In a rare turn of events, both the Yale and Penn men’s basketball teams faced off in the Palestra on Saturday night on the heels of overtime fixtures the night before.
Whereas the Quakers (15–6, 5–0 Ivy) edged Brown in extra time to remain undefeated in conference play, the Bulldogs (9–13, 2–4 Ivy) arrived in Philadelphia after a close loss to Princeton on Friday night. Looking to return to the win column, the Elis were spurred by the strong interior play of forward Paul Atkinson ’21 who recorded 20 points and 13 rebounds in the best performance of his young career. However, the Quakers ultimately controlled the paint in a slow offensive night for both sides to claim a 59–50 victory.
“We weren’t patient offensively,” head coach James Jones said. “We didn’t run our motion well. They were switching up their ball-screen coverage, and we got impatient when they did and took some ill-advised shots that didn’t go in.”
Guard Miye Oni ’20 seemed intent on erasing the memories of Friday’s loss and came out of the gates looking to score on every possession. While he succeeded in finding the basket on Yale’s first two possessions, Penn’s league-leading defense quickly doubled down on Oni and the rest of Jones’ team. The Elis scored just 25 points in the first half and shot a poor 36 percent from the field while going 0–7 from beyond the arc.
After a quick start, the Bulldogs seemed to settle for long jump shot after long jump shot, allowing Penn to take defensive control of the game. The Quaker’s perimeter ball-screen defense caused all kinds of issues for Eli players, who repeatedly found themselves in isolation situations with the shot-clock winding down.
Forward Blake Reynolds ’19 was called for two early fouls, which tipped the advantage in the paint in favor of Penn. Despite Atkinson’s career performance, Yale was outrebounded and outscored by the Quakers in the paint. In the end, it was Penn’s slight edges in both the perimeter and interior game that proved to be the difference.
The Elis came as close as three points away from overtaking the Quakers in the second half when guard Trey Phills ’19 gathered a loose offensive rebound and scored a putback. But Penn responded quickly, and reserve guard Jake Silpe hit back-to-back three pointers to put the Bulldogs at bay. Much of the second half progressed in this fashion as Yale surged at the Quakers but could not bend the will of a resilient team.
“Good teams do that,” Jones said. “You’re going to make a run, and good teams are going to come back at you. That’s what they did, and you have to expect that. We have to be better defensively, and you don’t really expect a guy [like Silpe] to come off the bench and take shots that are big and knock them down. We had some opportunities to do the same, and we didn’t.”
With the loss, Yale endured its first winless conference weekend since its last Princeton-Penn weekend one year ago.