Penn men’s basketball came tantalizingly close to securing a spot at the Ivy League Tournament over the weekend with a thrilling 69-66 victory at Cornell, but failed to free itself from the pack after falling to Columbia the following night, 70-67. A win in New York City couldn’t have guaranteed the Quakers (12-13, 5-7 Ivy) a place in the inaugural postseason tournament, but it would have made it highly likely.
Behind a superb all-around performance from freshman Ryan Betley, Penn overcame a series of Cornell runs to win 69-66 in a game that came down to the final seconds. he Quakers (12-12, 5-6 Ivy), as they have been known to do recently, started the game out strong, opening up a 7-2 lead in the opening minutes.
Hope has blossomed into opportunity for Penn men’s basketball, but the Quakers still have to seize it. Two weeks ago, hope was the only thing the Red and Blue (11-12, 4-6 Ivy) had: at 0-6 and last place in the conference, they seemed all but eliminated. Since, Penn has looked unstoppable in four straight wins, three of them wire-to-wire. Now, the fourth-place Quakers have an opportunity to play their way into the Ivy League tournament and a potential NCAA bid.
First would be head-to-head. Penn won the first meeting between the two teams as it kickstarted its comeback in the league from rock bottom to fourth just two weekends later — but the two teams meet again this Saturday in a high-stakes clash at Columbia. If the Lions were to win, but still end the season on the same record as the Quakers, the scenario would have to go to the next tiebreaker.
With just a few weeks left before the inaugural Ivy League Tournament for both men's and women's basketball, both of Penn's squads will have meaningful games to come.
Freshman Ryan Betley is currently playing the best basketball of his young career, and by no coincidence at all, Penn is enjoying its best stretch of the season.
The rookie sharpshooter played the game of his life on Friday, scoring a career-high 28, including six three-pointers at a remarkable 60 percent accuracy. He also registered seven rebounds and four assists.
Coming off a sweep of the New York schools last weekend, the Red and Blue kept their momentum going with a pair of dominant performances, blowing out Brown, 96-72, on Friday before upsetting third-place Yale, 71-55, two days later. With the wins, Penn has remarkably clawed back into fourth place in the Ivy League after being four games off not even two weeks ago.
The closest thing I can compare it to is what Liverpool FC manager Jürgen Klopp calls “Heavy Metal Football” — and well, ladies and gentlemen, what the Quakers have finally worked their way into is Heavy Metal Basketball.
Put the funeral pyres away — Penn men’s basketball is back. Boosted by a ridiculous 27-2 first-half run spearheaded by a career-best shooting performance from freshman shooting guard Ryan Betley, the Quakers jumped out to a 25-point first-half lead at Brown and never looked back, cruising to a 96-72 win over the Bears.
Rock-bottom after six games, even we had written this team off. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Quakers have taken the bull that is the Ivy League by the horns and is almost halfway through a Mission Impossible: going from 0-6 to finish in fourth place and make the Ivy League Tournament.
Penn men’s basketball had a diamond weekend against Columbia and Cornell, winning its first two Ivy League games of the season under immense pressure. The pressure was both expected and self-imposed; the result of an 0-6 run bookended by twin loses to rival Princeton. The Quakers (9-12, 2-6 Ivy) knew that another loss meant the end to their post-season chances, and they responded with two of the most spirited performances to date.
Coming into the weekend, Penn men's basketball’s chances to make the Ivy League Tournament and compete for a March Madness bid seemed almost nonexistent. The Quakers were not shooting well, and seemed unable to hold teams off down the stretch in games. But by early Sunday afternoon, it appears as though the Red and Blue have life once again.
The floodgates have finally opened. Winless in its first six conference games, Penn men's basketball came out firing on all cylinders this weekend at the Palestra to take down Columbia and Cornell in a sweep of New York’s two Ivy League teams.
This season has not been kind to Penn men’s basketball. Coming into Friday’s game against Columbia, the Quakers were winless in six Ivy League contests and in desperate need of a better performance to have any shot of making the Ivy League Tournament. The Red and Blue were able to gut out the victory on the back of 48 rebounds and 12 three-pointers. Let’s go to the player ratings.
Matt Howard has solved Penn men's basketball’s finishing problem. After watching an 11-point lead slip away in the second half, the senior forward was determined to not let another strong start go to waste. Howard hit a clutch three-pointer with eight minutes to play, cutting a brief Columbia lead down to one. But, it was his defensive closing that sealed the game for the Red and Blue as they went on to win 70-62.
Coach Steve Donahue of Penn men’s basketball is not keen on the phrase “must-win.”
In fact, in a past interview, he has described the phrase as “for the media” (guilty as charged) and “not what we focus on.”
However, with the Red and Blue (7-12, 0-6 Ivy) hosting two immensely important games against Columbia and Cornell this weekend, he had seemingly no choice but to use the vaunted expression.
“In terms of making the tournament, I think both of the games this weekend are must-win,” Donahue admitted.
Penn men’s basketball fell to its archnemesis Princeton, 64-49, in a high-stakes rivalry match that kept the Quakers rooted to the bottom of the Ivy League and solidified the Tigers’ grip at the top. Despite the packed crowd at the Palestra there to celebrate the Cathedral of Basketball’s 90th birthday, there was no celebration for Penn (7-12, 0-6 Ivy) and its players’ hopes of topping their fiercest rivals (13-6, 6-0) in the first match between the two during the school year since 2012.
In the most highly-anticipated game of the year, Penn men’s basketball fell to archrival Princeton, 64-49, to keep the Quakers languishing at the bottom of the Ivy League. In his postgame press conference Tuesday night, coach Steve Donahue lamented that his players really didn’t play that badly — they just aren’t good enough at their current level. With that in mind, here are our player ratings from Penn’s loss to Princeton at the Palestra:
I went to both Penn-Princeton men's basketball games this year, and they tell the story of our team's season. They tell the story of a team that had the ability to hang with the best of the league, but just couldn't put it all together. They tell the story of a squad that had ample opportunities to earn their way back into competition, but faltered when it mattered most.