By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Penn Quakers will spend the weekend in New York as they play two key Ivy League games against Columbia and Cornell.

Penn is coming off a very successful weekend when they beat Dartmouth (71-64) and Harvard (67-57) at the Palestra. The wins improved the Quakers to 8-11 overall and 2-3 in the Ancient 8.

“I thought our guard play of Jackson Donahue and Jake Silpe, playing all those minutes as freshman, back-to-back, it was great to see,” Penn head coach Steve Donahue tells KYW Newsradio. “More than that, I just thought we were very competitive. We competed, we worked hard, we really hit the boards. Nothing pretty about it in the sense of our tactical side of it, but they really competed.”

Listen to the entire interview with Penn head coach Steve Donahue:

 

The Quakers also got a couple of big performances from senior center Darien Nelson-Henry. On Friday in the victory over Dartmouth, Nelson-Henry scored a team high 19 points (17 coming in the second half). Then on Saturday against Harvard, Nelson-Henry put together a double-double, finishing with team highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds. For the weekend, he shot 68% from the field.

“At this point in his career, teams have to make a decision, are they going to double down on him,” Donahue says. “If they don’t, he’s a very hard cover that close to the rim. And he’s made about almost every right decision and with that he’s playing solid defense, he rebounds. He’s definitely our anchor for sure.”

For the season, Nelson-Henry leads Penn in scoring (12.3) and rebounding (8.1).

The weekend in New York starts with a match-up against Columbia on Friday night. The Lions are having an outstanding season. They will bring a 16-7 overall record into this game and their 5-1 Ivy mark is good for sole possession of second place in the league.

“They’ve got seven or eight guys with good size, 6-8, 6-9, that all shoot it from three,” Donahue says. “So they’ll play a 6-4 guy at the low post and have some 6-10’s floating around. They are just different. They’re very skilled. They’re an older team and we’ve got to do a great job of guarding the three-point line. At the same point, they have a great way of finding each other. It’s going to be a hard guard for us, no matter what.”

Then on Saturday night, the Quakers will take on Cornell. This game will be a homecoming for Coach Donahue. He spent ten years as the head coach of the Big Red from 2001-2010. He says it will be a bit strange heading back to Ithaca as a visiting coach.

“No question,” Donahue says. “Obviously, haven’t been back in a while. Great memories, great people. Just an incredible experience that I’m so grateful I had. Going back and seeing people that I really care about. That being said, I really care about this group and when you get out in competition, you’re going to go out and compete and we’re going to play a really good Cornell team. We’re going to have to play well to win.”

Cornell is 9-11 this season (2-4 Ivy) and they will host Princeton on Friday prior to Penn’s arrival.

The Penn game in Columbia on Friday will tip at 7:00pm. Saturday’s game in Ithaca will start at 6:00pm.