PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/24/2018 – A Saturday night at the Palestra matching two teams tied atop the Ivy League standings. The University of Pennsylvania Quakers and the Harvard Crimson each at 10 – 1 in the Ancient Eight. The only loss in conference for Penn came at Harvard.
The two top teams came after each other, and it would last all game long. Penn got a lead late and closed it out earning a 74 – 71 win over Harvard on Senior Night in front of 6,586 at the Palestra. The Red and Blue improves to 11 – 1 in league play.
“That was a heavyweight fight,” said Penn Coach Steve Donahue. “Back and forth, and they could have easily won. We were fortunate to come home winning it.”
A majority of the game was played where the teams were within one possession of another. The lead changed hands 20 times and there were 10 ties. Penn scored 1.21 points per possession, Harvard 1.092. Close! The Quakers took the lead at 59 – 58 with 5:33 on the clock. It was the start of an 8 – 2 run for the Red and Blue capped by a possession created by a steal by Ryan Betley. The shot clock ran down to one second before AJ Brodeur hit a turnaround jumper. On the ensuing possession Brodeur sank another jumper, 2 of his team-high 17 points, to give his team their largest lead of the game at 67 – 60 with just over two minutes to play.
“We had to focus on the next play, getting back on defense, and getting that next stop,” said Penn senior guard Darnell Foreman. “We work hard at making the right play, making the open shot, but it is always the next play, and how we can do better. ”
Still, Harvard would not go away getting 5 straight points from Seth Towns, who scored a game-high 22 points, to pull his team to within two. Penn responded with a dagger three by Caleb Wood to create some space. The Quakers put the game away hitting 4 of 6 free throws, but still had to survive a long three-point attempt by Towns that was off the mark.
“All of a sudden we’re older,” Donahue said about his team growing over the season. “We did make a good run at the end of the year (last year) and I sense our culture that we could compete as an older team. You saw that tonight.”
The Crimson was a victim of turnovers as they committed 14 turnovers, 8 in the second half which gave the Red and Blue a 22 – 8 edge in points off turnovers.
“Their ability to score off our turnovers was probably the biggest key in looking at the numbers,” said Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker.
“We made some silly ones although their defense is solid. We weren’t as sharp with the ball as we needed to be. You have to give them credit for putting us in position to cough it up. They capitalized on it and made a big difference.”
In addition to his scoring Brodeur pulled down 12 rebounds to register his third double-double of the season. Ryan Betley added 16 points. Penn got 14 points and 5 assists from guard Darnell Foreman, and Wood contributed 10 points.
The Red and Blue (21 – 7, 11 – 1 Ivy) take the upper hand in the standings. Harvard (15 – 12 overall) is 10 – 2 in the league. There is still another Ivy Weekend to go before the teams come back to compete in the league tournament.
“We have to focus because that tournament is grueling and we have to give it our best shot,” Foreman said.
“The fourteen game Ivy round robin is what I am focusing on, not where we are seeded,” Donahue said. “To hang a banner that says Ivy League Champs is what we want. That’s first. That’s our goal.”
Notes: Prior to the game Penn celebrated their five seniors; Dan Dwyer, Darnell Foreman, Sam Jones, Matt McDonald, and Caleb Wood.
Written By: Glenn Papazian