Penn began Friday night’s game playing like a team angry about last year’s three painful losses to Harvard.
The Quakers forced five early turnovers and built a double-digit lead before the first media timeout at the Palestra. Missing a shot was not an option. Every attempt felt destined to score during the first five minutes.
But Harvard (13-5, 2-1 Ivy League) wasn’t going to let it be that easy. The Crimson forced overtime, but the Quakers finished the game the same way they started for a 75-72 win.
With 4 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the second half, Harvard hit a three to tie the game. Penn had led for more than 34 of the first 35-plus minutes.
But every time Harvard tied it, Penn (9-7, 1-2 ) had an answer.
With 1:02 remaining, Penn’s AJ Brodeur attempted a reverse layup and was fouled. He made two free throws and got a steal on Harvard’s next possession.
But the Crimson had answers, too. Harvard got a defensive stop, and Noah Kirkwood made a layup with 1.7 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Penn shot 6-for-7 in overtime and owned a six-point lead with 13 seconds left. Harvard’s Justin Bassey knocked down a three and was fouled. After a missed free throw, Kirkwood grabbed the rebound but missed a three to tie the game with six seconds left.
Ryan Betley‘s three-point sharpshooting led to 11 first-half points for Penn. He finished with 17 points, including 3-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
Brodeur played his best in the second half and overtime. He constantly drove from the top of the key, used his fancy footwork to show off an array of post moves, and dropped off nice passes to cutting teammates. The senior forward finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
Penn shot 49.1% compared to Harvard’s 36.3%. The Crimson stayed close thanks to a 21-5 advantage on the offensive glass.
“I thought we really executed early. That was the key,” said Penn coach Steve Donahue.
“Devon [Goodman] and Jordan [Dingle] are consistently two of the quickest guys in the gym,” Brodeur said. “When I catch it in the post and heads turn for a split second, they take full advantage of that and cut to the hoop.”
“I admire the competitiveness that this group has,” Donahue said.
The win snaps Harvard’s three-game winning streak against the Quakers. It also gave the Quakers their first conference win and Harvard its first Ivy loss.
Penn’s bench was outscored, 18-3. Donahue said the pace ”gassed” his players, but they were still able to finish strong. Four of the five starters played 35 or more minutes.