March may not be here yet, but the madness has already begun.
Playing in its first home game in 27 days, Penn men’s basketball beat Dartmouth, 82-79, in a back and forth overtime contest that included 22 lead changes. Junior forward AJ Brodeur led the Quakers on offense, scoring a career-high 36 points and extending his double-digit scoring streak to 17 games.
“From the tip, I was feeling my rhythm down low. It felt really good to find my spots and my teammates were feeding me, and I was able to go to work with little resistance from other guys on Dartmouth,” Brodeur said. “It was mostly a one-on-one matchup [with sophomore forward Chris Knight], and I feel like that’s where I do my best when I have the space to do what I want.”
The Quakers struck first with a hook shot from Brodeur, but Dartmouth clawed its way back to lead, 15-13, with 12:12 left in the first half. A pair of three pointers from junior guard Ray Jerome — who posted a career-high scoring total with six points — allowed the Quakers to take back the advantage.
A free throw by freshman guard Bryce Washington stretched the Red and Blue lead to 33-29 with 3:40 left in the half, but the rest of the half would not be as easy for Penn. Dartmouth closed the opening 20 minutes on an 11-0 run and held Penn scoreless in the last 3:07 of play to go into the locker room with a 42-37 lead. In the first half, Penn shot 65 percent from the field but turned the ball over nine times, while Dartmouth turned the ball over only once.
“I thought in the first half we played uncharacteristically,” coach Steve Donahue said. “We got rushed, dropped balls, and turned the ball over too much.”
Coming out of the half, the Big Green raced out to a 50-39 lead, their largest of the game. Nonetheless, the Quakers held their heads high and climbed out of the hole thanks to some hook shots by Brodeur and a corner three from senior guard Jake Silpe.
“Coach told us to keep grinding, keep doing what we do, keep our heads up, and find our spots. It shouldn’t change whether we’re up 11, down 11, or down 20, everything we do has got to be the same,” Brodeur said. “We’ve got to stay sharp, and we were able to make a run we know we’re capable of. It was just a matter of when.”
Throughout the rest of the second half, neither team could pull away. The Big Green snagged a late one-point lead with 59 seconds remaining before Brodeur sunk a free throw to even the score. The Quakers had a chance to win as time expired, but Brodeur couldn’t get his contested shot to fall.
In overtime, Washington opened things up with a three-pointer to put Penn ahead. Knight kept the Big Green in the game with back-to-back contested layups over Brodeur, but senior guard Antonio Woods sunk a contested fadeaway three to increase Penn’s lead to four.
With just 1:05 left in the game, Dartmouth junior guard James Foye sank three free throws after a Penn foul beyond the arc to trim the Penn lead to one, but a few possessions later, Knight missed a potential game-winning layup with 0.6 seconds remaining as Brodeur corralled the rebound.
Donahue was proud of his players’ grit and determination, citing effort on both ends of the court.
“That was a great college basketball game. I thought Dartmouth was absolutely terrific,” Donahue said. “We showed grit and determination to start guarding closer to make it harder on Dartmouth. We really had to make almost every shot on offense to keep Dartmouth at bay.”
The Big Green shot 47 percent from the field and had 12 steals. They were led by some strong play from Knight, who racked up 25 points, and junior guard Ian Sistare, who added 16 points of his own.
Notably lacking for the Quakers was freshman forward Michael Wang, who failed to see the court at all on Friday night. Donahue insisted that this was purely for matchup purposes.
“I just felt in particular on the defensive end given Dartmouth’s spacing and three-point shooting, I had no one that he could match up with, and on the offensive end, he just wasn’t a big enough advantage,” Donahue said.
Penn will be back in action tomorrow night when it hosts Harvard.
“It’s a whole different challenge and a whole different game,” Donahue said. “We’ve just gotta be ready to do whatever we can over the next 22 hours to prepare ourselves.”