Quakeaways from Penn men’s basketball’s 84-81 loss at Columbia

NEW YORK — Penn’s season is on the verge of flatlining after a pitiful defensive performance.

The Quakers squandered a golden chance to gain sole possession of the fourth and final spot in Ivy Madness in a dispiriting 84-81 loss to Columbia.

The coup de grâce came when freshman point guard Sam Brown lost the handle as he sprinted down the floor to try and get a look at a game-tying three before the buzzer sounded. But the Quakers have much more to regret than one possession.

Penn (9-10, 1-3 Ivy) allowed Columbia (10-7, 1-3) to score 1.35 points per possession, according to KenPom, the single-worst showing the Red and Blue have put up on the defensive end against any opponent all season.

The only saving grace is that Dartmouth managed to upset Brown, which creates a five-way logjam for fourth in the Ivy League. But right now, there’s little reason to hope that Penn can emerge out of that pileup. Not after how …

The Red and Blue repeatedly failed to guard the three-point line.

Penn allowed Columbia to hit 13 three-pointers on 27 attempts. The Lions are an excellent three-point shooting team, but their success could at least partly be chalked up to the quality of looks they got.

For long stretches, it appeared as if Columbia was shooting warmup shots. Penn seemingly forgot how to rotate defensively, which left the Lions’ secondary shooters wide open again and again and again.

The Quakers crushed Columbia on the glass, 37-24, but that figure is deceptive. The disparity was so wide pretty much solely because the Lions never missed.

Clark Slajchert looks closer to a return — the senior was draining three-point jumpers during pregame shootaround — but the Quakers weren’t exactly a stellar defensive team before his ankle injury in December.

This may just be what Penn is for now.

Penn got the full Nick Spinoso experience.

Spinoso, in many ways, had an excellent game on Saturday. He finished with 17 points on 12 shots. He grabbed four offensive rebounds and added two steals.

Though Penn certainly wasn’t exactly playing well defensively with Spinoso on the floor, things immediately nosedived when the junior picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half on a questionable offensive foul call with the Quakers down three.

Neither Johnnie Walter nor Augie Gerhart picked up the slack as Columbia went on a run over five minutes that extended the Lions’ lead to nine points.

It’s not fair to blame Spinoso for the foul call, but the junior had one rough stretch late in the first half that let Columbia back in the game as the Quakers held a five-point lead, 41-36.

On one possession, Spinoso tried a behind-the-back pass to a cutting Andrew Laczkowski that resulted in Laczkowski stepping on the end line for a turnover. After Penn got a stop on the next possession, Spinoso secured the defensive rebound but rocketed a home-run pass to Sam Brown well beyond his reach and out of bounds.

Turnovers like those remain difficult to accept.

Eddie Holland III made a convincing case to return to the starting lineup.

Holland scored 15 points in just 15 minutes off the bench, his highest scoring output against a Division I opponent all season.

The junior was an effective slasher, generating seven free-throw attempts on drives to the basket. He arguably should have had more.

Holland has been up and down in Penn’s rotation this season. At one point, he was a starter. At another, he was glued to the bench. After back-to-back strong performances, he may be Penn’s best option to play small forward.

The Quakers started Saturday with freshman Tyler Perkins at the “three” slot, Brown at the “two” and Reese McMullen running point. McMullen put up a team-worst KenPom offensive rating of 74 points per 100 possessions in 22 minutes, despite the Quakers putting up 1.31 points per possession — their best figure against a Division I opponent all season.

George Smith, who had also been getting starters’ minutes this season, was not involved in the offense despite getting 16 minutes of playing time. He missed his only shot from the field.

Both McMullen and Smith have found ways to contribute this season, but Holland looks like he has the hot hand at the moment.

2 thoughts on “Quakeaways from Penn men’s basketball’s 84-81 loss at Columbia”

  1. It’s hard to see this team returning to Levien this season. The 3-point defense was pitiful and ultimately back-breaking.

    Ideally, with Clark back, they can return Perkins and Brown to secondary creator status on the perimeter because they seemed slightly overmatched yesterday as the primary creators next to Spinoso. Credit to Perkins especially though, who found ways to score and simply get up the necessary shots in Penn’s final comeback attempt.

    Lastly, one cannot finish without commenting on Ed Holland. He was a source of strength for the Quakers, though it’s worth noting a brief argument in the 2nd half where he heatedly left the huddle during a timeout. He came back later and played without issue, and ultimately, I appreciate the fire he had, which met the moment.

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