As Penn men’s basketball just found out, not all losses are created equally.
Despite losing a crucial game to Columbia on the road, the Quakers are not out of the fight. Not only can the team overcome this defeat to potentially earn a spot in the four-team Ivy League Tournament, but they can also build off of the many positives that were obvious in their play.
Penn, playing in the last of its string of four consecutive games on the road, visited a Columbia team that was officially on the brink of elimination. It’s not surprising that the Lions put everything on the line. Their desperation exuded through their play and resulted in a 70-67 win for the home team.
Adding to the raw emotion of the game from a Columbia standpoint was the fact that it was the Lions’ senior night. Fans packed the gym and boisterously cheered on their beloved classmates in their final home game. The enthusiasm of the Columbia students never dissipated, creating a home court advantage to rival anything the Palestra has seen this year.
Despite this daunting environment, Penn never backed down. In fact, the Quakers rose to the challenge in many ways.
The game opened with a three pointer from Columbia’s seldom-used guard Kendall Jackson, just moments after he had received flowers and a framed jersey as a part of the senior night festivities. Needless to say, that sequence sent the crowd into an absolute uproar. The fans were screaming. The Columbia bench was fist-pumping and jumping up and down. The Lion mascot was dancing and running across the sideline by the student section. The gym was electric with Columbia pride.
The Red and Blue could have easily folded at that point. They could have easily succumbed to the pressure and allowed the fiery Lions to walk all over them on a night that already seemed to be theirs.
But they didn’t. Penn battled.
The Quakers battled in a way they hadn’t been able to earlier in the year— twice against Princeton and against Yale at home. This was one of the few times all season that Penn got punched in the mouth a couple of times and responded with a few haymakers of its own.
The dog fight continued for the rest of the game. Back and forth, the score and momentum shifted like a pendulum, with the only separation coming at the end when Columbia managed to make just a couple more clutch plays than their visitors.
Penn’s ability to battle in a playoff-like atmosphere wasn’t the only positive that could be taken away from that game, though. Coach Steve Donahue’s freshmen proved that they are absolute ballers.
No matter the score, the situation, or the magnitude of the game, AJ Brodeur, Ryan Betley and Devon Goodman come to play.
Brodeur, playing against big men that dwarfed even his 6’8” height, had one of his better games of the season. The rookie scored 16 points while shooting 70 percent from the floor. In addition to his impressive offensive output, Brodeur added eight rebounds in a game-high 36 minutes of action. His heart and hustle were evident all night long and undoubtedly contributed to the overall resilience of Penn’s performance.
But again, Brodeur was not alone. In case fellow rookie Ryan Betley hasn’t convinced you already, he is not just a shooter. Even while going a disappointing 3-11 from the field, Betley was able to make an impact. Matched up against Columbia’s Luke Petrasek, a two-time Ivy League player of the year, Betley more than held his own, posting a stat line that included four rebounds and a couple of assists to go along with 12 points. Although his presence is normally more apparent in his numbers, on Saturday night it was his fight that was most impressive.
Speaking of numbers not telling the whole story, Devon Goodman played like a beast. It doesn’t matter that he only had five points and four assists. The pace at which he plays the game transcends statistics. He glides effortlessly across the court, zooming past opposing players as if they’re standing still. He whips passes all across the floor and effectively drives the lane, finishing acrobatically at the rim when called upon to do so. His and-one, reverse layup was arguably Penn’s biggest play of the night and one of the few times Goodman has shown real emotion all season. He earned his 23 minutes of action last night, and by my assessment, he has earned far more than that.
So, despite the loss, the Quakers have a lot to be proud of from this game. It’s now time for them to channel that pride into improvement and to win the next two games against Dartmouth and Harvard in hopes of securing an Ivy League Tournament bid.
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