OH MY GOODNESS
KHALIL BRANTLEY BANKS IT IN AT THE BUZZER FOR @LaSalle_MBB
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) December 3, 2023
For 45 minutes on Saturday, Penn played gorgeous and free-flowing basketball against La Salle.
Penn’s reward for its efforts? A spot on the wrong end of a SportsCenter Top 10 moment.
The Explorers’ Khalil Brantley banked in a three-pointer from nearly halfcourt as the overtime buzzer sounded, sending Penn to a brutal 93-92 loss in the third-place game of the Big 5 Classic at the Wells Fargo Center.
Clark Slajchert hit what should have been a game-winning layup with four seconds left in overtime, which counted as the final two points of his 33-point scoring effort, tying a career high. Penn (5-4, 1-2 Big 5) defended La Salle’s desperation scramble well, with George Smith getting an outstretched arm right in Brantley’s face.
Fate had other plans for Penn.
Zooming out, Quakers fans learned plenty about their team on Saturday. Such as how…
Nick Spinoso had a career game.
Spinoso flirted with a triple-double on Saturday, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
In one particularly impressive sequence midway through the second half, Spinoso rejected a La Salle layup attempt, corralled the ball, and fired a chest pass nearly the full length of the court to hit Slajchert in stride for an easy layup.
Spinoso finished with a KenPom offensive rating of 132 points per 100 possessions while on the floor, which is the best single-game offensive efficiency he has posted in more than a calendar year.
This is the type of Spinoso performance Penn fans were hoping for heading into the season. If he can reach this level consistently, the Quakers will be very difficult to guard.
Red flags abounded once again on the defensive end of the floor.
Penn allowed La Salle to score 1.27 points per possession on Saturday, which marks the team’s worst defensive performance of the season on a per-possession basis.
Though the Red and Blue mostly held La Salle star guard Jhamir Brickus in check (he finished with 10 points on nine shots), they did a poor job of protecting the rim, allowing the Explorers to finish 16-for-21 on layups and a perfect 4-for-4 on dunk attempts.
Penn tried to use the 2-3 zone that was so effective against Villanova, but La Salle did a good job getting the ball into the middle of the zone and executing from there.
What was most concerning was that Steve Donahue’s team had an uncharacteristically poor showing on the glass. They lost the rebounding battle, 34-32, and allowed La Salle to score 23 second-chance points.
If Penn had put up a better defensive showing, Brantley would never have had a chance to launch his miracle shot in the first place.
The ceiling for the offense is pretty darn high.
Penn put up 1.26 points per possession on the offensive end of the floor, which was a season-best number against a Division 1 opponent.
The Quakers had several highlight sequences, including Spinoso’s outlet pass and a ferocious poster dunk from freshman Tyler Perkins, who wound up with 20 points.
Penn hit 12 threes on 25 attempts and now has six rotational players shooting at least 38% from deep against Division I opponents.
As brutal as the ending to Saturday’s game was, the Quakers played at a higher level offensively than they have in a long time.
A halfcourt buzzer-beater is a random miracle. Crisp offensive execution is repeatable.