Penn suffers big loss in big win over George Mason

The Penn men opened up the ’18-’19 season on the road against George Mason on Tuesday night.  In a gutsy second half performance, the Quakers came from behind to beat the Patriots, 72-71, for big win against a team that entered the contest ranked #116 by KenPom and #120 by Bart Torvik.  Unfortunately, Ryan Betley, the Red & Blue’s leading scorer and a second team All-Ivy player in ’17-’18, was injured early in the game and appears to be lost for the season.

Around the five minute mark, Betley took an inbounds from Devon Goodman.  As he was driving the baseline, his right leg went out from under him and he collapsed to the ground.  After the Penn trainers spent several minutes with Betley, he was helped into the locker room without being able to put any pressure on his right leg.  He later returned to the bench with a brace on his right leg.

Following the Quakers victory, George Mason play-by-play man Tyler Byrum tweeted that Penn coach Steve Donahue teared up when talking about Betley’s injury and alluded to him missing the season.  Later, Bynum tweeted the following quote from the coach, “”It’s not good… He wanted to have a great year and it’s just probably not going to happen. The only silver lining is it’s the first game of the year, he doesn’t lose another year of eligibility… he ruins his knee for the year.”  Around 10:30 pm, Jon Rothstein reported that Betley is believed to have suffered a ruptured patella tendon, which would likely keep him out until the start of the ’19-’20 campaign.

Last year, Betley averaged 14.3 points a game with 84 three pointers and 26 double-figure scoring games.  Among Ivy players, he was fourth in three-pointers per game (2.5), tenth in points per game (14.3), tenth in free-throw percentage (.770), 12th in three-point FG percentage (.391), and 16th in rebounds per game (5.0).

Penn held its own, following Betley’s departure, but found itself down 37-33 at the half.  With their leading shooter gone, the Quakers stayed in the game thanks to AJ Brodeur’s 8 inside points and 6’10” first year Michael Wang’s 4 three pointers.  George Mason opened up its largest lead of the night, 54-45, with 12:46 left in regulation.  Down 64-59 with 5:22 remaining , senior guard Antonio Woods, who ended the first half with four fouls, took charge scoring the next 8 points for Penn.  Brodeur’s layup with 2:17 to go, gave the Quakers a 69-68 lead, its first of the second half.

Tied at 71 with 20 seconds remaining, Brodeur hit one of two free throws to give Penn the one point advantage.  After corralling a  Patriots’ shot with nine seconds left, Brodeur missed both free throws.  Before George Mason could control the board from the second shot, senior Max Rothschild jumped and slapped the ball into the Penn backcourt.  Woods’ two missed free throws gave the Patriots one last chance, but Otis Livingston’s running three pointer at the buzzer was just short.

For the night, Brodeur led Penn with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks.  Wong ended with 14 points, all in the first half and Woods added 10 points, all in the second half.  The Quakers shot 54 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.  Free throws continue to plague the Red & Blue, as they went 6-18 for the night, including 1-6 during the last minute of play.

With Betley apparently done for the year, the Quakers have now lost 66 percent of their three-point shooting from last year.  For a team that focuses its offense on the deep shot, Penn will need to find players who can consistently fill it up from beyond the arc.  While this shocking loss has hit the Red & Blue faithful hard and put the team’s title hopes in jeopardy, its best to look at the big picture.  As tweeted out by IHO editor Mike Tony, “It’s worth noting, of course, that this is a man who just sustained a major injury keeping him from doing something he’s passionate about. It happens all the time in sports, but the real story is how RB (Ryan Betley) responds to and gets through this, not what it does to Penn’s Ivy title odds.”

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