NEW YORK — All season, Penn men’s basketball has relied heavily on its starters — until tonight.
Behind a career-high 23 points from backup sophomore guard Devon Goodman and 16 points from fellow backup senior guard Caleb Wood, the bench powered the Quakers to a 74-62 comeback victory over Columbia (6-16, 3-6). The Red and Blue (18-7, 8-1 Ivy) trailed for the majority of the game before exploding for an 18-0 run in the final minutes to pull away with the victory.
“That’s the strength of our team. These kids don’t care how it gets done, they’re all pumped for each other,” coach Steve Donahue said.
Down four points with just over seven minutes left, Goodman started Penn’s big run on a three-pointer before scooping in an off-balance layup on Penn’s very next trip down the floor. From there, several different teammates chipped in before sophomore forward AJ Brodeur punctuated the run the run with a block and dunk with 3:24 left.
Much of the Quakers’ outburst came with just Brodeur and four guards on the floor. Leaning on a combination of Goodman, Wood, junior guard Antonio Woods, junior guard Jake Silpe, and senior guard Caleb Wood, Penn broke the game open with its transition scoring and gritty defense.
“They’re tough. They’re not your typical guards. Antonio can guard bigger, Jake can guard bigger, Darnell at this point in his career. They all guard, they’re smart,” Donahue said.
“The beauty is, I have a lot of resources to draw from and they’re all ready. And that’s a credit to these guys.”
While Goodman played a major role in Penn’s Ivy League Tournament run last season, the 6’0” guard has seen his role drastically reduce this season. Before tonight, he had only scored seven points in Ivy play, and for the days of practice leading up to this game, he was contributing as a scout-team member.
But with the Quakers down double digits early to start the game, Donahue decided to give Goodman a run. And it didn’t take long for Goodman to provide some payoff.
After hitting a three with 12:50 left in the first half to end a scoring drought for the Quakers, Goodman went on to score 18 points in the first half, leaving his previous career-high of 14 points in the dust.
“I’m proud of Dev,” Donahue said. “Like a lot of these guys, he’s been up and down over the last year and a half, and he stepped in and he was dynamite tonight.”
“They kind of didn’t guard me as much at the three, and I can hit the three-ball so that’s what I did,” said Goodman, who went five for eight from beyond the arc. “I approach every game the same way. I stay ready, because you never know when your number’s going to be called.”
Perhaps what was most impressive about Penn’s win is that it managed to do it all with only two points from the team’s leading scorer Ryan Betley. The sophomore guard got his only bucket of the night on a layup in the final minute.
But then again, this team has seen different role players step up all year. Tonight, Goodman stole the show, but Silpe has also risen to the occasion recently.
After starting most games his freshman year, Silpe was relegated to the end of the bench last season. In the last few games, though, Silpe has proven that he adds poise and facilitating to the team, and tonight was no different. Even though he didn’t score, he found other ways to contribute with four assists, three rebounds, and no turnovers.
“He was great,” Donahue said. "No one stays in a program when you start as a freshman and essentially don’t play again through your junior season. Once again, Penn’s a special place and it’s a credit to Jake. I’ve been at other programs where they don’t stay with it.”
The Red and Blue will be in action again tomorrow night against Cornell, but if this team has showed anything this season, it’s that any given player can step up on any given night.
And that’s a scary proposition for Penn’s Ivy opponents.