PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Darnell Foreman scored 19 points, AJ Brodeur had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Penn earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007 with a 68-65 win over Harvard in the Ivy League Tournament title game Sunday.
Ryan Betley added 17 points for the Quakers (24-8), who will be making their 24th appearance in the NCAAs.
Senior Caleb Wood, a junior college transfer, drilled two straight 3-pointers, getting fouled on the second, to put Penn ahead 63-60 with 3:42 remaining. Betley followed with a 3-point play, before Harvard’s Christian Juzang pulled the Crimson to 66-63 with a 3-pointer with 47.6 seconds to go.
Harvard trimmed Penn’s lead to 66-65 on two Justin Bassey foul shots with 14.6 seconds left. But after Betley hit two free throws, Bassey and Juzang both missed potentially game-tying threes in the final seconds, and Penn fans stormed the court for a celebration a decade in the making.
Chris Lewis led Harvard (18-13) with 16 points, while Bassey had 15 and Seth Towns, the league’s player of the year, finished with 13.
Harvard and Penn proved to be the top two teams in the Ivies this year after sharing the regular-season title with 12-2 conference records and then dominating Cornell and Yale, respectively, in Saturday’s Ivy League Tournament semifinal games.
And after splitting their two regular-season meetings, both teams traded punches like heavyweight fighters in front of a packed crowd at the Palestra, Penn’s home gym.
Fueled by a 16-0 run in which Penn was held scoreless for seven minutes, Harvard led 30-17 with five minutes left in the first half. That’s when the Quakers turned things around, closing the first half on a 17-2 run capped by a Foreman 3-pointer right before the buzzer. Foreman, who sprinted right into the locker room as the Palestra crowd went wild, scored his 19 points all in the first half.
The Quakers continued to surge after the break, with sophomore standouts Brodeur and Betley combining to score the first 11 points of the first half to put the Quakers ahead 45-32 and complete a 28-2 run spanning halves.
Trailing by 10 midway through the second half, Harvard reeled off a 13-0 run to take a 58-55 lead, sparked by 3-point plays from Bassey and Juzang.
Once a staple of the NCAA Tournament, Penn went to the tourney seven times between 1999 and 2007 before falling on hard times, due in large part to the rise of Harvard.
Harvard: Despite Sunday’s result, the Crimson continue to be the class of the Ivies with Tommy Amaker at the helm, having won six Ivy League championships since 2011 with NCAA Tournament wins in 2013 and 2014.
Penn: The Quakers have made a speedy turnaround under third-year coach Steve Donahue. And with only two key players graduating and several underclassmen returning from injury, they should be poised to remain at the top of the Ivies next season and beyond.
Harvard receives an automatic berth in the NIT by virtue of its top seed in the Ivies.
Penn is headed to the NCAA Tournament.