PROVIDENCE, R.I. — For the second straight night, the outcome wasn't decided until the final buzzer sounded. But this time, Penn men’s basketball found a way to win when it needed it most.
After a heartbreaking comeback loss to Yale on Friday, the Quakers defeated Brown on Saturday by a score of 73-68 in a game that was closely contested from start to finish. The win keeps Penn’s Ivy League Tournament hopes alive and currently gives it the tiebreaker over Brown (13-12, 6-6 Ivy), which is tied with the Red and Blue (14-11, 6-6) for fourth place.
"I felt like this was one of the games where I knew we were in a similar situation last year, but personally as a senior it felt like it was that much more important," senior forward AJ Brodeur said. "Knowing that this could be the end of our run. Knowing that if we lost this we would have been out of playoff contention."
Against a Brown team that was consistently making difficult plays on both ends of the floor, the Quakers held strong. Buoyed by key second-half performances from Brodeur and freshmen Jordan Dingle and Max Martz, Penn took the lead from the Bears and held off a late charge to secure the victory.
"I’m just so proud of the group. In all my years of coaching I’ve never experienced what we did last night," coach Steve Donahue said. "With the season and some of these guys’ careers on the line if we don’t win, they did a great job getting over that loss."
Despite their strong finish, the Quakers actually got off to a poor start on offense. Penn’s shots weren’t falling from both the inside and outside in the opening minutes, and Brown was able to take an early lead thanks to strong shooting from three-point range, particularly from senior guards Brandon Anderson and Zach Hunsaker. The Bears went on a 11-0 run in the middle of the first half to take an eight-point lead.
"Brown notoriously is always making those tough shots," Brodeur said. "A lot of the defensive possessions felt like victories to us, but then they went and made those shots."
The Quakers bounced right back, however, locking down on defense and finding easy buckets in the paint for an 8-0 run of its own. Unsurprisingly, Brodeur was the catalyst, recording 20 points and seven assists despite facing consistent double teams.
With the Red and Blue down four with halftime approaching, Dingle, who had exited the game earlier with an injury, came through with a clutch three. After leading for much of the opening 20 minutes, the Bears’ lead was just 29-28 when the half concluded.
"I thought it was just a high level [of basketball]," Donahue said. "[It was] not artistic or anything, but just so much intensity."
The second half began much like the first, with the Quakers struggling to get anything going on offense and shots rimming out. Despite strong defense from Penn, Brown held a slim lead through the first five minutes of the period.
Then Brodeur came alive when Penn needed it most, scoring three quick baskets in succession to give the Quakers the lead. A team effort to limit Anderson and Hunsaker defensively helped the Red and Blue as well, as the seniors seemed to be looking to shoot on most possessions.
With Brodeur taking a short rest in the second half, Martz produced a couple key plays, coming up with a tough offensive rebound and getting fouled before hitting a difficult three on the next possession. By that time, the Quakers led by five and had taken control.
"[Martz is] a warrior," Donahue said. "He’s what we envision in a Penn basketball player, unselfish, hard-nosed, skilled, and team-first. That’s what he’s about."
After Brown cut the lead to two, a blocked shot bounced out to Dingle, who hit a three to restore Penn’s cushion. The freshman, who came off the bench for the second consecutive game, made several big plays throughout the night and scored 17 points.
"I think [the key] was just putting pressure on the defense," Dingle said. "That’s usually what I try to do, just make it hard for them to guard and open up some space for the other guys to score and create opportunities."
The Bears kept fighting back, and the Quakers’ lead was only one when they mounted a 6-0 run that was punctuated by a strong dunk from junior guard Eddie Scott. Penn then held on down the stretch to keep its postseason hopes alive.
"We can’t get too high after the wins or too low after the losses," Dingle said. "We just have to stay level-headed and move on to next weekend."
The Red and Blue will likely advance to the Ivy Tournament as the No. 4 seed if they at least match Brown's record next weekend. Penn will face off with Cornell on Friday and Columbia on Saturday at the Palestra.