Penn men’s basketball isn’t slowing down now.
After last week’s monumental victory over Princeton, the Quakers picked up right where they left off in Friday night’s game against Cornell. Behind 18 points, nine rebounds, and six assists from sophomore forward AJ Brodeur, Penn survived a late run from Cornell to win 69-61 in a game that the Red and Blue never trailed.
While the Quakers (11-5, 2-0 Ivy) saw nine different scorers get on the board, the story of the night was Penn’s defense on Cornell junior guard Matt Morgan. Coming into the game, Morgan led the entire Ivy League in scoring at 24.9 points per game, but against Penn, he struggled to get clean looks all night.
Morgan finished with 13 points, but he missed 11 of his first 12 shots from the field and didn’t score his first points of the second half until there were less than 3 minutes left in the game. Until that point, Morgan, who declared for last year’s NBA Draft before withdrawing his name, only had five points for the Big Red (6-8, 0-1).
When Morgan finally did get going to score eight points in the final three minutes, the game was almost out of reach. Still, the Big Red cut the Quakers lead from 12 to four before Penn pulled away to give the game it’s final score.
“I thought our defense was really good the whole game,” coach Steve Donahue said. “That’s a very good offensive team.”
In addition to Brodeur’s game-high six assists, junior forward Max Rothschild also added five assists as Penn recorded assists on 17 of its 26 field goals. The Red and Blue also finished with just nine turnovers, as Brodeur and Rothschild combined for only two.
“To have your two forwards to go 11 assists and two turnovers — 11 assists for some guys in this country that are bigs, that could be a season’s worth. These two were terrific,” Donahue said.
Two of the main beneficiaries of Brodeur’s and Rothschild’s passing were senior guard Darnell Foreman and sophomore guard Ryan Betley. The pair combined for 25 points and accounted for half of Penn’s six three-pointers.
“That’s where passing out of the post becomes one of the most vital skills that me and Max have on offense, because it opens up all these different kinds of scoring opportunities for shooters, cutters, and the other big,” Brodeur said.
Although Penn’s starters provided the bulk of its scoring, Donahue went to the bench much earlier and more often than he did in last Saturday’s game against Princeton.
In all, 11 players saw court time, including nine who played for nine minutes or more. That depth could be especially important as Penn moves into the back-to-back stretch of the Ivy season with Columbia on the schedule for tomorrow.
“We’re going to get these guys ready to come and be ready to go tomorrow,” Donahue said. “That’s kind of what your focus is in this league where you literally play the next day.”
Against the Lions (3-11, 0-1), the Red and Blue will face off against another dynamic scorer in sophomore guard Mike Smith, who scored 20 points in a win over Penn last season. Penn has less than 24 hours to rest and recover for that challenge, but its mental approach approach won’t be any different.
“We’re just treating it like any other Ivy League game,” Brodeur said. “Every game is the biggest game.”
If Brodeur and the Quakers can keep winning, they might just have some more big games coming their way come March.
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