Quakeaways from Penn men’s basketball’s 74-70 loss to Harvard

The dagger is officially in Penn’s season after the Quakers took a difficult-to-swallow road defeat at Harvard, 74-70.

Penn (10-16, 2-9 Ivy) completed a comeback from 17 points down in the second half after Clark Slajchert drained an open three from the right wing off an offensive rebound to tie the game at 62 with 5:45 to play.

But the Quakers were ultimately undone by a terrible break on a 50/50 ball when it mattered most.

With Penn down two points and the clock ticking below 3:45 to play, junior Nick Spinoso poked the ball free from Harvard’s Louis Lesmond in the post. Freshman Sam Brown dove but couldn’t come up with the loose ball. Instead, Harvard’s Malik Mack was able to recover it and swing the ball to Lesmond for an open corner three out of the scramble. Lesmond drained the shot to put the Crimson (14-10, 5-6) up two possessions.

Truth be told, Penn’s season effectively ended well before Saturday. That’s what happens when you lose eight games in a row during a 14-game conference season.

All that’s left to play for now is pride and future development. There’s plenty to rue about Saturday, starting with how …

Penn’s finishing at the rim was brutal.

The Quakers shot just 40% from the field on Saturday night, but that doesn’t reflect the quality of looks Penn was able to generate through its offense.

The problem is that Penn wasn’t able to finish easy looks after pretty passing. Slajchert — who was brilliant overall on Saturday — couldn’t finish an open layup off a great feed from Brown in the first half that would have cut Penn’s deficit to just two points. George Smith had an excellent step-through early in the second half, had a wide open lane, but missed at the basket.

Worst, and most consequential, was when Slajchert found Spinoso alone on a lob with 33 seconds to play and Penn down just four, but Spinoso missed the tip-in.

It was that kind of night.

The Quakers couldn’t really handle Harvard’s frontcourt.

Harvard shot terribly on Saturday night, finishing just 38.5% from the field.

What really helped lift the Crimson to victory over Penn was a massive disparity at the free throw line. Harvard was able to take 32 free throws, hitting 27. Penn had just nine free throw attempts all night.

That gap was thanks to the performance of Harvard’s Justice Ajogbor and Chisom Okpara. The two combined to score 36 points and hit 13 of 15 free throws.

Ajogbor was a total non-factor the first time these two teams played at the Palestra thanks to foul trouble, but he looked like Dikembe Mutombo in his prime on Saturday night. The senior finished with a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double and added three blocks.

Tyler Perkins remains a must-watch.

The biggest positive for Penn fans from what has wound up as an extremely difficult season is that it has found a long-term Ivy Player of the Year candidate in Perkins.

Perkins finished with 17 points on 14 shots and had a KenPom offensive rating of 130 points per 100 possessions while on the floor.

The freshman has now scored in double figures 19 times this season and has three games left to play. Jordan Dingle scored in double figures 18 times in his 2019-20 freshman campaign, while AJ Brodeur scored in double figures 22 times as a freshman in 2016-17.

There will be plenty more to write about Perkins once the offseason rolls around. For now, sit back, enjoy the show, and don’t be afraid to fantasize about what kind of player the guard can ultimately become.