PHILADELPHIA--The rest of the team showed up this time--and it made all the difference.
Junior forward Ralph James pumped in 41 points to lead the Harvard men's basketball team to a 105-97 win over Penn here at the Palestra Saturday night.
But while James did most of the damage--resetting the Harvard single-game scoring record and topping 1000 points in his career--his teammates also played one of their best games of the season.
The Crimson (10-10 overall, 5-3 Ivy) kept pace with Brown and Yale--all three won Saturday night to remain one game behind league-leader Princeton, a 66-28 victor over Dartmouth. Penn (9-11, 4-4) needs a miracle to earn the automatic NCAA berth.
While James had set his personal best (35 points) in Friday night's 86-73 loss at Princeton, his teammates did not provide the prolific junior with the necessary support. Against Penn, they did.
"This is a tremendous win for us," Harvard Coach Peter Roby said. "It puts us in a position where we can control our own destiny."
Sophomore Ron Mitchell scored a season-high 28 points and added 12 rebounds. Freshman point guard Tarik Campbell dished out 11 assists, while committing only one turnover. Senior Mal Hollen-steiner wore down Quaker star Hassan Duncombe with aggressive defense in the paint. And the list goes on.
"Friday night, Ron Mitchell struggled a bit, but tonight, he got a lot of inside baskets and made some good inside moves," James said. "That definitely helped us."
Mitchell's best performance of the season was drowned in the hype of James' record-setting evening. The sophomore was 7-for-14 from the field and a near-flawless 14-for-15 from the line--just missing his personal best by a deuce.
Run, Run, Run
For the second straight night, the Crimson played an up-tempo game. While Princeton was able to adjust to Harvard's fast-pace style, the slower Quakers could not accommodate the game plan.
"Even though we lost to Princeton, we gained confidence that our style of play will work," Roby said. "Princeton didn't take our heart from us."
While Penn jumped out to an early first-half lead, the Crimson narrowed the gap and tied the game at halftime, 43-43. The Harvard pressure was beginning to take its toll on the Quakers.
"We feel we're good enough athletes that we can run by people in the open floor," Roby said. "We use a combination of pressure on the defensive end and the offensive end to wear our opponents."
The pressure took its toll on the Quakers, as they missed 10 of 30 free-throw attempts, shooting only 4-for-8 in the final seven minutes.
Harvard continued to control the tempo to start the second half and found itself nursing an eight-point advantage with just under 10 minutes to play.
Ken Graf then scored eight of Penn's next 10 points to keep the Quakers close, 81-78, with six-and-a-half minutes to play.
But Mitchell and Co-Captain Fred Schernecker responded with a three-point play and a three-point shot respectively to put Harvard ahead by nine.
Co-Captain Jerry Simon kept the Quakers close, nailing three treys in the last 90 seconds, but Harvard iced the win by scoring its next 16 points from the free-throw line, missing only three times.
"The way we stepped up to the free-throw line and knocked them down--we've come a long way," Roby said.