In a shockingly close finish on Saturday afternoon, the Penn alumni game ended in a tie, 67-67
The Red and Blue teams were tied at 65 in the final minute when Tim Krug (C' 96) made a shot to put the Blue team up two. The Red team quickly responded with a two of their own from Brian Grandieri (C' 08).
So with the game tied in the final seconds, Krug drew a foul and went to the line for two free throws. Unfortunately, he succumbed to pressure, missing both free throws, including an air ball on his first attempt. He made up for it on defense with a steal to preserve the tie.
“Historically, I’ve been a poor free throw shooter,” Krug said. “Being out of shape and at the foul line at the end of the game, being a bad free throw shooter, isn’t the best place to be.”
The Blue team (0-0-1) led for much of the contest thanks to some strong jump shooting early from multiple players, including Joe Gill (C' 08), who hit two early three pointers.
With the team behind early, the Red team (0-0-1) resorted to the worst of basketball’s vices: cherry-picking. Penn coach Jerome Allen and Stan Greene (C' 78) failed to get back on defense in order to get the glory of an easy layup on the other end.
Allen faced off against assistant Ira Bowman (W '96) with multiple members of the current Penn men’s basketball team watching the game. Both players abandoned their team shortly after halftime to focus on playing Cornell.
The Red team’s cherry-picking strategy worked, as the red team, with Greene at the point, staged a comeback, cutting the Blue team’s lead from double digits to just three right before the half.
The second half was shortened to just 15 minutes, helping the older players on each side. When the final buzzer sounded, both teams were surprisingly cordial after the close finish.
“I didn’t even really know games could end in ties, one of the Donovan McNabb quotes,” Red team star Mark Zoller (C '07) said. “It was just to get out here and have fun. Nobody got hurt, which was the most important thing.”
Both teams struggled from the free throw line throughout the game and strong ball handling was not on display, as both teams turned the ball over often.
Additionally, the game featured unusual and untimely substitutions, as teams would switch players while bringing the ball up the court. One of the keys to the blue team’s early success was their bench, including Brennan Votel (C '09) and Justin Reilly (W '10).
“I was winded, a little out of shape,” Votel said. “I shot when I was open, and that was pretty much all I contributed to the team.”
Despite the thrilling finish, the crowd was strongly disappointed by Rob Belcore’s absence from the game. The 2012 graduate attended the game, but did not play. However, he was honored at halftime of the Cornell game later that evening.
The players on the court provided the Palestra faithful with a look back throughout Penn history. Although many of the players came from the past decade, the team’s combined to display over four decades of Penn basketball on the court at once.
“There’s so much history on the court,” 2010 graduate Drew Godwin said. “So many players went to the NCAA tournament, so it’s awesome just to talk to them and see how they’re doing.”
Godwin summed up the thoughts of everyone at the Penn alumni game about the tie.
“All of us are competitors, so we’re kind of like ‘Really, do we have to end in a tie?’ but it is only right. We are one big family. We were all competitive but we are all part of Penn’s team."