After a disappointing road trip last weekend, Penn men's basketball is starting to look like its old self again.
Friday's 82-79 overtime win against Dartmouth wasn't an easy one for the Quakers, but wins don't need to be pretty as long as they get the job done. Here are three takeaways from the Red and Blue's latest victory:
They won't give up without a fight
After a tight first half, the Big Green started to pull away in the second, stretching the lead to 11 with 18:04 left to play. Looking up at a 50-39 score, coach Steve Donahue called a timeout, collected his team, and pressed them to keep fighting.
"Coach told us to keep grinding, keep doing what we do, keep our heads up, and find our spots," junior forward AJ Brodeur said. "It shouldn’t change whether we’re up 11, down 11, or down 20, everything we do has got to be the same. 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.”
Aided by the raucous home crowd and the ever-animated Penn Band, the Red and Blue quickly brought it back to a nailbiter. A 16-2 run over the next six minutes completely flipped the game back in the Quakers' favor and saw the team take a 55-52 lead, one that did not exceed four points in either direction for the rest of the game.
When the team needed him most, AJ Brodeur stepped up big time
Brodeur put up a season-high 36 points Friday night, and the Red and Blue needed each and every one to stick with the Big Green. It seemed whenever Penn was in a drought offensively, Brodeur would find a lane and sink a hook shot or layup to keep the Quakers in the game. During the lengthy run that brought the team back into the lead, Brodeur scored half of the team's points off four field goals, always finding a way to get to the basket and make it count.
"It felt really good to find my spots, my teammates were feeding me, and I was able to go to work with little resistance from other guys on Dartmouth," he said. "It was mostly a one-on-one matchup [with Dartmouth's Chris Knight], and I feel like that’s where I do my best when I have the space to do what I want."
The junior also added 11 rebounds in addition to his mass of points, good for his seventh double-double on the season, and fourth in seven Ivy League contests. The game also marked his 17th consecutive with 10 or more points, the longest such streak of any active member on the team.
His free-throw shooting, which has historically been a struggle — especially down the stretch of close games — was largely on target against Dartmouth, as he made six of eight attempts. Brodeur's makes from the charity stripe were instrumental in sending the game into overtime and finally growing the lead to three in the closing seconds.
Turnovers almost spelled disaster for the Red and Blue
Coming in with a turnover average of 12.9 per game, Penn knew keeping the ball was the key to success. However, that strategy did not pan out Friday night, with the Red and Blue giving the ball away 16 times to Dartmouth's nine.
The Quakers' first half was especially rough from a turnover standpoint, with the team racking up nine in the first 20 minutes, compared to just one from the Big Green, and trailing by five heading into the break. But as the game progressed, Penn began to tighten up its offense.
In the final 8:50 of play, the home side turned the ball over twice while Dartmouth did so four times, including one with 18 seconds in regulation where the visitors could have held for the last shot. While early troubles nearly let the game get out of reach, later discipline allowed the Quakers to survive into overtime.
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