Youthful Penn displays 'grit' but can't get over hump at Princeton

Youthful Penn displays 'grit' but can't get over hump at Princeton

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.”

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

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Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. — The U.S. Open is all about tradition. This week is the 117th playing of golf's national championship and this event more than most celebrates those golfers who play the game as amateurs. 

Soon-to-be Drexel graduate Chris Crawford has been soaking up all the traditions this week at Erin Hills. Playing in his second U.S. Open after qualifying through both local and sectional competition for the second straight year, an extremely difficult feat, the 23-year-old fifth-year senior enjoyed the amateur dinner put on by the tournament organizers with the USGA. Crawford and his fellow amateurs, a stout list including Texas' Scottie Scheffler, who shot 3-under Thursday to seize the early low amateur lead, were celebrated the entire evening — one of Crawford's early highlights in a long week here in Wisconsin. 

Crawford produced a 3-over par 75 Thursday during the first round to tie for 102nd out of a field of 156 players.

"I played OK (Thursday)," Crawford said. "I'm going to take more positives than negatives out of the round. I played really well for 14 holes and just had a few bad swings on the other four holes."

Indeed, Thursday morning started nervously for the former Drexel golf standout. On the opening par-5 first hole, he snap-hooked his drive into the weeds out of bounds to the left, resulting in a double bogey. Three holes later, he chipped one shot over the back of the fourth green and took another double-bogey, placing him 4-over through four holes. 

Although bogeys might keep many of us alive in our weekend matches, it doesn't cut it in a U.S. Open. Crawford responded well in the ensuing 14 holes, going 1-under in that stretch.

Crawford's coach Mike Dynda, who teaches him at LuLu Country Club in Glenside, Pennsylvania, said he makes a big point to prepare Crawford's mind for his big rounds.

"I texted him last night and said, 'When you got to sleep, imagine that you're on the 18th hole and you have a putt for 9-under,'" Dynda said. "It's important to go to sleep and dream like that."

On the other side, Dynda — who taught the golf team at Drexel from 2003-2015 — also told his pupil to stay away from expectations. When you're 23 and you're playing in your second consecutive U.S. Open, one might think it would be easy to get ahead of yourself. Not so with Crawford, according to Dynda.

"I've taught him to not have any expectations for the five years we've been together," Dynda said. 

Crawford had a superstar practice round on Monday, playing with Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk and Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker.

"It was a lot of fun playing with those guys and just watching them strategize about learning a brand new U.S. Open course," Crawford said. "I think that's the biggest thing I was impressed with, was the way they talked about strategy on this golf course.

"They were all very nice with me and were very specific to ask about me and they wanted to learn a little bit about my life, so I appreciated that."

For Dynda, talking with Furyk brought back a fond memory. Furyk's father, Mike, actually sold Dynda his first set of golf clubs, Tommy Armor 845s, back in Philadelphia years ago. 

With one round in the books and the forecast calling for rain this weekend, Crawford was looking forward to having the proper mentality as he headed into Friday's second round.

"I want to go out there and just not get ahead of myself," Crawford said. "I'm going to think positively and appreciate that I'm playing in the national open."

Crawford teed off at 2:31 p.m. local time off of the 10th hole.

"This week is so cool because I never do something like this," Crawford said. "Playing in front of such large crowds is a treat and I just love the interaction with the fans before and after the rounds as well."

Last year at Oakmont, dozens of friends and family made the drive down the turnpike to see him play in his first U.S. Open. This year, Crawford estimates that he has around 15 friends and family out in the galleries cheering him on. Though coach Dynda caddied last year, those duties have gone to current Drexel golf coach Ben Feld.

It's a party this week of Drexel golf proportions.

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Philadelphia basketball fans will be getting a double dip of one of the Atlantic 10 conference's best rivalries once again next season.

With the league's 18-game regular season format in place for a fourth straight year, it was revealed Wednesday afternoon that Saint Joseph's and La Salle will battle twice — once in North Philly at Tom Gola Arena and a second time at the Hawks' home just off City Line Avenue. Each team in the 14-member conference will play eight teams once and five teams twice.

The full pairings for the Explorers and Saint Joe's are listed here:

La Salle
Home: Dayton, George Mason, St. Bonaventure, VCU, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis
Away: Davidson, Duquesne, George Washington, Richmond, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis

Saint Joseph’s
Home: Dayton, Duquesne, Saint Louis, VCU, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure
Away: Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island, Richmond, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure

It was also rumored earlier in the day that the Hawks have added a Big Five matchup at Temple for Dec. 9.