Penn beats Brown for a share of Ivy regular-season title

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Penn’s Ryan Betley pumps his fist as Penn pulls away from St. Joseph’s late in the game at the Palestra on Jan 27.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown had come out after halftime and hit a couple of quick shots. Maybe this was not over. Maybe Penn wasn’t on some glide path to Ivy glory Saturday at the Pizzitola Sports Center.

Then Ryan Betley caught another pass, took another shot.

Penn’s 47-31 halftime lead had been fueled by Betley’s 16 points. The Quakers sophomore guard had gotten started right away, hitting threes on Penn’s first two possessions. He never cooled down, finishing with 30 points, leading the Quakers to a 99-93 victory, as they withstood a late Brown scoring spree.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher. A share of Penn’s first Ivy League regular-season title since 2006-07 was on the line. Penn’s victory guaranteed the Quakers that spot, with Harvard hosting Columbia an hour later, the Crimson needing a win to get their share. They got it.

The Quakers and Crimson split the title, and Harvard will be the top seed next Saturday in the Ivy League tournament, by virtue of sweeping third-place Yale, which will play the Quakers in the semifinals. Cornell grabbed the fourth spot and will face Harvard.

A brutal last-second loss Friday at Yale had no lingering impact on Quakers players, who have spent their careers playing Ivy back-to-backs, and came out hot, making 7 of 9 three-pointers in the first half.

“I gave myself that night after Yale to be mad at myself,” said Betley, who had been one of the Penn players who missed late free throws in the one-point loss. “Disappointed. I just try to have a short-term memory loss. You play so many games, there’s no point in getting down on yourself. Each game is so important. You just have to be mentally ready for every game. The physical side can be worn down, but the mental side’s has to be there.”

A late Brown spree had cut a Penn lead that had been 88-72 with 3:23 left to 90-83 with a minute left, but, unlike the night before, the Quakers made their late free throws to provide the necessary cushion, with senior Darnell Foreman making six straight, scoring 16 points.

“It feels good going to the stripe today, knocking them down, having my teammate’s confidence,” Foreman said.

Caleb Wood, a sharpshooter in sharp form, added 18 points as four Quakers reached double figures in scoring. Penn made 11 of the 18 three-point attempts.

The win pushed Penn’s record to 22-8 and 12-2 in the Ivy League. Under Steve Donahue, Penn has gone from 11-17 to 13-15 to this in his three seasons.