A night after suffering one of the most disappointing results in program history, the University of Pennsylvania rebounded with its most consequential win in at least five years in an unbelievably dramatic finish.
Sophomore Jackson Donahue drained a three-pointer with 6.3 seconds left to clinch the Quakers a spot in the inaugural four-team Ivy League Tournament with a 75-72 upset win over Harvard at the Palestra, shaking off a 76-74 loss to 7-20 Dartmouth. The tournament will be held on Penn's home floor next Saturday with the Red and Blue facing rival Princeton.
Penn had the ball with the game tied at 72 after an incredible second half. Freshman Devon Goodman came off a screen and dished it to Donahue, who hit the most important shot for Penn in years.
It was clear from the opening tip which team was more desperate. Penn raced out to a 19-11 lead thanks to 11 early points from senior Matt Howard, fittingly on Senior Night. The Crimson responded by locking the Quakers down defensively, holding them to just 36 percent shooting before the break and taking a 35-31 lead into halftime.
After halftime, the Quakers came out hot with a 10-2 run but were soon locked in a back-and-forth affair. Harvard got back the lead and stretched it to as many as six thanks in large part to center Zena Edosomwan's efforts in the post. The senior threw down some thunderous dunks and finished with 15 points.
But Penn would not falter with its season on the line. Down 57-51 with 8:22 to go, the Quakers threw the Palestra into a frenzy with a 14-4 run behind Howard and freshman center A.J. Brodeur. Harvard senior Siyani Chambers continued to help match Penn shot for shot.
Bryce Aiken drained two free throws to tie the game, leading to Donahue's shot. The three was Donahue's only make of the game.
Howard finished with a game-high 24 points while Brodeur had 15 points. Freshman Ryan Betley had 10 as well.
With the win, Penn improves to 13-14 (6-8 Ivy) and finishes in fourth place in the conference. Harvard finishes second with an 18-8 (10-3) record. Despite little to play for other than pride, the Crimson played with passion and were clearly intent on denying the Quakers a tournament bid.
Before Penn even got to halftime, Cornell had defeated Brown, 92-78, and Princeton obliterated Dartmouth, 85-48. Thanks to these results, a Penn win was all the Quakers needed to make the Ivy League Tournament over Columbia based on the tiebreakers. Columbia lost to Yale later Saturday, making the tiebreakers meaningless.
On the women's side
Penn women's basketball defeated Harvard in Cambridge, 64-46, to clinch its second straight Ivy League regular season title.
Penn holds a 131-41 lead in its meetings with Harvard. However, the Crimson have won 14 of the last 19, including six of the last eight.
Penn and Harvard both return to the Palestra next Saturday for the Ivy League Tournament. No. 4 Penn will face No. 1 Princeton, which defeated the Quakers twice this season while No. 2 Harvard squares off with No. 3 Yale, which lost both meetings with the Crimson.
The winners of both games face in Sunday's tournament final.