Another wild night on the roller coaster that is Penn men’s basketball, so what else is new?
One night after losing a 10-point lead lead over the last 98 seconds at Yale, the Red & Blue faced a similar situation up nine at the 2:39 mark in a win-or-go home showdown against Brown. On this night, the Quakers would hold the line and defeat Brown, 73-68, to get back in the battle for the No. 4 seed in the Ivy League Tournament.
A Jordan Dingle layup gave Penn (14-11, 6-6 Ivy) a 17-14 lead with eight minutes left in the first half, when the Bears (13-12, 6-6) went on an 11-0 run on the strength of triples by Zach Hunsaker, Tamenang Choh and Brandon Anderson. The Quakers would recover and go on its own 8-0 run to tie the game at 25 with just under two minutes remaining.
Brown went back up by four, 29-25, when a double-teamed AJ Brodeur found Dingle at the top of the key for an open three to end the first half scoring.
After a Hunsaker fadeaway jumper made it 34-31 three minutes into the second half, Brodeur hit three straight layups to lead Penn on a 6-0 run to put the Quakers up three with 13:30 remaining.
The Red & Blue thrice stretched their lead to seven before the Bears went on a 6-0 run to make it a one-point game with five minutes to go.
While Penn fans started to see another game, and the season, slipping away, the players had other thoughts.
Hunsaker was called for a questionable block on Dingle, and the rookie calmly hit both free throws. On the next possession, a steal by Devon Goodman on Anderson led to a breakaway slam for Eddie Scott. At the four minute mark, Brodeur had a short jumper blocked by Jaylan Gainey, but Lucas Monroe was there to grab the ball out of the air and lay it in to finish a 7-0 run for the visitors.
An alley-oop from Choh to Gainey cut the lead to five with 95 seconds left in regulation, but a double-teamed Brodeur again found an open Penn rookie at the top of the key. This time it was Max Martz, who stretched the Penn advantage to eight.
Bruno would not go away without one last fight as Choh made two free throws and Hunsaker nailed a deep three from the right elbow to make it a one-possession game, 70-67, with 36 seconds on the clock.
Martz hit one of two free throws after being fouled to make it a four-point game, but Hunsaker missed a deep three from the left elbow with 15 seconds remaining. Scott came down with the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to put the game away.
The Quakers shot 50% from inside the arc, with Brodeur leading the way on an 8-for-16 performance. The team struggled from deep, making only 30% of its triples, but Brodeur, Dingle and Martz combined for a stellar 70% (7-for-10) rate.
Goodman, who went 6-for-7 from downtown Friday against Yale, went 0-for-6, while fellow senior Ryan Betley, who returned to action Friday after being sidelined for two weekends with an injured ankle, went 0-for-3 from deep Saturday and 1-for-9 for the entire weekend.
Brodeur ended the night as the KenPom MVP with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Dingle added 17 points in his second straight reserve appearance, a night after being held to two by Yale. Martz finished with 13 points. the seventh time in his last eight games with double-digit scoring, as well as seven boards. Goodman only had six points but did end up with five steals and three blocks, both career highs.
The defense was the key for the Red & Blue as Bruno was held to 38% shooting overall, including 28% from beyond the arc with Anderson and Hunsaker going a combined 6-for-22 (27%). Most important for the Quakers was the fact that the Bears, seventh in the Ivy League in three-point shooting, were forced to put up more threes than they would have preferred. In its earlier 75-63 win at the Palestra, Brown took 75% of its shots from inside the arc but only managed 48% Saturday.
In addition, Penn won the battle of the boards by 9% and captured a huge 17 offensive rebounds, leading the visitors to nine more attempts than the Bears.
Hunsaker and Anderson, playing in their last home game, scored 21 and 14 points, respectively. Their 35 total was good but a far cry from their combined 52 points in the first game of this series. Choh turned in a stat-stuffing performance with 20 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.
A loss by Penn would have given the Bears a season sweep and effectively ended the year for the Quakers since Bruno would have held the Ivy Tournament head-to-head tiebreak advantage. The win now gives the Red & Blue a split and both teams are tied at 6-6, one game ahead of sixth place Dartmouth with two games left on the schedule.
While there are scenarios in which each of those three teams could capture the last seed in the upcoming Ivy Tournament, Penn would appear to have the easiest path since seventh-place Cornell (3-9) and eighth-place Columbia (1-11) come to Philadelphia, while Brown travels to second-place Harvard (9-3) and Dartmouth and the surging Big Green, winners of five straight, welcome first-place Yale (10-2) on Friday before the showdown with Bruno to end the regular season.
Penn doesn’t control its own destiny, because it would no longer hold the tiebreaker with Brown if the Bears beat Harvard Friday and Yale gets swept at Dartmouth and Harvard. Penn holds the tiebreaker by virtue of having a better record against the league’s current top seed (1-1 against Yale versus Brown’s 0-2 mark).
Of course, this is Penn (and the Ivy League), so anything is possible.