This might be it for Penn men’s basketball.
The Quakers’ disappointing conference play continued in a 79-77 overtime loss to Columbia on Friday night at the Palestra. The Red and Blue had a five-point lead with just over a minute left in overtime, but they let it slip away after a series of miscues on both offense and defense.
Even though Columbia (7-16, 2-7 Ivy) sits at the bottom of the Ancient Eight standings, they also kept their first meeting with the Quakers (15-10, 3-6) close, eventually falling 72-70. Penn coach Steve Donahue has reinforced the idea all season long that there are no easy wins in Ivy League, and the Lions showed everyone why.
“This league is so balanced, you really have to play well to knock someone out,” Donahue said. “People look at [Columbia’s] record but they’ve had five games that they could’ve won easily and not go the other way.”
After starting the game a disappointing 1-of-7 from the field, the Quakers suddenly roared back to claim the lead thanks to guards Ray Jerome and Antonio Woods hitting three triples in a row. Jerome provided a much-needed scoring burst off the bench, finishing the first half with nine points. The bench as a whole led the way for the Quakers in the first half, providing 20 of their 35 points.
Columbia’s big men had a strong interior presence throughout the game, effectively neutralizing the Quakers’ top scorer, junior forward AJ Brodeur, who was unable to convert in the paint until very late in the game. Brodeur was so frustrated that he began displaying a quick trigger from beyond the arc. This strategy was surprisingly effective for the 29 percent three-point shooter, as he went 2-of-5 from distance on the night.
“I thought they did a good job on AJ to limit him,” Donahue said.
One of these big men was junior forward Patrick Tapé, who used his size and length to contest shots on defense and overpower the Quakers on offense. Tapé was extremely efficient, shooting 7-of-11 from the floor. In the second half, he drew extra attention from the Red and Blue in the post, leading to some open shots for the Lions.
Columbia’s main scoring threats, guards Quinton Adlesh and Gabe Stefanini, weren’t able to get much going for a good portion of the game as they were unable to find many open looks, which was largely a result of airtight defense from Woods and junior guard Devon Goodman. The best scorers always find a way, however, and Stefanini began hitting shots from all over the floor to help the Lions’ extend their second half lead.
Woods had a strong all-around game, as he also contributed heavily on the offensive end. On a night when the Quakers’ other veteran leaders could not find much success offensively, Woods was the unquestioned leader of the starting unit. He hit four of his six three-point attempts and used the threat of an outside shot to drive and finish in close with crafty hesitation moves.
Columbia led by as many as eight points in the second half, but the Quakers never let the score get out of hand. As the clock wound down in the second half, the Quakers’ sense of urgency was palpable, and they displayed increased hustle and physicality on the defensive end. This is when the crowd at the Palestra really got into the game, loudly willing the Quakers’ shots to drop.
Needing three points to tie the game late, a slashing AJ Brodeur converted a three-point play that brought everyone in the building to their feet. After a strong defensive possession that ended with an Adlesh jumper coming up short, Brodeur again worked his way inside, finishing at the rim and officially sending the fans into a frenzy.
Stefanini came in clutch for the Lions, however, hitting a runner off the glass to tie it at 72. Senior forward Max Rothschild was a split second late on a layup that would’ve clinched the game for the Quakers, but instead it was ruled a shot clock violation.
At the start of the extra period, the Quakers played stifling defense but they allowed the Lions to score a wide-open three and an easy fast break bucket to tie the game. Finally, on an inbounds play with 1.3 seconds left, freshman guard Maka Ellis found his way to the hoop for an open layup to ice the game for the visitors.
“It’s basically coming down to that last minute every time,” Donahue said. “They made the play at the end.”
In what’s been a hotly contested Ivy League season, the Quakers will hope to do what Columbia did and avenge an early season loss against Cornell at the Palestra on Saturday night.
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