Three takeaways from Penn men’s overtime win at Lafayette

Penn junior guard Jordan Dingle gave his team a pivotal lift early in the extra frame of the Quakers’ 74-68 win in overtime at Lafayette Tuesday. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

Penn needed to work overtime to pick up its second win of the season on Tuesday, downing Lafayette 74-68 after an extra five-minute frame.

The end result was probably far closer than the Quakers (2-4) would have liked. Penn had a 10-point lead with five minutes left to play but stalled out on offense at the worst possible time, letting Mike Jordan’s Leopards (1-5) back into the game as the former Penn Ivy Player of the Year sought his first home win as their new coach.

Once in overtime, Jordan Dingle took over for Penn. The junior guard swiped the ball from Lafayette’s CJ Fulton in the first possession of overtime for a breakaway layup, and the Quakers never looked back.

Dingle scored nine of Penn’s 14 points in overtime, including its first seven.

The Quakers will have two days of rest before playing three home games in three days in the inaugural Cathedral Classic multi-team event at the Palestra. Penn will begin the round robin with a Friday matchup against Hartford, a program in the process of dropping to Division III which it will be favored to destroy.

What can Penn fans take away from last night’s game ahead of a busy weekend?

1. Max Martz is rounding into form.

Martz, a 6-foot-6 junior, looked like his usual hyper-efficient self on Tuesday and finished the evening with 18 points on 11 shots.

Martz was generally unguardable when backing down in the post and hit his patented turnaround jumper again and again. Martz shot 6-for-7 from two-point range.

Through six games, Martz is posting numbers in line with the high bar he set for himself in 2021-22. Per KenPom, Penn is scoring 117.6 points per 100 possessions with Martz on the floor. The team scored 118.8 points per 100 possessions with Martz on the floor last year.

Martz also looked comfortable on the defensive end, both inside and on the perimeter.

It was strange to see Martz get just 14 minutes off the bench in Penn’s season opener against Iona. Now, it looks like he’s seized a starter’s role.

2. Jonah Charles is finding different ways to contribute.

At this point in Charles’ career, opponents know that the senior guard is a catch-and-shoot three-point specialist and usually look to deny him when he is on the floor.

The question for Charles is what he can do in response.

Tuesday, Charles showed that he doesn’t need to put up eight or nine shots a game to justify his minutes. He grabbed five rebounds, including a crucial offensive board off a missed Max Martz free throw midway through the second half.

With just under eight minutes to go in the game, Charles snagged the ball as it sailed left, then smartly swung the ball outside to guard Clark Slajchert. Slajchert made an extra pass to Martz, who drained a wide-open three to extend Penn’s lead to 51-43. Charles deserves credit for a hockey assist on the play.

Plays like that are why Charles posted a team-best KenPom offensive rating of 203 points per 100 possessions during his 27 minutes of action. He did not play at all against Drexel and got just 12 minutes of run at West Virginia.

As for the three-point shooting? Charles hit two out of his three long-range attempts on Tuesday. Charles is still shooting just 29.6% from distance on 27 shots, but that number will inevitably progress to something more in line with the 39% clip Charles posted last season.

3. There are some green shoots on defense.

The advanced analytics numbers on Penn’s defense continue to look ugly.

The Quakers generate turnovers on just 12.5% of opponents’ possessions. Only six teams in all of Division I are forcing turnovers less frequently.

They are also allowing opponents to shoot a ton of three-pointers. Roughly 44.8% of opponents’ shot attempts against Penn have come from long range. That makes the Quakers 320th out of 363 teams in limiting three-point attempts.

Despite those systemic issues, the Quakers could take away some real positives from Tuesday’s game. They held Lafayette below a point per possession (the Leopards finished Tuesday scoring 0.97 points per possession). They won the rebounding battle, 43-37.

Most notably, they finished with a positive turnover margin for the first time all season, committing eight giveaways to Lafayette’s 10.

Anecdotally, it looked as if the Quakers generally communicated well on the defensive end Tuesday. They forced Lafayette into taking a large number of mid-range shots and contested three-pointers.

It is not a coincidence that Penn’s only two victories this season have been the two games it has held opponents below one point per possession.

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