2020 will likely be remembered as one of the most unique years in sports history with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 12, the Ivy League became the first major athletic conference to cancel its spring sports. Though Penn's athletic teams hoped to take their seasons a bit further into the playoffs, both Penn basketball teams wound up having to be satisfied with just clinching spots in the Ivy League tournament. The women’s team finished their season with a 20-7 record, 10-4 in conference play. The men’s team finished at a 16-11 record, 8-6 in the Ivy League. Both teams performed well at the end of the season, riding a three-game win streak that they sought to add to in the playoffs against their shared opponent in Yale.
Why does the Palestra, commonly referred to as the Cathedral of College Basketball, routinely struggle to fill its 8,722-seat capacity? Penn prides itself on having a diverse student body with differing interests, but discussions with many students showed that their reasons for not attending games were mostly the same.
As an Ivy League school, Penn carries an identity as an academically rigorous institution, where students are often consumed by their studies and extracurricular commitments. Undergraduates often find themselves moving from class to class during the day only to attend several club meetings later that night. While it is easy to say that Penn students are just busy and always have been, the numbers tell a different story.
The early 2000s brought along the start of the decline in attendance at the Palestra. Only five years after the Quakers played in front of an average of 5,571 people, the average attendance at Penn home basketball games fell to 4,620 in 2005, a year in which the team made the NCAA Tournament. This new trend continued throughout the rest of the 2000s and into the 2010s. In 2009, for the first time in decades, the average attendance at Penn home games was under 4,000 — 3,656, to be exact.
There is no doubt that Penn students spend their weeks hitting the books and let loose on the weekend — the school follows a “work hard, play hard” social schedule. But taking in a basketball game at the Palestra? For most, that's just not the way they want to play.
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.
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.
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.
Playing to determine the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds heading into Ivy Madness, the Quakers calmly took care of business to finish off their regular season.
The last time these two teams met, the Quakers eked out a victory in a close 86-84 overtime game against Columbia with a strong offensive performance. But on Saturday night, the Red and Blue (20-7, 10-4 Ivy) showcased focus on defense and constant effort on both ends of the floor to extend their winning streak against the Lions (17-10, 8-6) to 18 games in a 51-36 win. Parker finished the game with seven blocks, tying her career high. She also leads the Ivy in blocks with an average of 2.5 per game. She and her team will hope to replicate this strong defensive showing next weekend.
Looking ahead to the start of the postseason next weekend, the Red and Blue will be facing third-seeded Yale in the first round of Ivy Madness next Friday.
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.
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.
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