With a dominant second half led by AJ Brodeur, Penn beat Cornell, 78-64, Friday night at the Palestra. But the Quakers still aren’t in the Ivy League tournament yet, thanks to Brown’s 64-55 upset of Harvard in Boston.
Penn (15-11, 7-6 Ivy league) led 35-32 at halftime, and would have led by a lot more had it not let Cornell shoot just shy of 50 percent from the field.
Cornell (6-20, 3-10) tied the score, 37-37, early in the second half, then Penn went on a 12-3 run. The Quakers built their lead up to 55-44 with 12 minutes, 13 seconds remaining, and were set from there.
Brodeur led Penn with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. He’s now 16 points away from breaking Ernie Beck’s all-time program scoring record of 1,827, which Beck set in three years (and without a three-point line).
Freshman Max Martz and Jordan Dingle scored 12 each, and Ryan Betley had 11.
Terrance McBride led Cornell with 22 points and 5 rebounds.
“After we lost those two to Princeton, I kind of knew this was going to happen. Here we go again." — Penn coach Steve Donahue.
“I feel like our best selves come out when the season truly is on the line, when we’re truly playing desperately. ... It’s easy to say something like that when it’s not and you’re trying to play like it is, but when it really is, that’s when real character starts to show.” — Brodeur.
After four months of so many unexpected results, of course there would be one more plot twist with Brown’s upset win.
All the Quakers have to do to clinch the tournament berth is beat Columbia on Saturday. But in this season when so little has gone as expected, you can’t even guarantee a win over the Ivy League’s cellar dweller (6-23, 1-12 Ivy). The Lions took Harvard to double overtime in Boston on Feb. 15.
With the exception of Bryce Washington, who broke a wrist at the turn of the new year, this is the same Penn team that beat Alabama, Providence and Central Florida, then lost at home to Princeton, St. Joseph’s, Dartmouth and Brown. The Quakers have been inconsistent all season, especially in last weekend’s 76-73 loss to Yale when Penn held a 10-point lead with 1:40 left in the game.
Now the Quakers have a winning streak for the first time since the five-game run in late January and early February that saved their season at the time.
It won’t look terrible if Penn finishes 8-6 in conference play, including a home win over Yale on Feb. 15 that showed their current potential. If they punch their ticket to Boston on Saturday, at this point they won’t complain about how they did it.