PRINCETON, N.J. — The rematch everyone had their eyes on lived up to the excitement for Quakers' fans, as Penn men's basketball eased its way to an 82-65 win over rival Princeton.
For the first time since the 2007-2008 season, the Quakers swept the Tigers, finishing the job Tuesday night in New Jersey after their 76-70 win over Princeton at the Palestra on Jan. 6.
With the win, Penn (16-6, 6-0 Ivy) has opened Ivy League play with six straight wins, already matching last year’s total number of conference victories and providing a stark contrast to last year's bleak 0-6 conference start.
Coach Steve Donahue is pleased with the team’s progress thus far, but is wary of celebrating success too early.
“It’s all about the culture, and the guys have done well,” he said. “That being said, I remind them that this is just the start and you know how quickly things can change.”
The win, coming in Penn’s first road game since Dec. 9, was a total team effort, as five Quakers finished in double figures scoring. Senior guard Darnell Foreman led the Quakers with 21 points, five rebounds, and five steals, proving to be a force on both sides of the ball for Penn.
Foreman and sophomore guard Ryan Betley, in particular, found success from behind the arc, combining for six three-pointers, to the delight of the small but vocal Penn faithful.
The Red and Blue as a team were on fire from the floor, making over half the field goals they attempted. Junior Max Rothschild led the Quakers with six assists, a great example of the team’s unselfishness.
“That’s how we play; we share it, we space it, and that’s a strength,” said Donahue.
The Quakers got off to a hot start from the opening tip, starting the game on an 11-0 run. After enjoying a comfortable lead for most of the first half, the Quakers fell victim to a late flurry of points from the Tigers and briefly fell behind 31-30, before taking a five-point lead into the half.
After the break, it was all Penn. Princeton cut the Quaker lead down to just two at 44-42 before the Red and Blue went on a blistering run, extending their advantage to double digits and never looking back.
After not scoring in the first half, sophomore AJ Brodeur came to life after halftime, contributing 17 of Penn’s 42 second-half points. At one point, Brodeur scored nine straight points for the Quakers over a three-minute span.
“To win in their house, that’s incredible to me,” Brodeur said. “I didn’t know much about the history coming into Penn … and you see how many great players have gone through both programs. Being able to get those two wins for the seniors is a great feeling.”
Before this year, the Quakers had lost eight straight to Princeton, but this year they seem to have cracked the code.
As the game went on, every time the Tigers would score, Penn had the answer and more. The second half’s increased pace gave the Quakers a chance to show off their swift passing and stifling defense, leaving Princeton powerless to stop them.
The home crowd, boisterous in the first half, steadily grew quieter as the Red and Blue extended their lead to as much as 19. As the result became undoubtable, many Princeton supporters left the gym.
“We beat a good team on the road,” Donahue summed up. “Part of the perception out there is that we just played nine straight at home, so I think that was a good challenge for us.”
In the Ancient Eight standings, Penn sits alone at the top with a perfect 6-0 record, one game ahead of 5-1 Harvard. Three teams sit at 3-3, including Princeton, so the Quakers control their own destiny in terms of reaching, and winning, the conference tournament.
If Penn faces its future opponents with the same tenacity it did tonight against Princeton, there’s no reason to believe they won’t be a team to watch come March.
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