Penn Quakers tumble in overtime to the Princeton Tigers

Dec 2, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pennsylvania Quakers head coach Steve Donahue in a game against the Navy Midshipmen at Palestra. Navy won 65-59. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pennsylvania Quakers head coach Steve Donahue in a game against the Navy Midshipmen at Palestra. Navy won 65-59. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Two teams with storied history’s clashed in the Ivy League tournament as the number four seeded Penn Quakers were pitted against the top-seeded Princeton Tigers.

The Penn Quakers lost a heartbreaker to the Princeton Tigers in overtime 72-64. The heroics from Ryan Betley wasn’t enough for the Quakers as he scored 18 points and added 12 rebounds en route to a double-double.

The energy could be felt in the Palestra from the moment that the ball tipped in the air as Penn hasn’t been involved in a game of this magnitude in a while. The Princeton Tigers traveled en mass hoping to cancel out the home court advantage for the Quakers but it didn’t matter in the early going as the Quakers were feeding off of the energy in the arena and the lack of expectations surrounding them today.

When asked about what the atmosphere at the Palestra was like today, coach Donahue said,

"“We’ve had incredible fan support since I got here. Today, these guys played at such a high intense level, playing the game the right way, both teams. But the appreciation of a good contingent from both schools just on their feet the whole game and the level of excitement. To be ahead and working through the adversity we had was a great moment.”"

From the opening tip, Ryan Betley and the Quakers were feeling it. It was clear that one team was playing to win this while the other was playing not to lose. It doesn’t help that Princeton went undefeated in league play this year meaning that in any other year, they’d be preparing for a trip to the NCAA tournament. But this isn’t any other year, and whether you agree with the tournament and it being at the Palestra or not, teams must be prepared for what they’re about to face.

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They may have been prepared for facing Penn but Princeton wasn’t prepared to guard Betley in the first half as he led all scorers with 12 points on a 5-5 shooting line while adding seven rebounds. The freshman went beast mode and locked in, doing it all for the Quakers. Combine that with Matt Howard also providing firepower from behind the arc in the first half and it should come as no surprise that the Penn Quakers ended the first half with a 33-30 advantage over the Tigers.

The real winner in the half was the Penn Quakers defense as they forced eight Princeton turnovers. Princeton is a team that is normally tough on defense and careful with the ball on offense. They seemed to forget the latter in the first half.

In the second stanza of this match. the Penn Quakers roared to a 7-0 run in order to take their largest lead of the game at ten. Then the sleeping Tigers decided that it was time to wake up get into the game. The Tigers ripped off a 13-3 run of their own to cut Penn’s advantage to only one. After that, it looked more like a battle of two heavyweights than a match in which one team barely snuck in.

A quick look at the atmosphere in the Palestra today:

The Penn Quakers had a tough end to regulation as they went almost four minutes without a field goal. The Quakers had a chance to win the game in regulation as Matt Howard missed two free throws that could have put Penn ahead. On their last offensive possession, the tigers were able to grab two offensive rebounds and eventually finish at the rim. This sent the game into overtime where momentum favored the veteran Tigers.

The Penn Quakers started overtime 0-6 while the Tigers took their first lead of the game while also taking the game with it. In overtime, the Penn Quakers were outscored 13 to five as they just weren’t able to keep up with the Tigers. While this result doesn’t speak to how close this game was, it does show that the future is bright for the Quakers as three freshmen started the game and played heavy minutes today.

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They’ll be back to play another year and the Quakers will look to be involved in the next installment of the Ivy League tournament, wherever that may be. But for now, it’s time to go home, reflect on how great it was to make it here and prepare for next season.