The #4 seeded Penn Quakers came into Payne Whitney Gymnasium upset-minded for the Ivy League semifinals against the top-seeded Harvard Crimson in the first of two Saturday afternoon men’s games.
The Quakers, who dropped both regular season contests vs Harvard, had every reason to come in motivated and did just that. A 14-4 run opened up the action for Penn who dominated early defensively and behind the 3 point line.
As expected, junior forward AJ Brodeur lead the way for Penn the majority of the first half. Brodeur was unanimously named to his second straight All-Ivy League team after posting 17.4 points per game during the regular season, good for second in the conference.
AJ is an alumnus of Northfield Mount Hermon, a western Massachusetts basketball power that also prides itself on academic accomplishment. There are seven other school alumni on Men’s Ivy League rosters including Brodeur’s teammates Jackson Donahue and Colin McManus.
Brodeur had 13 points and 6 rebounds in the first half, showcasing his ability to score from all over the floor and causing matchup issues for Harvard’s defense.
Harvard was able to battle back to a 2-point halftime lead with a strong run that was capitalized by a Noah Kirkwood three at the four-minute mark for the Crimson’s first lead.
Harvard struggled to shoot the long ball in their overtime season finale against Columbia and saw more of the same in the first half against Penn. Their 3-12 mark from three-point land was offset by a hard-earned 9-11 attempts from the free throw line compared to just 0-1 for Penn.
Penn came out in the second half energized on defense and held Harvard scoreless for the first four minutes before a Danilo Djuricic three took the lid off the basket. On offense, they went with their talented big man to carry the load down the stretch.
Brodeur is a load inside offensively and it can be very difficult to contain him once he gets proper positioning inside. Guarding him requires constant, early defensive work, Any lapses will result in a foul, a bucket, or both.
Brodeur was a unanimous All-Ivy selection this season and will come into next season looking to be amongst the best bigs in the country. Keep an eye on him as a Summer League/second round NBA draft player to watch in 2020. pic.twitter.com/osZpnN2mvr
— Kirk (@jkirk41) March 16, 2019
Despite strong play from Brodeur, Penn fell to a more aggressive Harvard team that just kept finding a way to get inside and force their way to the line ending the game 15-19 from the line taking advantage of slow Quaker feet.
Brodeur finished 25 points and 10 rebounds, marking his 25th straight double-digit game. He made it clear afterward that the defeat would only provide motivation.
“As soon as we get back we’re just going to start regrouping. We’re going to let that fuel the fire for what makes us hungry for the next Ivy League ship.”