Matt Howard fuels Penn basketball in must-win game on Senior Night

Matt Howard fuels Penn basketball in must-win game on Senior Night

Penn head coach Steve Donahue knows what's like in a player's final home game. He's seen players falter in the twilight of their final seasons and his senior guard, Matt Howard, was feeling those last-game emotions.

"I've been through a lot of Senior Nights," Donahue said. "It's just too much for [most seniors]. This is the end; the emotions get to [you]. You want to do really well and you squeeze too hard."

But Saturday night and a must-win atmosphere were not about to overtake Howard: His feelings were short-lived. 

"It was a little emotional," Howard said. "Then the game started and I felt good."

"He didn't have that in him, so we kept calling his number," Donahue said. "Just remarkable. Really a great performance."

Howard, the lone senior to play for Penn, started the game with aggression, scoring the first 11 points for the Quakers and fueling his team in a crucial 75-72 win against Harvard at the Palestra.

While Howard was the player of the game, sophomore Jackson Donahue made the play of the game, hitting a three-point shot to win the game with 6.3 seconds left (see game story).

The win clinched Penn the last spot in the Ivy League Tournament with a 13-14 (6-8 Ivy) record while the Crimson fell to 18-9 (10-4 Ivy). A loss would have ended Penn's season … and Howard's career.

In fitting fashion, Howard was the main catalyst for the Quakers. He scored five points in the first 90 seconds of the game, igniting the fans in attendance. A layup by Matt MacDonald at the 13:09 mark in the first half made him the first Quaker, other than Howard, to score a point for Penn.

"I just wanted to come out here and be as aggressive as possible, and just try to lead this team," said Howard, who had 13 points at halftime. "That was just my mindset pretty much. Just stay in attack mode, we got nothing to lose. [We] might as well go out and shoot and attack in the paint, doing all the things I can do to help the team win."

Even after his strong start, Howard still had something left in the tank. Down the stretch is where Howard really made the difference. In the second half, down with Penn down 58-51, Howard capped a 10-0 Penn run with a three to get the Quakers and the crowd back into the game in one moment.

With the Quakers trying to hold off the Crimson in the closing minutes, he made a three-point play with 3:06 left in the game to give Penn a 68-63 lead. After a make by Harvard, Howard had a ferocious block to keep their lead at three. Then, Howard scored a layup with 1:41 left.

"Matt [was] having that kind of night," coach Donahue said. "He put us on his back and we rode. It was awesome."

Howard finished the game with game-highs of 24 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

"I felt like my shots were money," Howard said. "I just kept going with it."

The crowd was also a big factor at the Palestra, which will host the Ivy League conference tournament. Despite students being away for spring break, 4,451 fans made for an intimate and roaring atmosphere at the historic gym. Howard, in his final regular-season game, took notice. 

"It was definitely an electric crowd out there tonight," Howard said. "We made a lot of big plays, we just kind of rode the energy of the crowd, and that helped us, it was definitely an advantage out there, having the crowd behind us."

Howard's play was essential for the Quakers, as they bounced back from two heartbreaking defeats against Columbia on the road and Dartmouth at home. In past years, those games might have sunk Penn. But now, the Quakers are the fourth seed in the Ivy League's first-ever tournament.

"It's a great feeling, I'm excited," Howard said. "We're all excited and ready to go. Have a good week of practice and be ready to play."

The Quakers will play the top-seeded Princeton Tigers, to whom they've lost seven straight. Howard is the only active player on the roster who has played in a win against the Tigers, dating back to a two-point win in his freshman year with the Quakers.

"I'm looking forward to [playing against Princeton]," Howard said. "Hopefully, I'll get the same result [as tonight]."

Temple-UConn observations: Despite valiant effort from Marchi, Owls lose 1st homecoming game since 2008

Temple-UConn observations: Despite valiant effort from Marchi, Owls lose 1st homecoming game since 2008


That’s why football is a week-to-week game. Forget about momentum.

Temple found that out the hard way. After coming alive in a big road win over East Carolina last week, the Owls were humbled when a fourth-quarter rally fell short Saturday in a 28-24 homecoming loss to Connecticut at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Owls had one final shot at the victory with a drive in the final minute, but a Logan Marchi heave to the end zone was broken up.

The loss dropped Temple back under .500 at 3-4 (1-3 American Athletic Conference). UConn moved to 2-5 (2-2) with the victory.

• Say what you want about Temple quarterback Marchi (and you surely will after this game), but the guy is a fighter. Whether things are going his way or not, he continues to try to search for his receivers and attempt to squeeze the ball into those windows on the field. He made it two consecutive games with 300-plus yards passing as he was 33 of 54 for 356 yards with one touchdown and one interception Saturday.

• The game marked Temple’s first homecoming loss in nearly a decade. TU hadn’t suffered a homecoming defeat since a 7-3 loss to Western Michigan on Sept. 27, 2008. On that day, former Eagles DB Jaiquawn Jarrett was beaten in coverage on a double move in the third quarter for the game’s lone touchdown. Coming into Saturday, the Owls had won eight straight homecoming matchups by an average margin of 19.3 points.

• There was a rare sighting for Temple at the Linc: a rushing touchdown from a tailback. In fact, there were two. David Hood, who became the first Owls tailback to score on a run this season in last week’s rout of East Carolina, punched it in from one yard out to open the scoring in the first quarter. Ryquell Armstead weaved his way into the end zone for a 10-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter.

