By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team will play its final two home games of the season this weekend as they welcome Cornell to the Palestra on Friday night and host Columbia on Saturday night.
The Quakers are 10-13 (4-5 in the Ivy) after splitting two games last weekend at the Palestra. They beat Brown on Friday night, 79-74, before losing to Ivy leader Yale on Saturday, 79-58.
“I thought we played 70 minutes in the weekend of good basketball,” Penn head coach Steve Donahue tells KYW Newsradio. “You need 80 to get two wins, in particular against a team like Yale. But I thought we really competed. We just got stuck (in the second half against Yale) at the end of that ten-minute mark, down 41-39, just couldn’t muster up enough energy. But give Yale credit.”
Listen to the entire interview with Penn’s Steve Donahue:
Last weekend featured two more very good performances for Penn senior big man Darien Nelson-Henry. He led the Quakers with 19 points and 9 rebounds in the win over Brown. Then against Yale, he had 15 points (6-11 FG), four rebounds and two assists. The Kirkland, Washington native leads the Quakers in scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg) this season. He’s also done an outstanding job of passing out of the post as he is tied for second on the team in assists with 43.
“He’s just been such a difficult guard for the other team,” Donahue says. “They’ve got to decide, ‘Do we go after him? Do we let him go one-on-one?’ For the most part he’s made right decision after right decision. He’s moving well, he’s healthy. He’s really defending and rebounding. He’s had just a great ending of his senior year.”
This final home weekend starts with a match-up with a struggling Cornell team. The Big Red have lost six in a row to fall to 9-15. They are 2-8 in the Ivy League and allowing more than 78 points a game. Penn won the first meeting between the two teams up in Ithaca on February 13th, 92-84. The Quakers scored 56 second-half points by shooting a blistering 63% from the field over the game’s final 20 minutes.
“I thought we got a little lazy in the first half up there,” Donahue says. “Careless with the ball, shot selection. Two things, you’ve got to take care of the basketball and you can’t settle for long shots. Because I think if you work it, you’ll get a good one almost every time.”
On Saturday, the Quakers will take on a Columbia team that comes into the weekend with a record of 19-8. The Lions are 8-2 in the Ivy League, which is good for third place. They will open their weekend up by paying second-place Princeton a visit on Friday night. Penn lost its first match-up with Columbia in New York City, back on February 12th, 63-53.
Both games this weekend for Penn tip-off at 7:00pm.
You can follow Matt on twitter @mattleonkyw.