PHILADELPHIA, PA. 3/2/2013 – It was quite a turnaround for the University of Pennsylvania Men’s basketball team. On Friday night Penn lost to Dartmouth, the last place team in the league. In this game they would face league leader Harvard (17 – 9, 9 – 3) who would be coming off a loss at Princeton. Expectations were not high for Penn. Expectations do not play the game. The Red and Blue came out aggressive from the start and led from start to finish beating Harvard 75 – 72 at the Palestra. The win for Penn (8 – 20, 5 – 6) combined with a Princeton win over Dartmouth knocks Harvard from first place in the Ivy League. Significant, but Penn Coach Jerome Allen is still trying to find an identity for his team.
“That’s the frustrating part in that I don’t know who we are,” said Allen. “Tonight, we played with a certain sense of desparation, a certain sense of urgency that was not there (against Dartmouth). We’re a relatively young team. Some days we are going to look really good, others bad. The intensity and attention to detail especially on the defensive end is something we should sustain. I take my hat off to them (his Penn team) because they responded. But good teams are consistent in their effort and focus, and that is what we are trying to do.”
A good place for the Penn team to build an identity is around the guard play. Freshman guard Tony Hicks scored a game-high 24 points for the Red and Blue making 9 of 17 from the floor, and 4 of 6 from the foul line. Senior Miles Cartwright scored 12. The guards controlled the flow on the floor, and found inside openings for the big men. Freshman forward Darien Nelson-Henry recorded his second double-double of the season scoring a career-high 18 points on 8 of 13 shooting and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Sophomore forward Henry Brooks scored 12 points. For Penn it is a case of inside-out basketball.
The Red and Blue took a 38 -26 halftime lead, and held that through the early second half. The Penn advantage would grow to 13 points at 52 – 39 with 10:13 to play on two Nelson-Henry free throws. The Crimson would not go quietly chipping away at the lead until it shrunk to 62 – 59 on a three-pointer from guard Laurent Rivard at the 5:03 mark. Penn did not fold and scored 7 of the next 20 points to hold a 69 – 62 lead at the 1:44 mark.
Harvard had one more run left in them. The Crimson answered the Penn spurt with a 28-foot jumper from Rivard. Penn made 2 of 4 free throws, then guard Siyani Chambers banked home a three to cut the Penn lead to 72 – 69 at the 13 second mark. Cartwright went to the line for the Red and Blue and made both to give some breathing room. Guard Christian Webster made a shot from beyond the arc to bring the Crimson to within 74 – 72. Hicks closed the scoring with a free throw. Webster launched a three at the buzzer that was short of the mark. The game getting that close was no surprise to Allen, but he was pleased that Penn was able to fend off Harvard.
“It is something we struggled with during the year,” Allen said. “Coming down the stretch sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way. I never counted Harvard out. I didn’t expect for them to bank three’s, or off turnovers make twenty-eight foot three’s like Rivard did. That being said I give our guys a lot of credit. They really played to win the game.”
“I attribute it to their start and us being in a large hole,” said Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker on the reason for the loss.
Penn gets their first big upset of the season. Nelson-Henry sees this win a building block.
“I think we can build on this win,” said Nelson-Henry. “We have three more games left and hope that translates into three more wins. This is starting momentum for the end of the season and will lead into next season.”
And it was another upset in Palestra lore.
Written By: Glenn Papazian