A battle of 40 minutes — a battle full of physical plays and highlights — between the Penn Quakers (12-13, 9-3 Ivy) and Brown Bears (12-15, 4-8) all came down to 30 seconds and one game-winning, last-second lay-in by sophomore guard Clark Slajchert.
But before those critical final 30 seconds that saw the Quakers win 89-88 over the Bears, everyone in the Pizzitola Sports Center was privy to a high-intensity matchup.
The matchup — which took place on Saturday, Feb. 19 — saw the Quakers try to get back into the win column following a loss to Ivy-leading Yale that had sent them falling to third in the rankings. Meanwhile, Brown came in with the determination to win. Sitting in sixth seed, Brown sat a game behind Cornell, who had the coveted fourth spot in the Ivy League standings.
Additionally, Penn was without a key starter, senior guard Jelani Williams, and his absence was felt across both games the Quakers played over the weekend.
“We can’t come in expecting to beat a team because we have a better record in conference than them,” Slajchert said postgame. “We got to show up and compete. We’re really missing Jelani … we haven’t been the same since he got injured. We got to find a way to make up that loss. We got to get together. We’re definitely motivated to make a stretch.”
With the incentive of an Ivy League Tournament berth alluring them, the Bears came in looking much more prepared than the Quakers. The Quakers kept missing shots they usually hit and executing sloppy plays that allowed Brown to stay in the game for the entirety of the first half. On top of it, the Quakers racked up fouls very quickly to start the half, getting four to the Bears’ one before the 10-minute mark.
Meanwhile, the Bears’ solid defensive play allowed them to contain the Quakers. Even a technical foul on their coach Mike Martin did not defer the Bears’ momentum.
Brown sophomore guard Kimo Ferrari had himself a night in that first half, scoring three threes in the first half alone to contribute to the Bears’ scoring efforts. Ferrari’s threes contributed to the Bears’ phenomenal three-point shooting in the first half; they finished 50% from the three.
The Quakers, on the other hand, saw themselves slipping behind. Within a two-minute stretch starting with four minutes left in the half, the Bears forced two consecutive turnovers on star sophomore guard Jordan Dingle. Both plays saw Dingle throw an errant pass away to give possession back to the Bears. After the second turnover, Dingle drove to the basket — only for Ferrari to draw a charge from him.
The Quakers saw a strong end to the first half. They went on an 8-2 scoring run in the last two minutes to cut the lead from 44-31 to 46-39 to end the half, thanks to consistent strong play from junior guard Lucas Monroe and Slajchert.
The second half opened with another high level of competition and intensity from both teams.
“The game was very physical — it was definitely one of the most intense games I’ve been to and that energy radiated into the crowd,” Laila Norford, a junior who took the trip to Providence with the Penn Band, said.
The matchup between Ferrari and Dingle became the matchup to see. With 17:59 to go, Dingle got his second foul while making a play for a loose ball, knocking Ferrari to the hardwood — just a play after Ferrari drew an offensive foul from freshman guard George Smith. A couple plays later, Ferrari hit his fourth three of the game in Dingle’s face.
For the Quakers, junior Michael Moshkovitz had a great way to start the half, blocking sophomore Dan Friday and executing the hook shot to score — all while playing with three fouls.
But Dingle was not to be ignored. The Ivy League Player of the Year candidate scored a key and-one of the three-point shot at 15:28. And then a minute later, Dingle drilled another three to bring his point tally to 17. And then he brought his tally up to 20 with 14 minutes left to give Penn the 57-56 lead.
A major shift from Brown's momentum was the lack of action by Ferrari. After going to the bench with three fouls, Ferrari returned. But it wouldn’t be for long: With 14:08 left in the game, Ferrari tried to stop a breakaway pass to Monroe and injured his right ankle/foot.
Penn saw momentum shift its way with 11:59 left when it got a five-point lead, bringing the score to 63-58, after back-to-back sloppy turnovers by Brown. To top it off, the Quakers had brought the Bears to seven fouls with 12:42, giving them several key opportunities for free throws to keep the lead up. However, the Quakers found themselves in foul trouble not too long after.
The energy was high and intense, only seeing reprieves for free throws — and when Monroe lost his contact lens on the court.
And then, Ferrari returned with 8:10 left. Dingle got his revenge on Ferrari when the next possession, Dingle drilled a three in Ferrari’s face to give the Quakers a five-point lead.
The physical battle between the two teams continued. Monroe, trying to keep the Bears from scoring, accumulated both his fourth foul and angered senior David Mitchell when he fell. Mitchell made a show of pushing Monroe’s legs off him. While no fight escalated, the tension between the two teams was palpable.
“I think it was a great college basketball game – two really intense teams,” coach Steve Donahue said. "Both want to win – Brown trying to get in the Ivy League Tournament, [us] trying to win a regular season championship. I think that’s what you say. Nothing dirty – just two teams playing really, really hard.”
Penn’s seven-point lead faded with four minutes left, with the Bears pulling it 81-77. And a Quaker turnover gave the Bears the possession again, letting them bring the score to 81-79 and sending Smith to the bench after fouling out. Brown’s Mitchell would also head to the bench with five fouls when Moshkovitz drew the foul while posting up.
The clock kept running.
One minute left.
Dingle took matters into his own hands when he drove in for a layup to bring it to 87-83. And then Mitchell scored a tip-in after Ferrari’s missed three making it 87-85.
And then it all came down to 30 seconds left.
Most people do not think much of 30 seconds. But these 30 seconds were wild and exhilarating — just like the rest of the game.
The ball was in Dingle’s hands, ready to take control as he had throughout if his 31 points were any indication. But a double team caused Dingle to bounce the ball off his foot and lose possession. The Bears jumped on the ball immediately and got the jump ball, giving them possession with 14 seconds left and down by two.
Fourteen seconds do not seem like much.
But those 14 seconds were just enough time for freshman Kino Lilly Jr. to evade Slajchert’s defense and score a three on the wing, giving Brown the 88-87 lead and sending the home crowd into wild cheers with four seconds left.
Four seconds are practically nothing.
Four seconds are just enough time to get the ball in.
And for Slajchert to drive the ball up into the paint against Lilly Jr. and send up a floater — the type of floater that he’s been making all season long.
And just like all season, he scored the floater to give Penn the 89-88 lead.
The team took to the court, embracing Slajchert in open arms and victorious yells.
“It’s a great feeling obviously,” Slajchert said. “It’s something that I kind of dreamed of growing up as a kid. But at the end of the day, it’s just one shot. We all won that game together. Talk about Jordan [Dingle] having 31 points, carrying us down the stretch – 23 in the second half. It was really a team effort. That just happened to be the last play.”
The pro-Penn crowd, while smaller in numbers, celebrated to the classic “The Red and Blue” performed by the Penn Band.
Sure, there were 0.4 seconds left on the clock. But even Brown knew it would not be enough to take down Penn.