Penn followed up one of its best victories in years with one of its worst defeats.
The Quakers failed repeatedly to put away host and KenPom No. 352 Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in the second half and eventually got burned in a 83-80 overtime loss.
UMES is the worst-ranked team Penn (3-2) has ever lost to in the KenPom era (which has data going back to the 1998-99 season).
Penn’s loss was sealed by a three with nine-tenths of a second to play in overtime from UMES’ Elijah Wilson on a play that strongly resembled Kris Jenkins’ shot to win the 2016 national championship game for Villanova.
The shot spoiled a furious Penn rally that was led by freshman Sam Brown, who buried two three-pointers in an eight-second span to tie the game before the final sequence.
Penn should have sealed up a win easily well before Wilson’s shot, mostly because …
The Quakers failed to foul up three.
Penn had a 67-64 lead with just under eight seconds left to play in the second half when UMES inbounded the ball under the Quakers’ basket to Wilson.
Wilson caught the ball and failed to immediately put up a shot, which gave senior Andrew Laczkowski multiple chances to foul. None came. Instead, Wilson wound up drilling a game-tying contested three over Laczkowski’s outstretched arms; the ball went in the air with less than five seconds remaining on the clock.
Penn should have learned its lesson about fouling up three back in the 2018-19 season, when it missed a similar opportunity at the Palestra to foul Harvard’s Bryce Aiken right before he drilled a killer game-tying three as the game clock wound down. That loss nearly cost Penn a trip to the Ivy League Tournament.
This loss will crush Penn’s predictive metrics, but (hopefully) won’t be nearly as consequential.
Persistent offensive sloppiness kept Penn from getting into a state of flow.
The biggest red flag for Penn so far — and clearest indicator that this team is very much a work in progress — is its turnover rate.
The Red and Blue entered Saturday turning over the ball on 22.4% of their possessions. Only 41 teams in Division I had been giving up the ball at a higher rate.
That number will look much worse once KenPom’s numbers update. Penn committed 21 giveaways on Saturday, 12 of which came in the first half.
Nick Spinoso — who did wind up finishing with a double-double — was the worst culprit, with seven turnovers.
The Quakers were also hurt badly by an awful evening at the free throw line. They shot 18-for-30 from the charity stripe which included an ugly sequence midway through the second half when sophomore Johnnie Walter and freshman Tyler Perkins missed four three throws on one possession.
Brown and Laczkowski were bright spots.
Brown was one of Penn’s more well-regarded recruits, but missed the team’s first three games with a sprained ankle. He didn’t appear on Monday, but was pressed into extended action when Cam Thrower was ruled out pregame with an unspecified injury.
A local product out of Lower Merion High School, Brown showed that his reputation as an excellent shooter is well-deserved. He had two personal 6-0 runs on the Hawks in which he hit two three-pointers apiece. Brown also barely missed an open dagger three from the corner with 22 seconds to go in the second half that would have given Penn a four-point lead and essentially ended the game.
Laczkowski, had Penn held on in the second half of regulation, would have been the lead player mentioned in this story. He showed insane hustle throughout the game, which led to coach Steve Donahue rolling with the senior down the stretch over starter Eddie Holland III.
The biggest moment came when Laczkowski hit the front end of a one-and-one to give Penn a 63-62 lead with 2:20 to play in the second half. When Laczkowski missed the second free throw, he wound up hurling himself into the stands to save the ball in the scramble for the rebound. Perkins hit a long stepback two off the extra possession that gave Penn a 65-62 lead with less than two minutes to go.
It should have been enough.