CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- At the beginning of the season, a formal media poll picked the University of Pennsylvania to repeat as Ivy League champions in men's basketball, with Harvard having the best chance at giving the Quakers a run. With that in mind, Saturday night's game at the Crimson's Lavietes Pavilion -- the first of two meetings between the clubs -- was met with heavy anticipation.
Penn answered the bell. The Quakers (14-6, 6-0 Ivy) scored the game's first 11 points, and asserted its dominance with a command defensive performance in the first half that set the tone for the game. By the time it was over, the final score was 81-68 in a game where Penn held a double-digit advantage forall but the first nineminutes of the contest.
Mark Zoller was sensational, scoring a career-high 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting (including a staggering 5-of-7 on three-pointers) and pulling down nine rebounds. He also dished out three assists in 39 minutes of action.
Ibrahim Jaaber continued his standout play from the weekend, as well. The junior guard went for 23 points, hitting 9-of-12 field goals, and came up with six steals (five in the first half). Like Zoller -- and three other teammates -- Jaaber also had three assists.
For Harvard (12-9, 4-4 Ivy), Matt Stehle responded to a quiet first half with a spectacular second half. The senior scored 22 of his game-high 28 points in the final 20 minutes, came up with three assists and five of his seven steals, and also snared seven of his game-leading 15 rebounds. Brian Cusworth also needed a half to get going, as he scored all of his 12 points in the second stanza.
Penn had eight steals in the first half, and as a result immediately established itself. While Harvard struggled to find the basket, the Quakers got a jumper from Zoller on its second possession and never looked back. Nearly seven minutes went by before the Crimson got on the board, but Drew Housman's layup only briefly quelled Penn's opening run.
Harvard looked like it might hang around, but an 8-0 Penn run staggered the Crimson and gave the Quakers a 25-7 lead with six minutes left in the half. The teams went into the locker room with Penn up, 35-18. Zoller scored 17 of his points and had five reboundsin the opening stanza, while Jaaber had nine to go with his five steals.
Osmundson kicked it into gear in the second half, knocking down a pair of treys to get the Quakers started. Penn's lead extended to as much as 24 down the stretch (65-41), and although Harvard was able to get within 11 points with three minutes to play (69-58) the Crimson would get no closer as Penn closed things out.
Penn remains the only undefeated team in the Ivy League, but the stage is set for yet another classic battle with Princeton Tuesday night at The Palestra. The Tigers will come to Philadelphia sporting a 5-1 Ivy League record, while every other team in the league has at least three losses. Tip time for Tuesday night's game is8 p.m., and the game will be televised live on CN8.