No celebration for Penn as Yale wins a thriller

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Caleb Wood, left, and Max Rothschild of Penn urge on the fans during their game against Harvard in the 2nd half of an Ivy League game at the Palestra on Feb. 24, 2018.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Penn Quakers were seconds from wrapping up a share of their first Ivy League regular-season title in over a decade — make that three-tenths of a second.  That was  how much time was left on the clock when Yale hit a layup for a 80-79 stunner Friday night at Payne Whitney Gym.

This one will go down with some of the more painful defeats in Quakers history. Among ways, they lost it by a fingertip, determined in a replay.

Penn goes up I-95 to Brown on Saturday still with a chance to gain at least a share of the regular-season crown, after Harvard beat Cornell in double overtime Friday night to move into a tie with Penn for first place. If both schools win or lose Saturday, Harvard, which hosts Columbia, will take the top seed in next weekend’s Ivy tournament at the Palestra by virtue of sweeping third-place Yale.

That’s what the Quakers, who last won an Ivy title in 2006-07, seemed set to do too, except Penn’s best free-throw shooters missed late free throws. Yale found hoops or trips to the foul line. The drama built, a crescendo in the final seconds ….

Penn twice fouled with a three-point lead, the last time with 3.6 seconds left. Yale tried to miss the second one but swished it. Penn tried to get the ball inbounds but it went out of bounds. Off Yale or Penn? Go to the replay … Yale ball, down by 79-78, with 3.4 seconds left. The layup by Yale’s Paul Atkinson clearly beat the final clock.

Caleb Wood came off Penn’s bench for 21 points, while Darnell Foreman had 21, including two free throws with seven seconds left. AJ Brodeur added 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Yale dominated the boards, getting 15 second-chance points to just two for Penn, negating Penn’s 10 for 20 three-point shooting, led by five from Wood, including three in a row in the first half.

“A crazy game for sure,’’ said Penn coach Steve Donahue after his team fell to 21-8 overall, 11-2 in the Ivies. “I thought we played pretty well, too. That’s the disappointing thing. They beat us to some loose balls, some offensive rebounds. Obviously, we had the lead and couldn’t put it away.”

The Quakers had led by seven points with 2 ½ minutes left and also had been up 12 points 15 minutes into the game.

Penn fans berated the refs when it was over about foul calls. It was the last call that will be remembered. Penn trying to inbounds the ball with 3.4 seconds left. A tip. Which team was it off? Two officials watched replay after replay before conferring and signaling Yale ball.

“He said [a Yale player] did hit it out but it went off his fingertip at the last second,’’ Donahue said.

Yale got the ball inside immediately to Miye Oni, who had scored 23 points. This time he got the assist, finding Atkinson cutting to the hoop, no time for Penn to answer.