Another year, another Ivy League Tournament chase that's coming down to the wire.
After a 78-64 win for Penn men's basketball over Cornell on Friday night, the Quakers' Ivy Tournament fate will not be determined until Saturday.
The Red and Blue (15-11, 7-6 Ivy) will play Columbia (6-23, 1-12) in the final game of their regular season on Saturday night. A Brown win at Harvard on Friday means that Penn and the Bears are currently tied for the fourth and final Ivy Madness spot. The Quakers need to either defeat the Lions or have Brown lose at Dartmouth to clinch the berth.
In the first game of the final weekend at the Palestra for Penn's senior class, the Quakers had a slow start but were able to piece together a strong second half to defeat the Big Red.
At the end of a fairly back-and-forth first half, the Quakers went into halftime up by a score of 35-32. The Red and Blue put together a couple of strong plays on offense, but they were unable to string together any runs and did not closely contend some outside shots from Cornell. In particular, the Big Red kept themselves in the game by shooting 60% overall from beyond the arc compared to Penn’s 35.5%.
A large part of Cornell’s offensive success in the first half came from junior guard Terrance McBride, who put up 15 of his team's 32 points from the Big Red in the opening 20 minutes.
“[In the first half,] we were trying to go under ball screens and playing soft, and I think [McBride] felt that and really took advantage of it,” coach Steve Donahue said. “In the second half, we started being more physical, chasing things, switching screens if we had to, just really being more aggressive.”
The aggression showed. Just 10 minutes into the second half, the gap had widened to a significantly more comfortable 10-point margin in favor of the Red and Blue. The Quakers then took care of business for the rest of the game to win by 14.
The night marked senior forward AJ Brodeur’s penultimate game at the Palestra. Brodeur put up 22 points and 10 rebounds on the night, putting him only 17 points away from breaking the all-time program scoring record.
The game against Columbia, which will also be the team’s Senior Night, could give Brodeur a chance to make history.
“We’re excited to get our last games in on the Palestra court," Brodeur said. "Hopefully, it’s a good night tomorrow night. But we’re looking to control that outcome ourselves, so be on the lookout for some senior action tomorrow."
Against Columbia, the Quakers will look to piece together piece together 40 minutes that resemble more of their last 20 against Cornell to ensure their spot in the tournament.
“I still think from the defensive side that I would hope we would be able to lock in and play the defense we played in the second half in the first half tomorrow," Donahue said. "I think the offense got open shots, but there was more poise in the second half. We just need to come out of the gates a little better and a little sharper tomorrow."
Regardless of the moving parts across the Ivy League, the Quakers are focusing on the task at hand.
“Our best selves come out when the season truly is on the line, when we’re truly playing desperately like our lives depend on it," Brodeur said. "That’s when the real character of the team starts to show."
The Columbia game will mark the end of the regular season, but if they can execute, the Quakers will yet again have the opportunity to make a run in Ivy Madness.
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