NEW YORK — That’s more like it.
One day after falling to Cornell in a game that came down to the final minutes, Penn men’s basketball defeated Columbia, 72-70, for the team’s first Ivy League win of the season.
The game did not start off well for the Quakers (13-7, 1-3 Ivy), who were unable to get into a rhythm on offense in the opening minutes. The Red and Blue missed their first nine three-pointers of the game and committed some sloppy turnovers, with five coming in the first 10 minutes. These struggles allowed Columbia (6-12, 1-3) to go on a 10-0 run early on and seize the lead.
With the Quakers in a quick hole, they needed to find a way bear down, and they were able to do so on defense. The Red and Blue held Columbia without a point for over five minutes and went on a 12-0 run of their own to take the lead back.
While Penn continued to struggle from behind the arc, where it shot 17.6 percent for the half, the team performed well from the free throw line, which has been a trouble spot all season. The Quakers made their first 10 free throws of the game, contributing significantly to their early comeback.
"I do think [free throws] were a key thing," coach Steve Donahue said. "That 10-for-10 in the first half when things weren't going well was really key to this game because we probably wouldn't have been able to hang with them if we didn't."
Junior guard Devon Goodman was a difference maker for Penn in the opening 20 minutes, scoring 11 points and hitting a three with 1:05 left in the half to give the Red and Blue a slim 32-31 advantage, which they held at the break.
"As a point guard, my teammates really look at me to lead the team and to stay positive no matter what," Goodman said. "When [Columbia] went on that run, my teammates knew and I knew that it would be our turn to make a run."
As the second half began, the back and forth contest continued. Penn began to play more efficiently on offense, making 66.7 percent of its field goals, but Columbia countered with some strong possessions of its own. In particular, the Quakers struggled to cover sophomore guard Gabe Stefanini, who led the Lions with 27 points.
Columbia kept sinking its shots, making 70.8 percent from the field in the second half, and the Red and Blue needed someone to step up and keep them in the contest. Junior forward AJ Brodeur did just that, recording 24 points, making 8-of-10 free throws, and providing a constant presence in the paint.
"I think it was more of the team just trusting me down the stretch to start getting things back to where we know they can be," Brodeur said. "I have the confidence in myself to make those types of [inside] shots. It means a lot to have that encouragement, trust, and brotherhood from my teammates."
With the game tight entering the final minutes, freshman guard Bryce Washington came through in a big moment, sinking a three-pointer with 3:21 left to put the Quakers up by four. After watching Columbia make shots from all over the court in the second half, Penn then put together a few key defensive stops to maintain its slim lead.
"I thought the level of execution in the second half from both teams was so amazing," Donahue said. "I thought we showed true grit, which is our calling card. That’s how we typically win games."
Up by just two points with about 30 seconds remaining, senior guard Antonio Woods barely missed an off-balance layup to give Columbia a chance to tie or win the game at the buzzer. However, Stefanini’s final contested jumper missed as time expired, giving Penn the victory.
"[Stefanini] was making so many shots. We had three guys guard him that last possession," Donahue said. "Antonio comes over because he reads it, and I thought he really was the one who distracted the shot."
With their first conference win under their belt, the Quakers will try to build momentum in another pair of away games at Brown and Yale next weekend.
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