Penn’s Monday night matchup against Hartford was a lopsided risk-reward proposition.
A win would mean nothing to the Quakers’ postseason ambitions, while a road loss to the second-worst team in Division I (Hartford entered the game 362nd out of 363 teams in KenPom) would have been one of the worst defeats in program history.
After a bit of a dicey start, Penn turned on the jets and left the Hawks behind, 76-52. The nonconference win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Quakers (10-11).
Penn fell behind early, 19-11, and allowed Hartford (4-17) to start out shooting 8-for-10 from the field. But after coach Steve Donahue made a hockey-style line change, the Quakers’ reserves sparked a 26-9 run over the rest of the first half.
Junior guard Jordan Dingle got a lot more action in this matchup against Hartford than he did in the Quakers’ 75-55 win over the Hawks at the Palestra back in November, in which he played just 18 minutes. Dingle poured in 23 points in 28 minutes on Monday, right in line with his season average.
His performance was one of many happy Quakeaways from the victory.
1. Jordan Dingle’s outside shooting looked excellent.
Dingle’s inconsistency from deep has been one of the few knocks anyone can put on the Quakers’ best player.
It was heartening to see him hit four threes on eight attempts on Monday, marking his second consecutive contest with at least four made three-pointers. Dingle’s shot selection looked excellent, and he would have finished 4-for-7 if not for him being forced to put one up late in the shot clock through a sideline trap after the game had been decided.
Dingle hit six threes on 11 attempts in Penn’s losing effort against Yale on Saturday. Monday marked the first time he has shot at least 50% from three in consecutive games since his freshman year.
The Quakers will likely need Dingle to will them to a few conference victories down the stretch this season. Consistent outside shooting from the Valley Stream, N.Y. native makes that task a little less intimidating.
2. Max Martz is on fire.
Martz, a junior forward from Upper Arlington, Ohio, is on pace to have the most efficient season ever put together by a Penn player in the Steve Donahue era.
On Monday, Martz finished with a KenPom offensive rating of 207 points per 100 possessions, the best of any Penn player. He hit five threes on seven attempts.
Overall, Martz has put up a total KenPom offensive rating of 125 points per 100 possessions, which is good for 70th out of the 2,256 players in Division I who have played enough minutes to qualify for ranking.
Penn has never had a player in the Steve Donahue era finish inside the KenPom top 100 for total offensive efficiency. The last Red and Blue player to finish inside the top 100 was Ibby Jaaber, who finished 57th out of 2,048 eligible players in the 2005-06 season.
Martz’s game passes the eye test as well. He is an excellent backdown scorer when isolated in the low block and does a great job of moving off the ball to set himself up for catch-and-shoots in both the halfcourt and transition.
Penn is very fortunate that both Martz and Dingle withdrew from school in the 2020-21 to ensure that they could be eligible to play four full seasons as Quakers.
3. The Hartford matchup creates some interesting scheduling ideas.
The most interesting thing about Monday’s matchup was that it happened at all, frankly.
Penn played Hartford, which is in the process of dropping to Division III, because Steve Donahue is friends with Hartford’s now-former coach, John Gallagher.
Gallagher, of course, resigned his position the day before Hartford’s season started. The former Penn assistant accused the university of starving the program of resources and claimed that Hartford did not provide an athletic trainer for a closed scrimmage against Dartmouth.
Donahue and Gallagher are both part of the “Motley Crew,” a group of basketball coaches that compare detailed notes about Xs and Os. Other members of the crew include San Jose State head coach Tim Miles and Oklahoma head coach Porter Moser.
Despite what some Penn fans on various message boards may think of his performance, Donahue is widely respected by his peers in the coaching community. The Quakers can lean on his stature and relationships as they look to build their future nonconference schedules.
Why can’t Penn go play San Jose State — 132nd in KenPom this year — as part of a California swing to give Clark Slajchert games in front of his family next season? Why not ask Porter Moser for a 2-for-1 or for Oklahoma to participate in the Cathedral Classic?
Wherever Gallagher ends up, that program could wind up being a scheduling option for Penn down the line, as well.