You could call it ugly. You could call it poorly officiated. You could call it “the game that broke the Internet” — literally.
But there’s one moniker that's much harder to question: game of the century.
In a showdown that went to four overtimes — Penn men’s basketball’s first such game in 97 years — the Red and Blue pulled off a win for the history books at Monmouth. After blowing a 15-point second-half lead and fighting off a pair of unbelievable buzzer-beaters from Hawks guard Austin Tilghman in regulation and in the third overtime, Penn finished the fourth and final extra session on a 12-2 run to take home a 101-96 victory that will go down as one of the most memorable in school history.
“I’ve never been in a four overtime game, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a three-overtime game. I’d be lying if I said for the whole time, I thought we were gonna win this game,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “We had to do everything to pull this one out.”
For the majority of the contest, it looked like it’d be a comfortable win for the Red and Blue (5-3). Though Monmouth (2-4) gave Penn some problems early with its speed and length on defense, the Quakers heated up late in the first half with one of their finest offensive stretches of the season.
Aided by nine first-half points from freshman guard Eddie Scott — whose previous career-high in a full game against a NCAA Division I opponent was three — Penn scored 30 points in the final 10 minutes of the half, ending it on a 23-8 run. When sophomore guard Ryan Betley hit a three-pointer to put the Quakers up 15 points with under 15 minutes left, Penn appeared set to become only the fifth team in the last three seasons to top the Hawks in their own home gym.
But, as it turned out, the night was only getting started.
The Quakers’ hot hands from deep suddenly went cold, and as the Red and Blue saw themselves in foul trouble, Monmouth slowly crept back into the game. Penn still led 61-56 with under two minutes left, but an impeccable six-point possession — involving a three-pointer from Hawks freshman guard George Papas, followed by a technical foul call on Jackson Donahue leading to four free throw attempts for the Hawks — tied things up for Monmouth.
Seconds later, after a clutch tip-in of a Max Rothschild miss by Antonio Woods put Penn up by two, Tilghman hit the first of his incredible shots, releasing a 17-foot floater with a tenth of a second left on the clock that banked in to send the game to its first overtime.
“It’s a lot of highs and lows, and when he hits [shots like that], momentum changes a lot,” Woods said. “But we talk about adversity, and with all our talent and experience, we’ve learned to overcome that, and we did it tonight.”
Monmouth led 71-69 near the end of the first session following another Papas three, but Woods hit a pair of clutch free throws to keep Penn alive — no small task, considering that the two teams combined to shoot an ugly 54-for-101 from the line in a foul-riddled game where a combined seven players fouled out.. Sophomore guard Devon Goodman missed a three-pointer at the buzzer of that period, sending the game to overtime number two.
And it was in that session that the Eddie Scott coming out party went into full effect.
Already having set comfortable career-highs in points, rebounds, minutes, and just about every other statistic, the rookie made undoubtedly the two biggest plays of his career to keep his team in the game. With Penn down by two with under three minutes left, Scott drove to the rim and threw down a poster dunk on Tilghman, rousing the Penn bench despite missing the ensuing free throw that could’ve taken the lead.
Minutes later, with Penn down by two again, it looked like the Quakers had finally lost when Betley’s game-tying jumper clanked the side of the rim — but Scott was there with another highlight-reel putback jam, tying the game with 5.3 ticks left and sending it to a third overtime.
For the night, Scott finished with a career-high 21 points and 13 rebounds on perfect 8-for-8 shooting, serving as the hero in what was the wildest game of his career to date.
“The word grit is one of our core values, and we needed that throughout the whole game,” Scott said. “I feel like those two plays were just momentum shifts. But as for the whole game, we just had to play really, really gritty, play together, and just dig in and get the win.”
Though the internet in Monmouth’s gym broke down during the third frame — fittingly, given the nature of the contest — the period became Tilghman’s time to shine again. With Monmouth down 89-86 on its last possession, the senior somehow managed to hit a 30-foot three-pointer with 0.6 seconds on the clock, adding yet another chapter to what was already a historic showdown.
“Yeah, I think we kinda laughed at it after a while. We were just joking, like ‘here we go, wanna play another?’” Steve Donahue said. “We talk about grit and perseverance, and here we were like, ‘you gotta figure it out, let’s be tough there.’”
Though the Quakers were in the final period, when the team went down by five points — its largest deficit since the first ten minutes of the game, a full three hours earlier — but responded to finally put the everlasting contest to bed. Switching to a 1-3-1 zone defense, Penn got some major momentum when a steal and layup from Scott cut its deficit to one.
From there, the Quakers’ other go-to options would finish it out. An impressive and-one from Woods, who finished with a career-best 23 points, plus some free throws from Betley — who led both teams with 26 — finally sealed the deal, as Penn held strong on defense to close out a 101-96 win.
“I don’t even remember everything — I don’t know how you could,” Donahue reflected, summing up the entire arena’s thoughts. “We did so many things that were out of character; we just wondered how we were gonna pull this off on the road — this is wild, just crazy.”
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