The Quakers are a second half team.
Penn men’s basketball saved its best for the last 20 minutes in each of its two road games this weekend. The day after they outscored Columbia 43-28 in the second half, ultimately winning 74-62, the Quakers put together a similar performance in the second half against Cornell. What was a tied game at halftime ended up being a 79-71 victory that clinched a spot in the Ivy League Tournament for the Quakers.
After trailing by three at the half versus Columbia (7-16, 4-6), the Red and Blue (19-7, 9-1 Ivy) started to catch fire late in the game, ripping off an 18-0 run to put the game out of reach. The next night at Cornell (10-13, 4-6), Penn got out to a double-digit lead with 10:27 remaining in the second half, steadily holding on to defeat the Big Red.
Sophomore forward AJ Brodeur was an impact player in both games, filling up the stat sheet on Friday and Saturday. The big man from Northborough, Mass. totaled 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists against Columbia. On the defensive end, he added three blocks and two steals. Brodeur, who went a combined 15 for 20 from the field in the two games, was even more dominant offensively at Cornell, finishing with 21 points in a very efficient showing.
Meanwhile, sophomore guard Ryan Betley found his stride on Saturday after an unusually quiet performance versus Columbia in which he scored just two points. Betley’s bounce-back game included six three-pointers and a total of 23 points.
“Last night, I thought [Betley] played okay, but [Columbia] didn’t let him get anything,” coach Steve Donahue said. “But tonight, [Cornell] kind of zoned him, he got loose and he really took advantage of it.”
The Quakers, similar to when Cornell came into the Palestra earlier in the year, did a good job of limiting the scoring output of star guard Matt Morgan. The junior, who leads the Ivy League with 22.7 points per game, was held to just 12 points on 2 for 12 shooting.
The Big Red saw contributions from multiple sources, including a solid shooting night from guards Jack Gordon (12 points), Terrance McBride (14), and forward Stone Gettings (11).
While the Red and Blue jumped out to a lead in the second half on Saturday, they let it get a little closer down the stretch, with Cornell cutting the lead to five with 2:47 left in the contest. However, the Big Red couldn’t come up with enough stops down the stretch as they saw Penn pull away in the last couple of minutes.
Perhaps the most impressive part about this weekend for the Quakers was the array of solid performances from different players. Sophomore guard Devon Goodman, who had very little Ivy playing time this season prior to this weekend, was a spark plug coming off of the bench, while guards Jake Silpe and Matt MacDonald saw extended minutes in the two games in New York.
“I love this team, I love coaching them,” Donahue said. “Going into the game, we’re not sure how we’re gonna win, although it’s usually by defending, and we take care of the ball and we rebound. After that, it’s up to somebody stepping up, and that’s usually what happens.”
With this pair of wins, the Quakers set themselves up for an opportunity to regain sole possession of first in the Ancient Eight, as they will take on Dartmouth and Harvard next weekend at the Palestra.