• Delvon Randall is simply a playmaker. The Owls’ leading tackler, Randall added another five stops in Saturday’s win. The junior DB also made a beautiful play along the sideline in the first quarter when he undercut an out route for an interception. It marked Randall’s third straight game with a pick. The Owls only have four interceptions this season and Randall has three of them.

• My colleague Greg Paone touched on college football’s targeting rule a couple of weeks ago (see story)We agree on pretty much all of the nuts and bolts of the rule. I’m glad it’s in place to protect players from violent and unnecessary hits. However, the more I see it called each week — and it seems like there is at least one in every game now — the more I’m starting to dislike the implementation. Temple defensive lineman Sharif Finch was ejected for targeting on Saturday when he went high on Huskies quarterback Bryant Shirreffs on a third-quarter touchdown pass. Shirreffs sold the hit by jerking his head back as he fell to the ground, but it was definitely worthy of a penalty. Was it a late hit? Yes. A bone-headed hit? Absolutely. But one worthy of Temple losing a top defensive player for the remainder of the game? I don’t think so.

• Speaking of Shirreffs, it’s easy to see why the Huskies have the best passing offense in the AAC. He didn’t show it with yardage in this tilt (just 105), but he was able to connect on three touchdowns through the air. He also added 39 yards on the ground, including a key run up the middle late in the fourth quarter.

• The Owls simply aren’t a good enough team to overcome 12 penalties for 117 yards.

• Like any other major college football game around the country, Saturday’s matchup at the Linc had scouts from NFL teams listed to attend. Of course, the Eagles were listed for several scouts in their home stadium. While the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers were also among those expected to have representatives at the game, there was only one other team labeled for more than one scout besides the Eagles — the New York Giants. At 0-5, they can certainly use all the help they can get right now.

• Temple will look to rebound when the Owls travel to play their final non-conference opponent in Army at 12 p.m. next Saturday.

Temple eyes streak, Penn looks to dethrone Columbia, Villanova on the road

USA Today Images

Temple eyes streak, Penn looks to dethrone Columbia, Villanova on the road

Temple (3-3, 1-2 American) vs. UConn (1-4, 0-3 American)
Lincoln Financial Field, ESPNews
Noon Saturday

Last time out
Temple beat East Carolina, 34-10, last Saturday.

UConn lost to Memphis, 70-31, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Last week, quarterback Logan Marchi finally got on track with his first 300-yard game of the season against East Carolina. This week, the redshirt sophomore will face UConn, the team he initially committed to in high school under former coach Paul Pasqualoni. Marchi was then denied after a coaching change was made. The Huskies have the worst passing defense in the AAC, giving up 399.8 passing yards per game, and have allowed 19 touchdowns through the air in 2017. If Marchi can play well for a second week in a row, look for Temple’s offense to put up some points. 

Another matchup to look at is UConn’s passing attack against Temple’s defense. The Huskies’ boast the best passing offense in terms of yards in the AAC, averaging 325.8 yards per game, but have only scored nine touchdowns this year. Temple, on the other hand, allows the eighth-most passing yards in the conference (253 yards per game), but is ranked fourth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 26 points per game. Connecticut must convert drives into touchdowns against this Owls defense if it wants to compete.

What it means
Temple’s hopes to reach the AAC championship game might not be realistic anymore but its bowl hopes are still alive. A win against UConn would put the Owls just two victories away from becoming bowl-eligible, which after their start would be good for Owl fans.

Series history
Temple holds the 12-5 series advantage over Connecticut, and is currently on a three-game win streak.

What’s next?
Temple travels to Army.

UConn hosts Tulsa. 

Penn (2-2, 0-1 Ivy) at Columbia (4-0, 1-0 Ivy)
Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium
1:30 p.m. Saturday

Last time out
Penn lost at Central Connecticut State, 42-21, Saturday.

Columbia defeated Marist, 41-17, Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn’s strength is its rushing attack. They rank second in the Ivy League averaging 204 yards per game on the ground. Karekin Brooks has 543 yards rushing and five touchdowns so far this season. Getting the ground game going will be key for the Quakers this week.

Columbia defense has been strong so far this season. The Lions rank second in the Ivy League in total defense only allowing 316 yards per game and are third in the Ivy in pass defense. The Lions allow 194.8 yards per game through the air.

Series history
This is the 96th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 73-21-1 advantage and have won the last 19 editions.

What’s next?
Penn hosts Yale.

Columbia is at Dartmouth.

Villanova (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at James Madison (5-0, 2-0 CAA)
Bridgeforth Stadium
6 p.m. Saturday

Last time out

Villanova defeated Maine, 31-0, Saturday.

James Madison beat Delaware, 20-10, Saturday.

Scouting report
Villanova has allowed just 1.6 yards per carry and 52 rushing yards per game this season. The Wildcats boast a strong scoring defense as well, the best in the Colonial allowing only nine points per game.

James Madison boasts the second-best rushing offense in the CAA averaging 223 yards per game and is second in scoring defense. The Dukes allow just 10 points per game to opposing offenses. Look for this game to be defensive showdown.

Series history
This is the 26th meeting between the teams. James Madison leads the series 14-11 and won 20-7 last season.

What’s next?
Villanova hosts Elon next Saturday.

James Madison travels to William & Mary next Saturday.