When the ball tipped off between Penn and Columbia on Saturday night, there were two major questions on the minds of Penn men's basketball fans: Would the Quakers prolong their season with a win, and would senior forward AJ Brodeur break the program's all-time career scoring record?
By midway through the second half, both of those questions had been emphatically answered in the positive. With 9:46 left in the game and the Quakers already leading the Lions by 20, Brodeur scored on a layup to give him his 18th point in the game and the 1,829th of his career. With Brodeur leading the way, the Quakers went on to win, 85-65, securing a matchup against top-seeded Yale in next weekend’s Ivy League Tournament.
As if all that wasn’t enough excitement for one game, Brodeur also made history in another unexpected way. His 21-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist performance gave him the first triple-double in program history. Brodeur himself hadn’t realized what he had accomplished until he heard it announced during a timeout.
"I was like I must be close to a double-double, Senior Night, that’d be cool," Brodeur said. "The next timeout, coach said, "I need you to get one more rebound," and I was like, oh I really got that double-double now. And then I finally got it, I got subbed out, and then I hear on the loudspeaker that I got the first triple-double. I’m glad I didn’t find out until afterwards or beforehand, because then I would have been thinking about that a little more.”
Brodeur might have his coach Steve Donahue to thank for his last assist and rebound.
“I just told him he’s got to get another rebound,” Donahue said. “I’ve never done that my whole career, I never have — but it’s Senior Night, it’s his last game here. I felt that was important. We set up two plays to get him an assist — he doesn’t even know that.”
Watching all of the history unfold from the stands was Ernie Beck, the player whose scoring record was broken by Brodeur. Beck’s scoring record, which he set in just three years of varsity basketball, had stood for 67 years. Brodeur and Beck exchanged jerseys during the Senior Night festivities before tip-off, and Beck congratulated Brodeur after the record had officially changed hands.
“It’s almost even hard to say that I’m breaking that record because he’s a legend,” Brodeur said. “There’s a reason that record has stood for over 50 years, and it doesn’t feel right to say that I’m taking it from him because that’s a record that’s going to be part of Penn history, so I’m just here to hold on to it until the next guy comes around.”
In addition to the all-time scoring record and triple-double, Brodeur made history in two other ways against Columbia by setting the all-time records for career blocks (196) and games played (119). Geoff Owens, who previously held the blocks record, was also in attendance at the game.
Now, the challenge for Penn (16-11, 8-6 Ivy) will be turning the page to prepare for a talented Yale squad that handed the Red and Blue a devastating defeat just last weekend. The Quakers beat the Elis earlier in the season at home, though, and are feeling confident about their chances in a neutral-court setting at Harvard.
Having senior guard Ryan Betley back at full strength could be especially helpful after he missed five games of Ivy play with an ankle injury. Betley struggled when he made his return last weekend against Yale, but against the Lions (6-24, 1-13) he gave a good reminder of what he can bring to the table offensively. He hit five three-pointers and finished with 16 points on just eight field-goal attempts.
Guard Devon Goodman, another member of Penn’s stellar senior class, also had an impressive performance with 17 points and four assists. He finished just a basket shy of scoring the 1000th point of his career on Senior Night but will have at least one more opportunity to reach that milestone next weekend.
The night served as a fitting Palestra finale for Brodeur, Betley, and Goodman, but their final legacies for Penn are still to be determined.
“I’m hoping that there’s more to write about this class,” Donahue said.