This one was tough.
With both teams still seeking bids in the first ever Ivy League tournament, Dartmouth men's basketball proved to be just a little too much, defeating Penn, 76-74, in dramatic fashion.
The win kept the Big Green’s (7-19, 4-9 Ivy) playoff hopes alive, while putting a serious dent in Penn’s (12-14, 5-8) chances. Despite the loss, the Quakers will still enter Saturday’s matchup with Harvard with a significant chance of advancing to the tournament, as the Red and Blue remain tied for fourth place with Columbia.
“We got to win tomorrow night,” coach Steve Donahue said. “That’s what we got to do, and that’s our sole mentality right now.”
With the Lions (11-15, 5-8 Ivy) also losing, the final night of Ivy League regular season basketball will feature three teams all battling for the final playoff spot. Even crazier, neither Penn, Columbia, or Dartmouth will control their own destiny.
For Penn, a victory over Harvard along with a Columbia loss would be good enough to secure the bid, but things get tricky if both Penn and Columbia win. Since both teams would be tied with one victory each over Harvard and Yale, the winner of the final playoff spot would depend on the matchup between Brown and Cornell. If the Big Red also win, and Dartmouth falls to top-ranked Princeton, the Quakers will live to see another day.
“You got a game at the Palestra versus a really good Harvard team. And you got a good chance to go to the postseason if you win,” Donahue said. “If you told me that when we were 0-6, that we could play a home game with a good chance of advancing, I would’ve married you.”
For all the excitement surrounding Saturday night’s slate of Ivy League games, Friday was a game the Red and Blue wanted badly. After a slow start that helped Dartmouth jump out to a 26-15 first half lead, Penn responded with a 13-0 run to retake the lead with 4:11 left in the first half.
It was back and forth for the rest of the half before senior Matt Howard hit a fadeaway buzzer-beater to make the teams tied 35-35 at the half. The tough shot was part of a big night for Howard as he finished with 19 points and seven rebounds.
UNBELIEVABLE. Off Dan Dwyer Hail Mary pass, @mathow24 beats buzzer with turnaround J, and @PennBasketball is tied 35-35 at the half pic.twitter.com/k4uY4u2InL— Daily Penn Sports (@DailyPennSports) March 4, 2017
The second half followed a similar storyline as the Big Green raced again to a double-digit lead. But this time, it was junior Darnell Foreman and freshman Ryan Betley who led the charge back, as the Quakers battled all the way to take a 63-60 lead with just under seven minutes left.
Unfortunately for Penn, that would be the Red and Blue’s final lead of the night.
From there, Dartmouth took control behind forward Evan Boudreaux. With a four-point lead and just 22 seconds left, the game looked all but over.
Credit to Penn, though, as the Quakers did not give up. Betley scored a layup with 12 seconds left to give him 19 points on the night and to cut Dartmouth’s lead to two, and then freshman Devon Goodman forced a turnover on the ensuing Dartmouth inbound.
In the end, Penn came up just short after Dartmouth’s defense forced Darnell Foreman into a difficult jumper.
“At that point he [Foreman] did what he could, but no, coming out of the huddle, that was not the shot I wanted,” Donahue said.
As heartbreaking as the loss was, the Quakers showed their grit throughout the night. Every time it looked like the Big Green would run away, the Red and Blue fought right back. With the stakes even higher in Saturday’s senior-night showdown with Harvard, don’t expect anything different from the Quakers.
“I sense that the group is unbelievably appreciative, after losing a game at home to Dartmouth, that you can come back the next night and have a chance to advance your season,” Donahue said. “And I think you’ll see a group playing absolutely incredibly passionate to try to get this done.”