A night after a loss to Brown that could have derailed the season, Penn rebounded in impressive fashion by upending first-place Yale, 69-61, at the Palestra.
The Quakers (13-8, 5-3) pounded the Bulldogs inside early, scoring 10 of their first 13 points in the paint. Penn led for the first 17 minutes of the half, but Yale (18-6, 6-2) clawed its way to a 20-19 lead when Penn missed five straight shots — four from three-point range. The Bulldogs were ahead, 29-27, at halftime.
Early in the second half, it seemed that Yale might pull away, but Penn tightened its defense and did just enough on offense to keep the game close.
Yale led 58-53 with 4:48 left, thanks to some big baskets by star big man Paul Atkinson. Penn scored the game’s next 11 points, including back-to-back threes by AJ Brodeur and Eddie Scott, and made just enough free throws in the last minute to seal the win.
Brodeur’s three broke Ernie Beck’s school record for made field goals in a career. The senior big man now has 705 baskets in his Penn tenure, one more than Beck’s 704.
Brodeur put Penn on his back once again, delivering 19 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 4 steals. Scott had a huge game off the bench, scoring 18 points.
That helped overcome another poor shooting night by guards Jordan Dingle and Devon Goodman: 3-of-13 and 4-of-12 from the field, respectively.
Atkinson led the Bulldogs with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
“I just thought we answered every punch, and that’s what this league and team sports is about. We got answers from different guys — tonight it was Eddie, Max Martz, and obviously AJ does it every night.” — Penn coach Steve Donahue.
“I feel like it means more to [fans] than it does to me, which gives me a greater respect for this program, for the Philadelphia basketball community, knowing how much this team means to them. … It’s really an amazing feeling to hear that type of reception for something that I was just grinding away at, kind of unknowingly, just playing my game.” — Brodeur on breaking Beck’s record.
Along with the immediate dividend in the Ivy League standings, this win could be huge for the end of the season. The first tiebreaker for conference tournament seeding after head-to-head record is record against the best team elsewhere in the league.
Circle Penn’s visit to Brown on Feb. 29. If Penn wins that game and finishes tied in the standings with the Bears, the Penn-Brown season split gives Penn the advantage because Yale swept Brown.
One other observation: Penn ran out just eight players for the second night in a row. Because Donahue has so many injuries to deal with, the only people he sent onto the floor were Brodeur, Dingle, Goodman, Scott, Martz, Jarrod Simmons, Lucas Monroe and Ray Jerome.