Quakeaways from Penn men’s basketball’s 77-60 loss at Cornell

There was nary a Cornell player within 10 feet of Tyler Perkins when the guard set up in the right corner for an open three-pointer as Penn looked to get into its offense down just 36-35 to the Big Red with 17:13 to play.

Junior Reese McMullen spotted Perkins as he crossed halfcourt and rifled a pass with his left hand … that bounced just past the freshman and out of bounds.

It was all downhill after that for Penn, which fell at Cornell, 77-60, after the Big Red unloaded for 49 points in the second half after trailing by three at halftime.

Cornell (12-3, 2-0 Ivy) hit 10 threes in the second half after a rough shooting start, and its pressure defense did the rest. Penn (9-8, 1-1) committed 17 turnovers over the course of the afternoon.

The Quakers have plenty to ponder ahead of a pivotal Palestra showdown with Harvard on Saturday. They can start with how …

Penn lost this game on the offensive end of the floor.

If you had told a Penn fan before the game that the Quakers would have held Cornell to 77 points, they likely would have felt pretty good about their team’s chances.

Just from an eye test perspective, Penn did a decent job — especially in the first half — defending in the halfcourt. Cornell was content to jack up semi-contested threes for stretches and had to play deep into the shot clock plenty of times.

What killed the Red and Blue were the extra possessions and runouts they gave Cornell through turnovers, forced or otherwise. Cornell scored 17 fastbreak points compared to Penn’s two. The Big Red finished with a 23-6 advantage in points off turnovers and recorded 10 steals.

The Quakers definitely missed Clark Slajchert’s ball-handling skills in this one. The senior guard sat out his third straight game with a left ankle injury.

One reason for optimism is that Slajchert was no longer wearing the walking boot he had on his left foot during Penn’s Ivy League opener last Saturday against Dartmouth. The sooner Penn’s leading scorer gets back, the better.

Reese McMullen turned in a second consecutive strong offensive game.

McMullen has gotten a step up in minutes in Slajchert’s absence and has by and large taken advantage of the opportunity.

He scored a career-high 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field and added four defensive rebounds, plus two assists.

After receiving almost zero meaningful action through the bulk of the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons, McMullen has come out of nowhere to post his first two career double-figure scoring efforts in consecutive games.

Saturday will be a fulcrum point for Penn’s season.

Ivy stats expert Luke Benz had Penn as the clear favorite to snag the fourth seed in Ivy Madness entering Monday’s action. Benz had the Quakers pegged at a 66.1% chance to make the tournament, with Harvard closest behind at 24.8%.

The Crimson will enter Saturday in an 0-2 hole but have gotten star freshman Malik Mack back from illness and senior Justice Ajogbor back from injury.

Setting all other games aside, the Quakers’ chance of qualifying to the Ivy tournament will drop to 40% if they squander the chance to bury Harvard in the standings and tiebreakers on Saturday at home.

1 thought on “Quakeaways from Penn men’s basketball’s 77-60 loss at Cornell”

  1. That Harvard game is gonna be quite an important game. A loss and I have to assume the Quakers are gonna fail to qualify for the Ivy Tournament for the first time.

    Regardless, time to drop the bag with the PENN-I-L money and get Cooper Flagg + all the best players cash can entice.

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