BOX SCORE

PRINCETON, N.J. – For the first 23 minutes on Saturday night, Princeton didn’t just have Penn on the ropes. The Tigers had the Quakers all but put away.
 
But when the rivals meet, even in a game at Princeton, no lead is sacred, not even a 21-point lead like the Tigers staked out on Saturday.
 
So for the second straight year, Penn came storming back from an 18+ point deficit in the second half at Jadwin Gym, turning a laugher into a thriller in a short span. Princeton, however, didn’t falter in the final minutes and held off the Quakers, 61-52, and moved to 1-0 in the Ivy League (see Instant Replay).
 
Part of what allowed the Tigers to build a large lead in the first place was their experience. They start three senior forwards and while their primary guards are two sophomores and a junior, even that backcourt has seen its fair share of close games over the last few years.
 
And Penn coach Steve Donahue chalked up part of his squad’s slow start to the Quakers being at the opposite end of the spectrum, starting three underclassmen, a transfer and just one senior.
 
“I think we’re really similar in terms of talent level and where we’re at,” Donahue said, “so the difference, in my opinion is that they’re a pretty experienced group and they’ve been winning for a couple years now.”
 
That showed during a first half that was anything but picturesque. Princeton raced out to an early lead in a defensive struggle. Penn couldn’t even muster an assist in the first half and turned the ball over nine times. Princeton wasn’t much better with two assists and seven turnovers.
 
Junior guard Amir Bell helped pace the Tigers to a 34-17 lead at the half with 10 points off the bench. Meanwhile, the Princeton veteran forwards, especially senior Pete Miller, helped limit Penn’s top scoring option, freshman forward A.J. Brodeur.
 
Donahue mentioned that Brodeur had a few easy shots that would have made his final stat line – six points on 1 for 6 shooting. The freshman also struggled from the stripe, going 4 for 10 on the night.
 
Despite a startling comeback, Donahue refused to take the credit with his halftime speech and focused on how much his squad is trying to take the next step.
 
“I don’t know if it was what I say,” he said. “We’re growing this program right now and we need to prove to ourselves that we’re better than what we just did. We need to compete better, we need to play better. We need to go out and show what we’ve been building for.”
 
The game turned in the second half thanks to the effort of Penn junior Darnell Foreman. The guard was able to penetrate Princeton’s defense and create for the Quakers, dishing out their first few assists while pumping in a game-high 17 points. His effort may have earned him a spot in the starting lineup.
 
“He’s got some really good confidence,” Donahue said. “He keeps getting better as a player. I try to utilize him off the bench right now. That may not continue. It’s always good to know that I can go to him.
 
“He still misses a lot of them at the rim, but he does the hard thing. He goes by guys. He needs to learn to slow down and finish.”
 
That speed is what really caught Princeton’s eye.
 
“I was worried about him going into the game, I was worried about him during the game and I think he’s a really good player,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. “He’s fast. … In our league, that makes a big impact and he was difficult to guard tonight.”
 
Beyond Foreman’s impact, Penn finally got going from three in the second half. Sophomore Jackson Donahue and freshman Ryan Betley each hit three triples during Penn’s 26-5 run to tie the game.
 
However, Princeton’s experience won in the end. A couple key shots from the Tigers’ guards handed Penn an 0-1 record in Ivy play despite a strong effort late in the game.
 
Now the Quakers need to refocus with their first Ivy weekend coming up on Friday at home.
 
“I give our guys a lot of credit. They fought back from 21, showed a lot of grit,” Donahue said. “It’s just not there yet and we hopes it’s there by Yale-Brown, but execution has to get better on both sides of the ball.
 
“There was a lot of good. We dominated the game for a long portion but we’re just not good enough to beat those guys on their home court when we fell down by 21.”