PRINCETON N.J. — When Penn men's basketball meets Princeton, you know it will be a thriller right to the end, and Saturday was no exception.
After 65 minutes of back-and-forth play at Jadwin Gym, the Quakers kicked off the Ivy League season by dropping their third straight game, and second consecutive in overtime, falling by a score of 68-65. The lead changed hands all night long, but ultimately the Tigers (8-5, 1-0 Ivy) finished on top.
Although Penn (10-5, 0-1) raced out to an early lead — up 19-10 at one point — the home side clawed its way back into the game in no time. Princeton took a 23-21 lead with just over eight minutes to go in the half and both teams traded buckets until the break, with the home side claiming a 33-32 lead.
The second half was more of the same, but Princeton held the advantage for most of the final 20 minutes. The Tigers stretched their lead to as large as eight at 59-51 with five minutes to play, but the the Red and Blue would not back down without a fight.
An 11-3 run to close the game even saw the Quakers storm back into the lead briefly through junior guard Devon Goodman’s three-pointer with 56 seconds left, but both sides had a chance to take control after a Princeton free throw tied the game at 62.
Penn called a timeout with 33 seconds left and the ball, but the team's last regulation possession came to nothing when Goodman turned the ball over with just 12 ticks left. Princeton's touted rookie Jaelin Llewellyn had the last shot, but his jumper bounced off the rim and out to keep the deadlock and send the game into overtime.
The extra five minutes saw shooting troubles and increasingly physical play from both sides. Penn missed all five of its field goals in the extra period and made only three free throws off eight attempts from the line. Princeton, meanwhile, missed all four of its three pointers and half of its foul shots while dealing with the absence of leading scorer Richmond Aririguzoh after he fouled out.
With the game tied at 64 with a minute to play in overtime, it was still anybody's game. But a jump shot from Princeton guard Devin Cannady with 39 seconds to go was the last field goal of the game, as the Quakers could only put up one more point and the Tigers made a pair of free throws to go up by three.
Double-overtime was still in the cards, however, and Goodman got a good look at a three in the dying seconds, but it was off the mark to the relief of the home crowd.
The theme of free throw issues, especially late in the game, comes up time and time again for this Penn team, could make the difference come March and Ivy Madness unless something changes.
“When you’re in overtime, I always try to inspire the guys to think that this was a good thing, no matter what happens,” coach Steve Donahue said. “But free throw shooting has been an Achilles heel of ours.”
Junior forward AJ Brodeur led the Quakers with 18 points and a season-high 15 rebounds, good for his fourth double-double on the season. Goodman poured in 15, mostly on cuts to the hoop. For the home side, Aririguzoh led with 20 points and senior Myles Stephens added a double-double with 11 points and 17 rebounds.
Notably present on the court for the Red and Blue was the forward duo of senior Max Rothschild and freshman Michael Wang, who both missed the team's last game due to injuries.
Rothschild put up three points, six rebounds, and three assists in his return, while a still-recovering Wang played less than usual and finished with four points and another six boards.
"I thought Max was almost 100 percent but Michael hadn't played in a while," Donahue said. "Not that he wasn't trying, but it's difficult for a freshman that hasn't played in 10 days to come out and help us."
Something unusual for a Penn-Princeton matchup was the rough night for three-pointers. The two teams combined to go 11-for-45 from beyond the arc, much worse than their percentages coming in (37.6 percent for Penn and 33.2 for Princeton).
Donahue thought solid long-distance defending from both sides likely had an impact on the reduced accuracy from deep.
"The defense was outstanding on both sides, there wasn't a lot of open looks," he said. "We missed a couple wide open ones, they missed a wide open one, but there wasn't that many."
Penn will look to snap its losing streak when the two teams meet once again next Saturday at the Palestra. Based on today's showing, the team will certainly have a fighting chance.
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