MEN’S BASKETBALL: Brodeur, Penn overshadow Swain’s three-point record in 69–61 Yale loss
After a dominant showing at Princeton Friday, the Bulldogs faltered in Philadelphia after climbing back from an early disadvantage. Forward Paul Atkinson ’21 finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
PHILADELPHIA — Guard Azar Swain ’21 made school history Saturday night, hitting a trio of three-pointers to raise his season total to 74, the most any Eli has hit in a single season.
A different record got all the attention.
Penn (13–8, 5–3 Ivy) forward AJ Brodeur, who leads the Ivy League with nine rebounds and 4.9 assists a game, became the school’s all-time leader in field goals by converting seven against Yale (18–6, 6–2) at The Palestra. Three of them came from beyond the arc, including a dagger that snapped a 58–58 tie, raised Brodeur’s career count to 705 and broke the Quakers’ 67-year-old record, all with less than three minutes to play. It also sparked an 11–3 Penn run, one that continued until the final buzzer and sent the first-place Bulldogs back to New Haven with a 69–61 loss.
Led by 20 points and 10 rebounds from forward Paul Atkinson ’21, Yale overcame an early 10-point deficit before losing its slim advantage in the final five minutes of the game.
“I didn’t think we handled their physicality well to start,” head coach James Jones said. “We adjusted, and we were better in the second half. We didn’t do a good job at making some free throws down the stretch that were really important and taking care of the ball. We did a good job of taking care of the ball most of the game and we turned it over in crucial situations that really hurt us tonight.”
Four of the Elis’ 12 turnovers came in the final five minutes. Another four occurred in the contest’s first five minutes, as Yale lost the ball on three consecutive plays. Penn found the bottom of the net on the other end each time, scoring six of their first eight points off turnovers.
The Quakers led 8–0 until forward Jordan Bruner ’20 hit a three-pointer. 80 seconds passed, Brodeur converted a look in the paint and Yale found itself down 10, 13–3, in what would be the largest Penn lead of the game.
The Elis started shooting four-for-21 from the field, but a string of three-pointers helped them decrease the deficit. Swain, who entered the game with 71 on the season, tied Ed Petersen’s (‘92) 28-year record with a deep conversion to make it 15–9 — he held up one finger on his run back to play defense, as Yale earned three straight stops to set up a triple from guard Matthue Cotton ’22.
Threes kept the Penn lead contained as the Quakers restricted Atkinson early. The junior forward, whose field goal percentage ranks second in the conference, shot an atypical three-for-nine in the frame, converting his first field goal over thirteen minutes into the half.
“We missed a lot of shots that we usually make,” Swain said. “Other than that I think we could’ve played a little stronger, mentally in a few different areas. We had a few lapses during the game that cost us, mainly us on the defensive end. But as far as the offensive end, we missed a lot of shots that we usually make.”
Brodeur typically guarded Atkinson alone in the paint, though Penn also occasionally double-teamed the Yale big upon his receipt of the ball in the post. The Elis learned to take advantage of the tactic — late in the half, guard August Mahoney ’23 worked the ball to Atkinson down low, who returned the rock to his teammate seconds later. Mahoney’s man had rushed to help defend Atkinson, and the first year sunk a three-pointer in the corner.
Yale collected 14 boards on the offensive glass Saturday, a season-high for games with Division I opponents. Two momentous rebounds helped the Bulldogs capture their first lead of the evening with three minutes to go in the frame. Mahoney scooped the first one in stride, picking up a long rebound near the three-point line before driving in for a well-placed floater, and on the next possession, it was Atkinson, gathering a missed three-pointer from guard Jalen Gabbidon ’21 to put Yale up, 20–19.
A quick finish from Atkinson on an inbounds play that occurred with two seconds to go in the frame sent Yale into the break with a 29–27 lead.
“You felt good,” Jones said, reflecting on his mindset at the half. “You felt like you weathered the storm, but I also knew that we expended a lot of energy to get the lead back. That bothered me… what we were gonna have, [the] legs we were gonna have [in the] second half on the second night, what we were gonna have available. I don’t know how much of it was fatigue, but we just didn’t do a good job finishing the game.”
Despite giving up quick baskets to Swain and captain and guard Eric Monroe ’20, Penn emerged confidently. Forward Max Martz knocked down a triple before guard Devon Goodman cut to the hoop and finished a layup to tie the score at 33.
For much of the remaining 16 minutes, the teams traded baskets. Atkinson largely regained his rhythm, scoring 11 in the period on four-of-five shooting.
“We watched a lot of his film on his moves,” Brodeur said. “To be honest, when I was guarding him one-on-one, I see a lot of the things I do in what he does is in terms of how many pivots he does. He’s always changing speeds, changing directions. It’s really tough to guard. Offensively in the post, I always feel like when I have it that I have that advantage of the defender not knowing what I’m going to do, but then when I’m playing against a guy like that it’s almost like he’s using that against me. I’m always having to guess what he’s going to do next.”
Meanwhile, Penn emerged from the break with a three-point epiphany. The Quakers converted seven of their 15 second-half attempts, receiving three from Martz, two from Brodeur and two from guard Eddie Scott, who came off the bench to score a season-high 18. Before Saturday, Brodeur had shot one-for-15 from deep during Ivy League play, while Scott had not made a triple.
Swain hit two from deep in the half, breaking the record with 7:16 to play on a shot that gave Yale a 49–47 lead.
“It’s hard to take it in right now because of the game, [the] loss,” Swain said. “It’s kind of crazy to think about, just a long history. It’s been a record for a while. I knew I would have a bigger opportunity coming into this year where I would have a chance to do great things and leave my mark in certain ways, but it’s just a lot of work, it’s been a lot of patience, just meeting the opportunity, and it’s great to have that.”
With a little over five minutes to play, he sunk another, his third of the game on a sub-average shooting night, to give the Bulldogs a 56–53 lead. Atkinson made a layup on the next possession, offering the Elis their largest lead of the game with under five minutes to play.
Before Saturday, Yale was 16–1 when leading with five minutes to play, but turnovers and four consecutive missed shots surrendered their five-point lead. Penn launched an 11–0 run following Atkinson’s finish, a streak highlighted by back-to-back three-pointers from Brodeur and Scott that gave the Quakers a 64–58 advantage.
Penn, who entered Saturday tied with Harvard in fourth, played the final stretch like a team intent on defending its Ivy Madness hopes and ultimately secured the 69–61 win in front of 3,856 satisfied Quaker fans.
“We’re in first place, the same way we started the weekend,” Jones said. “We’re still there. If we win out, we will reach our goal, and that’s the idea.”
Yale continues its four-game road trip with a trip to Cornell and Columbia next weekend.
William McCormack | firstname.lastname@example.org