The “Penn”dulum swings, and the Palestra does too: Penn defeats Harvard to clinch first NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years

Penn basketball is back to the Big Dance.

The Red & Blue ended an 11-year absence from the NCAA Tournament by coming out on top in a see-saw Ivy League Tournament final at the Palestra Sunday, besting No. 1 Harvard, 68-65.

No. 2 Penn ended the game on a 13-7 run in the final 4:49, the decisive run in a game full of ups and downs for both teams. taking a 66-60 lead into the final minute before hanging on with two final Ryan Betley free throws with 11 seconds left that upped Penn’s lead to the final score. Two would-be game-tying three-point attempts from Justin Bassey and Christian Juzang missed the mark, and a partisan Penn crowd stormed the Palestra floor:


Penn had held a 48-35 lead with 14:06 to play and maintained a double-digit lead with under eight minutes left, but Bassey and Juzang willed Harvard back from the foul line and the three-point line, with Chris Lewis converting inside after a 3-for-10 shooting start.

Poor shooting helped put the Quakers in a 32-21 hole with just under three minutes to go in the first half.

Then Penn exploded, reeling off a 24-0 run that spanned both halves, besting Harvard’s previous 13-0 run in the first stanza. Both teams’ win probabilities took a roller-coaster ride throughout:

The lid came off the basket for Steve Donahue’s team, led by senior guard Darnell Foreman, who capped off his 19 first-half points with a contested stepback three to beat the halftime buzzer and give Penn an improbable 34-32 lead heading into the second stanza.

Foreman did not score in the second half but didn’t have to, as Betley, Caleb Wood and AJ Brodeur picked up the offensive slack down the stretch, with Wood going on an 8-0 run himself to seize the lead back from Harvard for good with 3:43 to go.

Brodeur posted 16 points and 10 rebounds and was named the Ivy League Tournament Most Outstanding Player for his back-to-back double-doubles in the tourney, having notched 25 points and 10 boards in Penn’s 80-57 semifinal win over Yale Saturday.

Already missing 2016-17 All-Ivy first-teamer Bryce Aiken due to injury, Harvard had to play the final 8:20 versus Penn without this season’s Ivy Player of the Year Seth Towns, who was in visible pain after falling in the paint amid a drive to the basket. Towns registered 13 points in 24 minutes before leaving the game. Lewis led the Crimson in scoring with 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting to go along with four rebounds, three assists and four turnovers, while Bassey notched 15 points and eight rebounds in a Harvard-leading 36 minutes.

Harvard made four of its first six three-point attempts but canned just three of its final 12.

Penn and Harvard were both Ivy League regular season champions after each finished 12-2 in Ivy play, with Harvard claiming the No. 1 seed with a better record against the highest Ivy seed outside their tie (Yale).

But Penn took full advantage of the friendly Palestra scene, making big shots inside and out down the stretch and making history along the way: