While the Quakers (19-7, 9-1 Ivy) could never create much separation from the Big Red (10-13, 4-6), the win clinched them a in the Ivy League Tournament and puts the team in a strong position to win the Ivy regular season title in the final two weeks of the season.
Below, check out three of the biggest takeaways from the Red and Blue’s win.
Taking care of business
This might not have been the prettiest victory, but just like the Quakers have done pretty much all season, they made the plays they needed to make when it mattered most.
On paper, Cornell might not look like a team that Penn should be beating by only single digits, but make no mistake about this. A road win in the Ivy League is a big accomplishment no matter who it is against, and the Red and Blue now have four on the season.
So while Penn might not be blowing teams out from the opening tip, it is winning close games down the stretch, and that’s even more important. Come Ivy Tournament time (and possibly even NCAA Tournament time), the opponents Penn will be playing will not be teams that it can take down easily.
If the Quakers want to win those important games, they’ll need to be able to win tight games, and tonight offered just another piece of evidence to show that they are more than capable.
Any given player can step up on any given night
On Friday against Columbia, Penn’s starters struggled as guards Antonio Woods, Darnell Foreman, and Ryan Betley all didn’t get their first points until the second half. With the starters struggling, Penn’s bench stepped up in a major way. Sophomore guard Devon Goodman and senior guard Caleb Wood combined for 39 points, providing the Quakers with the necessary jolt to bring them back into the game.
While fans saw what Goodman was capable of last year during the team’s Ivy Tournament run, he saw his minutes all but evaporate in Penn’s most recent slew of games. But coach Steve Donahue thought the Red and Blue could use a spark off the bench when they fell behind double digits, and Goodman showed he could provide it.
Against Cornell, the Quakers saw quiet nights from three starters once again, but other players performed to fill the void. Betley, Penn's leading scorer, was particularly impressive, especially after he struggled against the Lions.
A night after scoring just two points in the final seconds against Columbia, Betley exploded for 23 points including six three-pointers. Sophomore forward AJ Brodeur turned in another very solid performance as well, as he followed up his 14 point effort against Columbia with an efficient 21 point outing against Cornell. Wood was also a key player in both games, finishing the weekend with 29 total points.
Having so many different players that are able to step up for the Red and Blue only makes them more difficult to prepare for. It might create some difficulties for Donahue in setting the rotation, but that’s certainly a good problem to have.
Defense wins games
As much as has been said about Penn’s explosive offense, it’s the team’s defense that Donahue thinks has been the Quakers’ most consistent weapon. Against Columbia, Penn kept the Lions scoreless for over five minutes in crunch time. Agianst Cornell, the Red and Blue held the Ivy League’s leading scorer Matt Morgan to just 2 for 12 shooting from the field.
Perhaps the biggest key to Penn’s strong defense is that the Quakers have so many different versatile lineups they can use. When opponents go big, Donahue can counter with Brodeur and junior forward Max Rothschild, and when teams go small, Penn can employ a four point-guard lineup like it did during its big run against Columbia.
The saying goes “defense wins championships” and while it’s definitely too early to say if that will be true for Penn, it certainly seems fair to say that it has been the Quakers’ defense that has been winning a lot of their games down so far down the stretch.