The Yale men’s basketball team’s experience showed on Saturday night against the Penn Quakers, as the Bulldogs used a late run to sweep their final home weekend of the season and set the table for a major Ivy title showdown next Friday against Harvard.
Yale (21–8, 10–2 Ivy) celebrated Senior Night with a come-from-behind 55–50 victory against last-place Penn (7–18, 2–9), although for much of the night it seemed as if the Quakers would engineer an upset.
The Bulldogs were unable to find their offensive rhythm early on while Penn hit the ground running, scoring a quick four points to start the game. The Quakers opened up an early nine-point lead at the 13:11 mark, the largest lead of the game. The Elis drew even with the Quakers twice in the first half, but a three pointer from Tony Hicks gave Penn a 28–25 lead going into halftime.
Hicks and guard Antonio Woods had an efficient first half for the Quakers, scoring 19 points on a combined 9–13 shooting. The Bulldogs struggled in the first half, turning the ball over eight times, which allowed Penn to score 10 points off turnovers.
Following intermission, Penn extended its lead to seven points, but the Bulldogs would cut the deficit to one with 14:41 still remaining in the game. Over the next nine minutes, however, both teams would struggle to score, and Penn continued to cling to its slim margin.
Yale tied the game again with 5:20 still on the clock but failed to break through, as the Quakers responded. A three from guard Jack Montague ’16 helped pull the Bulldogs to within one, and a Quaker foul sent guard Javier Duren ‘15 to the line with an opportunity to push the Elis ahead with 2:19 remaining.
“When Jack [went] back into the game, I called the play and he misheard it,” head coach James Jones said. “He ran something different and bang, one three. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. It got us going, and it felt like the lid came off the basket when that happened.”
Duren nailed both free throws, and the Bulldogs never looked back. Yale’s 11–0 run, capped by an and-one from forward Justin Sears ’16, put the Elis up seven with 33 seconds to play. Hicks made a three with 22 seconds left, but the Quakers were unable to get any closer. A Duren free throw sealed the deal for the Bulldogs, who finished with a perfect weekend.
Combined with a Harvard loss to Cornell on Friday night, the Bulldogs now sit with the Crimson atop the Ivy League standings. The Elis have a matchup against Harvard in Cambridge on tap for Friday night, which will likely decide the Ivy League champion.
“[Harvard] is a huge game,” Duren said. “Coach was telling us in the locker [room], it was always going to come down to us two, and for the most part of the season we’ve been trying to focus on the next game and not necessarily on Harvard. But now next game is Harvard. We’re going to digest this weekend, feel good about it and get back to work on Monday.”
Yale has one final weekend of conference play, and the Bulldogs will travel to Harvard and Dartmouth in search of their first Ivy title since 2002.