Sometimes good things come in fives.
Capping off a successful weekend trip to the Empire State, Penn men’s basketball won its fifth straight game with a rollercoaster 79-73 win over Cornell. In a truly wild game, the Quakers (12-7, 4-2 Ivy) and Big Red (5-14, 2-4) had 10 ties and 12 lead changes.
The Red and Blue continued a recent trend of winning games by playing well down the stretch. Their win today could end up being crucial when seeds are determined for the Ivy League Tournament.
The Quakers had their hands full all game long, as Cornell’s three-headed monster of senior Josh Warren and juniors Jimmy Boeheim and Terrance McBride scored 51 of the Big Red’s 73 points.
Warren seemed incapable of missing a three-point shot, as he made five of his six attempts from deep and finished with 23 points.
"He was unbelievable, it’s really difficult to guard guys that can shoot like that, and he made us pay [when we contested him]," said Penn coach Steve Donahue.
Meanwhile, Boeheim, the son of legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, was unguardable at times, but he went just 1-for-6 from behind the arc.
One of the most memorable moments of the afternoon occurred with around a minute remaining when senior forward AJ Brodeur connected with junior guard Eddie Scott, who threw down an emphatic alley-oop dunk to put Penn up six. Scott has proven to be an exciting player to watch, as he had two dunks for the second consecutive game.
Less than 30 seconds of game time later, Brodeur blocked a pivotal three-point attempt, which was critical for the Quakers’ win. Brodeur was just one rebound of two assists short of a triple-double.
“It was big to have a lot of guys score in a lot of different ways, and to get it done defensively, especially when we’re on the road. We really showed our toughness today," said Brodeur. "We’re capable of getting leads, maintaining leads, and coming back.”
Playing without senior guard Ryan Betley, who did not travel with the team after suffering an injury against Columbia, fellow senior Ray Jerome took his spot in the starting lineup. While Jerome did a serviceable job in Betley’s place, it was a pair of freshmen who really stepped up.
Guard Jordan Dingle and forward Max Martz both finished with 17 points to tie for Penn's second leading scorer behind senior guard Devon Goodman, who scored 18.
“[The freshmen] were terrific, and Max in particular, for him to be another scorer stretches the defense. And then Lucas Monroe gave us great minutes," Donahue said. "We’re going to need them down the stretch if we’re going to win a championship.”
In a wild first half, both teams went on 8-0 runs and shot over 40% from beyond the arc, with the Quakers ultimately going into the locker room up 38-35.
The second half was not much different from the first, with both teams playing well on offense throughout. However, it was the Quakers’ defense late that made the difference, preventing the Big Red from making a comeback.
“Not having [Betley] was a huge loss for us for sure, but I think we showed a little extra grit and a little more toughness playing without that weapon that we usually have," Brodeur said. "I thought a lot of us, especially the young guys, responded well to that adversity.”
As has been the case many times this season, Goodman was responsible for much of Penn’s success. Although he missed a few critical layups late in the game, he spread the ball around all afternoon and made several contested shots. Goodman has scored in double-figures in 15 of his last 17 games.
The trip to Newman Arena was a homecoming of sorts for Donahue, who coached the Big Red for 10 seasons, leading them to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, including a magical run to the Sweet 16 in 2010.
As a result of inclement weather in upstate New York on Friday, the game was played on Sunday as opposed to Saturday, when it was originally scheduled. While this delay gave Penn fans a unique opportunity to watch an Ivy League basketball game on a Sunday, it will give the Quakers a short week to prepare for another important Ivy League game against Brown (11-8, 4-2) on Friday night at the Palestra, where Penn will try for its sixth straight win.
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