Three Quakeaways from Penn men’s Ivy League Tournament semifinal loss to Princeton

Ivy Player of the Year Jordan Dingle’s 19 points and six assists in 37 minutes weren’t enough to push Penn past Princeton in their Ivy League Tournament semifinal clash at Jadwin Gym Saturday. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

PRINCETON, N.J. — Penn and its fans will be replaying the final two minutes of Saturday’s Ivy League Tournament semifinal against Princeton for a long time.

What was setting up to be a thrilling finish ended only in deflation and disappointment, as a late series of critical 50-50 situations all broke the wrong way in a 77-70 loss to the hated Tigers.

Penn had the ball down 71-70 with 90 seconds left when junior guard Jordan Dingle made a pass out of a double team to sophomore forward Nick Spinoso at the top of the key.

Spinoso faked a pass to a cutting Dingle, then tried to spin off Princeton senior forward Keeshawn Kellman in the lane. Kellman flew backwards as if he had been hit by sniper fire, and the officials obliged with a charge call that mystified even the ESPN broadcast team. Penn never had the ball with a chance to take the lead again.

One call, of course, does not define a game. Penn had plenty of self-inflicted wounds on Saturday, one of many dispiriting Quakeaways:

1. Penn did a poor job on the defensive glass in the second half, then got burned when it mattered most.

The Quakers held Princeton to a draw in the rebounding battle in the first half. But Penn surrendered nine offensive rebounds in the second half and finished minus-eight in rebounding margin.

A lot of that was due to Kellman, who had been a nonfactor in the first two Penn-Princeton matchups.

He finished with five offensive rebounds, none bigger than when he corralled a missed and-one free throw attempt from Tigers forward Caden Pierce with 2:45 to play and Princeton up 69-68. The offensive board gave Princeton a four-point possession, as Tigers star forward Tosan Evbuomwan went on to hit a layup to push the Princeton edge to 71-68.

The four-point possession pushed Princeton’s win probability from 55.2% to 80.2%, according to KenPom.

Pierce later took advantage of a critical Penn error in the final minute as the Tigers clung to the aforementioned 71-70 lead.

After a loose-ball possession replay review ended in Princeton’s favor, the Tigers went for the kill with 50 seconds to play by way of a Ryan Langborg three-point attempt. Senior swingman Lucas Monroe left the paint to try and help contest Langborg’s three, which left Pierce totally unimpeded to grab the miss.

2. Jordan Dingle had both a stellar and frustrating game.

Freshly minted as Ivy League Player of the Year, Dingle certainly looked the part for the bulk of Saturday afternoon.

Princeton would run double-teams at Dingle after every ball screen Penn set for its star guard. Dingle, as all great players do, adjusted. Those doubles frequently left a forward — typically Spinoso — open and Dingle made the Tigers pay with smart passing. He finished the day with six assists.

Dingle also had a series of tough finishes through contact, two runout layups off steals and a spectacular alley-oop dunk off a lob from Monroe. Though Dingle finished with 19 points, below his season average of 23, every bucket he made was high-leverage.

That said, there are plenty of moments Dingle will want back. He missed two and-one free throw opportunities, including one that would have put the Quakers up 62-58 with 7:45 to play. He had another decent look at a three that would have given Penn a 71-67 lead with 2:52 to play fall short.

Then, with Penn down three, 73-70, Dingle missed a tough, off-balance three with 14 seconds left and the season on the line. The shot was far from the best Penn could have gotten in the situation.

One possession does not define Dingle’s incredible season. The next few months will be nervy for Quakers fans hoping he chooses to come back to campus for his senior season instead of entering the transfer portal.

If he stays, would you bet against Dingle passing AJ Brodeur for Penn’s all-time scoring record? I certainly wouldn’t.

3. If everyone sticks around, this team’s ceiling is very high.

The Quakers were sixth in Division I in minutes continuity from 2021-22, according to KenPom. They should rank similarly high in 2023-24, since the only rotational figures set to depart are Monroe and reserve big man Max Lorca-Lloyd.

Dingle’s excellence goes without saying. His supporting cast looks set up for success, too.

Junior guard Clark Slajchert, who had a rough Ivy campaign after a hot start, had an excellent performance on Saturday. He hit four threes on seven attempts and almost singlehandedly got Penn back into the game after it looked like Princeton was going to pull away in the middle of the second half.

Sophomore guard George Smith also took huge strides as a three-and-D option. He hit two huge threes on Saturday, pushing his season three-point percentage to exactly 48%.

Spinoso wrapped up Saturday with a 15-point showing and looks like a pass-first big with elite potential, so long as he can get his turnover issues in check.

Max Martz, Dingle’s classmate, had a very quiet day (three points on two shots) but his 124.5 point per 100 possession offensive rating is 53rd out of 2,246 eligible players, per KenPom.

Those five players look like the core of a team that should start next season in or just outside the KenPom top 100.