NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A turnover. A made shot. Another turnover.
Play that on repeat three or four times, and then you have the last two minutes of Penn men’s basketball’s game against Yale on Friday night.
At a raucous John J. Lee Amphitheater, the Quakers lost to the Bulldogs, 76-73, after a wild 13-0 Yale run in the last two minutes. Despite Penn (13-11, 5-6 Ivy) outplaying the Elis (21-6, 9-2) for much of the contest, the Red and Blue were unable to break an aggressive full-court press at the end of the game, leading to the shocking comeback.
After two big threes by freshman forward Max Martz and senior guard Devon Goodman, the Quakers led by 10 with the ball and just 1:42 remaining. Then mayhem ensued.
When the game looked like it might be over, Yale forced a turnover and then made a three after a missed free-throw from junior guard Eddie Scott. The Quakers then turned the ball over two more times, allowing the Elis to pull within three after a layup from Paul Atkinson. After yet another turnover, Jordan Bruner made two free-throws to make the score 73-72.
“We just didn’t do a good against their pressure," coach Steve Donahue said. "And it’s a shame because we were obviously not playing our game, but give them credit – they didn’t quit and you’ve got to give it to them."
Another turnover led to a missed Yale shot, but senior guard Ryan Betley, who was playing on Friday after five consecutive missed games due to injury, then turned the ball over under the basket. This led to a Bruner dunk that gave the Elis the lead. The Bulldogs stole the ball and dunked it again, and a desperation three from Betley fell short, completing an all-time comeback.
"[Breaking the press] has never been an issue [this year]," Donahue said. "We just didn’t do a good job. We practice beating the press every week. It’s just, unfortunately, the kids didn’t do a good job."
It didn't show in the final two minutes, but Penn looked better than the Ivy League's top team for most of the night.
“I think [Yale is] a great team, a really good team," Donahue said. "We’re as good as anybody. That’s what's amazing about this League. Any given night, you’ve got to play well for 40 minutes. We did not play for 40 minutes. We played for 38."
The Quakers started off the game slow by allowing Yale to score the first six points of the game in the opening three minutes, but they quickly bounced back. The Red and Blue found openings on offense from both the inside and outside, as senior forward AJ Brodeur scored several buckets in the paint while Penn’s perimeter players made nine of their first 13 three-point attempts.
The Quakers were moving the ball perhaps the best they have all season, with guards frequently able to find space for open threes. That opened up opportunities for Brodeur to find both easy layups and assists to cutters who scored at the basket.
On defense, the Quakers were able to hold relatively strong as well, but Atkinson was able to take advantage inside, scoring 14 points in the first half.
After Penn took a 12-point lead late in the first half, the Bulldogs launched a quick 8-0 run to pull them within striking distance. However, an acrobatic and-one for Goodman, who scored 23 points in the game and shot 6-of-7 from three, helped give the Quakers a 46-39 lead at halftime.
"I thought we played really well tonight — as good as we’ve played," Donahue said. "I think we played our best basketball."
The Red and Blue started the second half like they did the first, struggling to score and not making a basket until over four minutes had elapsed. By then, Yale had drawn within one and taken much of the momentum back.
While the Quakers struggled to get back in an offensive rhythm after the break, the Elis took advantage, especially from beyond the arc, making four threes in the first eight minutes. After a clean first half, Penn committed 12 turnovers against five assists in the second.
The Bulldogs were able to take a one-point lead after those miscues, but the Red and Blue quickly struck back thanks to Brodeur, who recorded two and-ones, which moved him into second place on the all-time Penn scoring list.
The teams then entered a back-and-forth battle until the final minutes, with Yale distributing scoring evenly through its rotation and the Quakers relying heavily on Brodeur and Goodman, who combined for 48 total points.
When Penn needed a final push on offense, the Red and Blue came through, with back-to-back three pointers from Martz and Goodman. Goodman’s make was particularly impressive, as he hit a contested shot from well outside with the shot clock expiring. But then pandemonium started, and a big win turned into a shocking loss.
“Like a lot of things, the end is the most important," Donahue said. "In class, the final exam, it’s critical, even if you’ve done a good job all semester, you’ve got to finish it. We had a chance to finish them and we didn’t do that."
Despite the defeat, the Quakers are still within striking distance of qualifying for the Ivy League Tournament. If the Red and Blue defeat Brown on Saturday, they will move into a tie for fourth place in the Ancient Eight and hold the tiebreaker over the Bears. However, if they lose, their postseason chances will be over.
“As I said to the team, ‘The game we had to win this weekend is tomorrow,'" Donahue said. "This is like anything in life. There’s adversity, and it’s about attitude. There is no feeling sorry for themselves. They’re going to shower, we’re going to go back and prepare for Brown and stick together and play Penn basketball at Brown. I think that’s going to be good enough."
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