On Friday, Penn men's basketball played its second Ivy League game of the season, defeating rival Cornell, 69-61. The Quakers (11-5, 2-0 Ivy) were paced by AJ Brodeur with 18 points, while guards Ryan Betley and Darnell Foreman joined him in double figures with 13 and 12 points respectively. Overall, it was a strong win for the Red and Blue in the first of back-to-back home games, and here are some takeaways:
The Passing Excellence of the Penn Big Men
He may be listed on the Quakers’ roster as a 6-foot-8 power forward, but that distinction apparently means very little as Max Rothschild played the role of point guard all game long against Cornell.
In the first half alone, the junior dished out four assists and delivered the key pass on several other possessions that ended in buckets. In the span of just three possessions, Rothschild elicited applause from the crowd with two “no-look” assists. The second of those passes, to fellow forward AJ Brodeur, was especially impressive, as he casually tossed the ball over his head, setting up Brodeur with an uncontested layup.
Foul trouble limited Rothschild’s minutes in the second half, but the junior forward played well regardless, finishing with five assists overall.
Matching the outstanding passing acumen of Rothschild was fellow big man Brodeur who contributed six helpers of his own. Throughout the game, Brodeur proved himself adept at finding cutters, timing his passes perfectly and hitting his teammates in stride.
Although Rothschild’s passes may have been flashier, Brodeur’s were equally effective, and the combination of the two passing forwards is something few opponents will be able to match.
“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,” coach Steve Donahue said.
Penn's Unrelenting Defense
Coming into the contest, Cornell guard Matt Morgan led the Ivy League in scoring with 24.9 points per game. In fact, the junior standout has been the conference’s leading scorer for the past three years, so for the Quakers to defeat the Big Red, they knew that they would have to limit Morgan somehow … and limit him, they did.
Behind the active hands and feet of senior guard Darnell Foreman and sophomore guard Devon Goodman, Morgan scored just 13 points on 4 of 16 shooting, with most of his buckets coming in the game’s final minutes. All game long, the Quakers were able to bother Morgan, providing him with very little space to release his devastatingly effective jumper. His 1 for 6 clip from the three point line speaks to this fact.
However, Penn’s defensive performance extended beyond guarding Morgan. The entire team was locked in defensively from start to finish. With 11 steals on the night, the Red and Blue flew all over the court, forcing Cornell into precarious positions all game long. Leading that charge defensively was Ryan Betley. The sophomore guard played the passing lanes perfectly, stealing the ball four times and contributing mightily to Cornell’s 16 turnovers on the night.
Other Tidbits from Penn's Victory
48 percent -The Quakers’ free throw percentage on the game. The 11 for 23 mark from the charity stripe nearly doomed Penn at the end, as several misses in crunch time allowed a scrappy Cornell team to extend the game and bleed into the Quakers’ lead. If the Red and Blue want to advance to the Ivy League Tournament and beyond, their free throw performance must improve.
0:00 - The amount of time the Quakers trailed against an explosive Cornell team. After jumping out to a 13-4 lead in the game’s opening minutes, the Red and Blue never looked back despite fending off numerous Big Red runs.
2-0 - The Quakers’ record through the first two games of conference play. Although it’s undoubtedly early, when compared to Penn’s 0-6 start to Ivy play last season, 2-0 is nothing to sneeze at.