All you can say is wow.
Penn men’s basketball resumed Ivy League play at home with a thrilling 75-72 overtime win against Harvard. The Quakers would see multiple big leads dwindle, to the point where the teams were locked in a back-and-forth affair down the stretch, followed by an intense overtime period.
With the Quakers (9-7, 1-2 Ivy) starting 0-2 in Ivy League play, their sense of urgency was clearly heightened early on. Hustling on defense and pushing the pace up the floor on offense, the Red and Blue were up big on the Crimson (13-5, 2-1 Ivy) early. A steal and slam by senior guard Devon Goodman put the Quakers up 18-5 just five minutes in.
"We really felt a little desperation," senior forward AJ Brodeur said. "We know what it's like to be 0-6 in the League or 0-3 in the League, and we wanted to make sure we don't get to that point this year, so we're playing desperate early."
The Red and Blue’s aggressiveness came back to bite them, as they quickly racked up personal fouls. Harvard entered the bonus early on, which helped it slow the game down and chip away at Penn’s lead.
An emphasis for Penn this season has been shooting the three consistently and limiting opponents from getting open looks behind the arc. Harvard seemed to adopt this strategy initially, defending all the way out to the three-point line with all five players on the floor.
This left the paint wide open, and the Quakers made the Crimson pay. Freshman guard Jordan Dingle got loose for two dunks as part of a blistering hot start for the Quakers, who made 10 of their first 14 shot attempts.
"I thought we really executed early. That was the key," coach Steve Donahue said.
Facing a 19-point deficit, Harvard needed a run to get back into the game. The Crimson scored the next nine points, while forcing four Penn turnovers over a two-and-a-half minute stretch. The run would balloon to 18-3, with the Crimson eventually bringing their deficit all the way down to seven points by halftime, when the Quakers led by a score of 35-28.
To begin the second half, Harvard was intent on giving Penn a heavy dose of senior forward Chris Lewis. With their leading scorer, senior guard Bryce Aiken, out with an injury, it was no surprise the Crimson would try to feed Lewis, who was matched up against the smaller Brodeur. Brodeur held his own against Lewis and had a solid offensive night as well. He would finish with 20 points thanks to an 8-of-9 performance at the foul line.
The teams traded baskets through the first portion of the second half, but the Quakers opened an eight-point run to go up 52-40. The Crimson responded with a 12-point run to tie the game, locking down on defense and forcing more Penn turnovers. While Harvard was never able to get going from outside, it kept the game close with numerous second-chance opportunities.
"They have a lot of big bodies that really crash the boards hard," Brodeur said.
Sophomore guard Noah Kirkwood, the Crimson’s third-leading scorer, was nowhere to be found throughout the majority of the game. Even playing 31 minutes, Kirkwood didn’t enter the scoring column until 3:40 remained in the game. In overtime, Kirkwood scored five points, but he went 1-of-3 at the foul line.
With big runs by both teams, this game was bound to go down to the wire. A steal by Brodeur with Penn leading 58-56 and 49 seconds left to play had fans in the Palestra jumping.
Senior guard Justin Bassey came in clutch for the Crimson with a late steal on an inbound play, which set up a likely final possession for Harvard to try and tie or win the game. Kirkwood would get the ball in his hands and splash a fadeaway jumper to force overtime.
For the Red and Blue, the extra period was all about Brodeur. The senior big man hit a couple of inside shots, but he also assisted on three baskets in the final five minutes. Bassey made a three-pointer and was fouled by senior guard Ray Jerome, leaving the door open once again for the Crimson. After a missed free throw, the ball found its way to Kirkwood, but his game-tying three-point attempt rimmed out, and the Quakers held on for the win.
The Red and Blue face a quick turnaround, as they will finish up the home back-to-back against Dartmouth tomorrow night.
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