CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - As the Ivy League title chase enters the home stretch, the Penn men’s basketball team seems to be hitting its stride.
Playing on the road for the first time in two weeks a span of six games the Quakers scored the first seven points Friday night at Harvard and never looked back, ultimately defeating the Crimson, 83-67, at Lavietes Pavilion.
With the win, Penn (18-8, 9-1 Ivy) remained a game up on Yale (9-2) in the loss column. The Bulldogs defeated Cornell, 68-55, in New Haven Friday night. On Saturday, Penn will be at Dartmouth while Yale hosts Columbia.
Penn got help from all sorts of people Friday night, led by the dynamic duo of seniors Mark Zoller and Ibrahim Jaaber. Zoller filled the box score with 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Jaaber did his part by scoring 19 points, grabbing three boards, dishing off five assists and coming up with two more steals.
However, it was a pair of young guns who really made a mark Friday. Freshman Darren Smith knocked down a three-pointer in the game’s second minute and used that as a springboard to a 17-point night. The guard was 5-of-8 from three-point land in tying his career high for points, and also came up with three assists and three steals.
Another unlikely hero was junior Michael Kach, who came off the bench and was a huge spark. He scored 14 points in 15 minutes of action, going 6-of-9 from the field.
As a team, Penn shot a scintillating 34-of-61 from the field (55.7 percent), including 12-of-23 from beyond the arc (52.2 percent). Harvard, meanwhile, was only 22-of-55 from the field (40 percent) and committed 21 turnovers on the night.
In fact, this game may have truly been out of hand if not for the foul line. While Harvard got the charity stripe 23 times and made 21 of them, Penn took just 11 foul shots and made only three of those.
Penn wasted no time establishing itself Friday night. Smith sandwiched his first trey between layups by Zoller and Jaaber, and the Quakers were off and running. Harvard got back to within 16-13 with 11:28 to play, thanks largely to Harris, but Tommy McMahon got layups on consecutive possessions and then Zoller drained a three to give Penn a 10-point lead. Drew Housman briefly quelled the run, but Penn kept running and before long the Quakers had doubled up the Crimson, 34-17.
At halftime, Penn led 42-27.
In the second half, Penn used a seven-point run with about five minutes gone to push out to its biggest lead of the night at 23 (58-35). Harvard was able to draw back to within 12 on a pair of occasions, the last being 66-54 with eight minutes to play, but Penn went on a 16-6 run that pushed its lead back up to 22 (82-60) and effectively ended the contest.
For Harvard, Evan Harris led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Jeremy Lin sparked the Crimson off the bench with 12 points and four boards. Jim Goffredo and Housman scored 10 points apiece.
Tip time for Penn’s game at Dartmouth Saturday is 7 p.m.