Quakeaways from Penn men’s basketball’s 76-72 upset of No. 21 Villanova

With a little ball-fake and a half jab step, Tyler Perkins generated just enough space to rise up over Villanova’s Brendan Hausen and create a memory Penn fans will remember forever.

The freshman sensation used those moves to bury a corner three in front of the Penn bench that pushed the Quakers’ lead over the Associated Press No. 21 Wildcats to 11 points with four minutes to play and sent the Palestra into a frenzy. After weathering one last barrage of Villanova three-pointers, Penn sealed a stunning 76-72 upset over the Wildcats.

For the Quakers (3-1, 1-1 Big 5), the win was their first triumph over a ranked team since a nearly identical upset over Villanova at the Palestra in December 2018; that edition of the Wildcats was defending an NCAA title and entered ranked 17th in the AP poll.

The images the upset generated — Perkins throwing the ball into the air in joy as time expired, fans storming the court — are the ones that, in a perfect world, would create a whole new generation of dedicated Quakers fans.

What else can Penn fans hold onto from a magical Monday night?

Perkins is a bonafide superstar.

This writer has been especially mindful to avoid directly comparing the start of Perkins’ career to Jordan Dingle’s amazing 2019-20 season out of fear of sounding breathless.

Not anymore. Especially not after he yelled out “Dingle who?” after Perkins’ corner triple to the friends whom he had invited over to watch the game.

Perkins was the best player on the floor for Penn on Monday night. He led the team with 22 points on 13 shots and added six rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot. Monday was Perkins’ coming-out party, just like when Dingle dropped 24 points and a game-winning fadeaway on Alabama in his first career college game.

According to Ivy Hoops Online contributor Kevin Whitaker, only three Ivy League players in the past decade have scored at least 20 points in two of their first four career games: Perkins, Dingle and Cornell’s Matt Morgan.

What makes Perkins so impressive to watch is his aggression and tenacity. He takes advantage of being big for a guard (6’4”) and competes in the lane against taller players like few others in the mid-major ranks can. His outside shooting and steadiness at the free throw line is a bonus.

Penn’s frontcourt rotation is looking good.

After a rough three games, junior forward Nick Spinoso raised his play to match the quality of opponent he was facing on Monday night. Spinoso finished with 10 points on eight shots, blocked two shots and — most importantly — did not commit a single turnover.

Spinoso was comfortable backing down in the low post in isolation, which adds a dangerous dimension to the Quakers’ offense. Though Spinoso only finished with one assist, it was clear that Penn’s offense was running fluidly with him on the floor.

When Spinoso picked up a questionable fourth foul midway through the second half, it looked for a moment like Villanova would just start punishing Penn on the inside.

A lot of credit for Monday’s victory should go to Johnnie Walter, who was called into action when Spinoso got into foul trouble and responded by putting up a team-best KenPom offensive rating of 206 points per 100 possessions while on the floor.

Eddie Holland III, who got the start at forward alongside Spinoso, also put together an excellent game. He finished with a KenPom offensive rating of 143 points per 100 possessions while on the floor and hit two key three-pointers in the first half when Penn was struggling offensively.

Those three men, plus senior Andrew Laczkowski, have an incredibly high work rate whenever they’re on the floor.

This team won with defense first.

That headline might look a little hard to believe at first glance. Especially when the box score shows that Villanova put up 1.09 points per possession.

But it was obvious from watching live that the Quakers’ decision to use a 2-3 zone defense took Villanova by surprise. The Wildcats had a couple of nice possessions where they attacked the middle of the zone, but for the most part, they were content to just jack up three-pointers.

Penn generally communicated on the perimeter and closed out well on shooters (junior guard George Smith deserves specific praise). Villanova wound up taking more threes than twos and shot just 9-for-33 from beyond the arc.

The Quakers also proved their strong rebounding numbers from the start of the season were not a total mirage. Though they surrendered 15 offensive boards, the Quakers still won the overall rebounding battle against Villanova, 38-35.

Penn’s offensive box score numbers — 51.1% shooting from the field, 1.15 points per possession — look gaudy. But none of those would have mattered if not for the Quakers’ total team effort against a loaded Wildcats roster.

3 thoughts on “Quakeaways from Penn men’s basketball’s 76-72 upset of No. 21 Villanova”

  1. When The Palestra is rocking it the best college basketball venue in the country. Most Penn fans have not enjoyed that atmosphere. I confess that I got involved in IHO to get a parking pass for Tiger games at The Cathedral. Perkins may fill the place which will make it tough for visitors. Can’t wait.
    My first college basketball experience was a double header in the Quaker City Invitational in 1965. St Joe’s played as the #1 ranked team in the nation
    What a crowd!!

  2. What a great win for Penn. Congrats to Red and Blue Nation. Another feather in the Ivy cap this season.

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