and hit a fadeaway jumper from the right side of the lane at the 7:36 mark, giving the Crimson their first lead since it was 5-2.  Sakota then stole the ball from Jelani Williams and went in for the coast-to-coast layup to make it 63-60 in favor of the visitors.

Dingle took over from there, hitting a three from the right side as he was hit by Catchings, putting up a short jumper over Silverstein and nailing a catch-and-shoot three from the top of the key.  When he was done with his 8-0 run, the Quakers found themselves up 68-63.

Yet again, the Crimson fought back. 

Nelson hit a step-back three from the right side, Forbes went in on a flying dunk down the middle of the lane and Kirkwood put up a step-back three from the left side to knot the game up for the fifth time of the half at 71.

With the clock under two minutes, Dingle worked the shot clock down and somehow managed to hit a bank shot three from the right elbow over Forbes and Kirkwood to make it 74-71.

Sakota missed a three on the next possession and Monroe grabbed the all-important rebound over the taller Forbes.

After Williams left the game for the second time in five minutes with an apparent injury to a finger on his left hand, Dingle cut into the lane and dished it to an open George Smith, who calmly sank a triple from the right baseline to make it an insurmountable 77-71 advantage.

A Silverstein free throw and Sakota layup finished the scoring for the Crimson, while the Quakers hit five of their last six free throw attempts.

Harvard shot 57% (16-for-28) in the second half, including an improved 46% (6-for-13) from three, to get back into the game.  While the Crimson adapted to Penn’s hot first-half outside shooting by limiting the Quakers to only six three-point attempts, Penn managed to hit five of them.

The Crimson outrebounded the Red & Blue by 21% but could only manage four more two-point and one less free throw attempts on the day.  Making only nine of those 17 attempts (53%), compared to Penn’s 13 of 18 (72%) didn’t help Harvard in such a close contest.

Dingle ended the day with 33 points on 71% shooting, making eight of 10 three-point attempts, and Slajchert finished with 15 on 60% shooting.  Monroe, Williams and Smith combined for 22 points with 14 coming in the last 10 minutes of the game.  Monroe added a team-high seven rebounds, as well.

Nelson was the top scorer for Harvard, followed by Kirkwood with 14 and Sakota with 12. Silverstein came off the bench to add six points, as well as a game-high nine rebounds.

Penn now starts a three-game road trip with a back-to-back weekend at Yale (8-1 Ivy) and Brown (4-6). Friday’s game at Yale, a rematch from the Quakers 76-68 win over the league-leading Bulldogs on Jan. 22, will start at 7 p.m., while the second-round contest against fifth-place Bruno will begin at 6 p.m.

Harvard will look to get back into win column by welcoming the Empire State Ivies next weekend.  First up is a contest against last place Columbia (1-9), followed by an enormous contest against fourth-place Cornell (5-5). Both games will start at 7 p.m.