BOSTON — Penn’s men’s basketball team had to fight uphill from start to finish and never reached the summit in its Ivy League tournament semifinal against Yale, ultimately falling, 67-61, at Harvard’s Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday.

Even early

Penn stayed close throughout the first half but only led twice, the last time by 18-16 just past the midpoint. Yale took a 32-29 lead into the locker room at halftime. It didn’t help that Quakers forward Michael Moshkovitz was whistled for his second foul seven minutes in, limiting him to eight minutes on the floor in the half — though coach Steve Donahue played him some after the second foul.

The Bulldogs shot 13-of-26 from the field in the half, including 5-of-8 from three-point range. Penn was just 11-for-33, 3-of-13 from beyond the arc.

A key slip-up

It was 37-35 Yale early in the second half, then the Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run that featured a big three-pointer by Voorhees native Matthue Cotton. The run was further helped by Penn’s Jelani Williams picking up his fourth foul with 15:35 still on the clock.

And a comeback

Penn drew to 55-53 with 8:53 left, and finally tied the score at 55 on a layup by Nick Spinoso at 6:59.

A Yale miss on the ensuing possession led to August Mahoney fouling Lucas Monroe as they contested the rebound. That brought a roar from the boisterous contingent of Penn fans in Harvard’s compact gym. But even after Monroe hit the front end of a one-and-one to put the Quakers up 56-55, there was still a long way to go.

Last chance

Penn had the ball down 64-61 coming out of a timeout with 58 seconds to go. Max Martz got a good look at a three-point attempt, missed it, Yale’s Jalen Gabbidon got the rebound, and after Moshkovitz fouled him, Gabbidon sank two free throws to give the Bulldogs breathing room for good.

In the end

The teams’ shooting percentages were telling again here, even if it’s a relatively simple stat. Yale shot 48.1% from the floor, and Penn shot 39.7%. The Quakers endured a four-minute field goal drought in the latter stages of the second half, and didn’t score at all in the final 1:33.

“I kind of hate when coaches get up here and say, ‘Oh, I’m really proud of our effort,’” Donahue said. “I’m proud of these guys all the time — I would have been thrilled for them if they could have won. We just didn’t put the ball in the basket.”

Jordan Dingle was Penn’s top scorer with 28 points; Spinoso was the team’s only other double-digit scorer with 14. For Yale, superb veteran Azar Swain delivered 25 points.

“Azar was the main focus for us, and he hit a lot of tough shots early that got them going,” Dingle said. “I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due: they played a really great game. I thought we played a great game too, a couple more shots just fell for them.”

Yale will face Princeton in Sunday’s tournament final (noon, ESPN2, and ESPN+), a matchup of the Ivy League’s top two teams this season.

Williams’ farewell

After the buzzer, Williams understandably took his time walking off the court. The senior missed four seasons due to ACL injuries and the pandemic, finally got to play this season, then missed Penn’s last four games due to a finger injury that required the insertion of two screws

As Williams made his way toward the locker room, he buried his head in his jersey.

“I’m very thankful to be here, [to] have the opportunity to compete at the stage that I’ve been trying to get to,” he said. “I told these guys in the locker room, I think this is the best group I’ve ever been around in terms of just people. We have our ups and downs; basketball-wise, it’s been a long season. But I couldn’t be more grateful for a group of guys throughout my four years here.”

Donahue said he hopes Williams finds a place to play as a graduate transfer, and recalled when he first went to D.C. to meet a then-high school sophomore at Sidwell Friends.

“From the moment I talked to him, I’m like, that’s what I want a Penn basketball player to be like,” Donahue said. “Passionate, not just about basketball but about people, life, competing. I wanted to build it around people like him.”

Princeton 77, Cornell 73

Regular-season champion Princeton held off a feisty challenge from a Cornell squad that forced the Tigers into a faster game than they wanted to play.

Princeton held a 17-point lead just past the midway point of the first half, but the Big Red’s pace eventually got to the Tigers and turned the contest into a barn-burner.

Jaelin Llewellyn led the Tigers with 23 points and Tosan Evbuomwan had 21, including a layup with 36 seconds left that proved to be the winning basket. Cornell’s top scorers, with 13 points each, were Medford’s Dean Noll and Sarju Patel.

Noll attended Shawnee High, as Cornell coach Brian Earl did when he was The Inquirer’s 1995 South Jersey Boys’ Basketball Player of the year. Earl went on to be Princeton teammates with current Tigers coach Mitch Henderson. They’ve coached against each other many times by now, but this was their first time facing off in the Ivy tournament.

Princeton women win final

Princeton’s women’s team completed another undefeated conference campaign with a 77-59 win over Columbia in the women’s tournament final. Led by 30 points from guard Kaitlyn Chen and 16 points each from veteran stars Abby Meyers and Julia Cunningham, the Tigers - ranked No. 24 in the latest AP poll - are headed to their ninth NCAA Tournament in the last 13 seasons.