NEW HAVEN, CONN. — It’s going to be a nail-biter the whole way.
After 20 minutes of play, Penn men’s basketball trails Harvard, 36-34, in the first semifinal of the Ivy League Tournament. While the Quakers (19-11, 7-7 Ivy) led for much of the way, the Crimson (17-10, 10-4) were able to gain the lead behind strong free-throw shooting and defensive stops.
For the Quakers, it was the usual suspects taking charge; junior forward AJ Brodeur paced the team with 13 points and six boards, while the trio of Jake Silpe, Antonio Woods, and Devon Goodman contributed a combined 16 points. On the other end of the floor, it was first team All-Ivy selection Bryce Aiken who led the way for the Crimson with nine points.
The first few minutes of the game were all Quakers. Behind a swarming defensive effort, Penn forced Harvard into off-balanced, contested looks and held them off the scoreboard until the 16-minute mark. But during that stretch, the Red and Blue had offensive troubles of their own, committing several turnovers that prevented them from opening up a sizable lead.
Penn’s lead bounced around for much of the half, with each team taking turns going on mini-runs. First it was Quakers, who took a 10-point lead on two consecutive baskets inside from Brodeur, followed by a three from well beyond the arc by Goodman. But after a timeout, Harvard powered its way back with a 10-2 run of its own.
The back-and-forth action continued, and the Crimson were eventually able to knot the game at 23 after guard Christian Juzang converted all three free throws with 6:22 left. From there, a Woods layup and a Brodeur three opened up another five-point lead for Penn.
Harvard then went on an 8-0 run, powered by deep threes from Aiken and freshman Noah Kirkwood, to take a 31-28 lead with just under four minutes to play. Another three from the Quakers, this time from a wide-open Jarrod Simmons, brought the score back to a tie.
Both defenses tightened up towards the end, and with Penn over the foul limit, Harvard was able to build its lead to where it stands now from the line. Overall, the Crimson shoot 9-for-11 from the charity stripe, while the Quakers missed their only attempt.
As the first half showed, no lead is safe in this game, so anything can happen in the second half.
Don't forget to check back after the game for the full recap.