Penn avoided a second consecutive disastrous loss thanks to some heroics from its upperclassmen Friday.
The Quakers opened the Cathedral of College Basketball Classic with a narrow 74-72 win over Lafayette after junior guard George Smith buried a go-ahead three-pointer from the right wing with 33 seconds to go on a broken play.
Smith and the rest of the Quakers (4-2) definitely owe senior guard Clark Slajchert a big thank you. Slajchert set Smith up for the game-winning shot after he recovered a deflection in the backcourt and found the open shooter following a mad scramble for the ball.
Slajchert finished with a team-high 18 points and tied a career high with five assists. The senior played 37 minutes, so load management for Slajchert will be something to monitor as the Red and Blue play three games in as many days this weekend.
It’s (mostly) happy Quakeaways for the day, led by how …
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 …
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?
Penn’s season collapsed with the blow of a referee’s whistle with 90 seconds to go in its Ivy League tournament semifinal against Princeton. If Nick Spinoso’s charge on the Tigers’ Keeshawn Kellman in a one-point game had been ruled a no-call or a flop, would Penn have advanced?
Yale can ask itself a similar question. If August Mahoney — the third-best free throw shooter in the country — converted his one-and-one with 2:18 to go in a three-point game in the Ivy League Tournament final against Princeton, would the Bulldogs have completed their furious second-half rally?
Both those teams could only watch as Princeton went on to go on a magical run to the Sweet 16, the deepest an Ivy League champion has gone in the NCAA Tournament since 2010.
Plenty of Penn fans are probably still bitter, and could you blame them?
But a look at the Quakers’ returning roster indicates that fans’ high expectations for redemption in 2023-24 will be well-justified:
Playing in front of a national TV audience on CBS Sports Network, Penn delivered a game, albeit losing, performance against Villanova in a 70-59 loss at the Finneran Pavilion on Wednesday night.
A 13-0 run gave Villanova a 10-point lead late in the first half it would not surrender. Despite the best efforts of guard Jordan Dingle — who scored 23 points in the second half and appeared generally unguardable — the Quakers (5-7) never cut their deficit any closer than six points in the second half.
It felt like there were numerous opportunities when the Quakers had a chance to truly make the Wildcats sweat. But Penn just couldn’t quite get the big shot or stop it needed.
Their last, best shot came with about five minutes left in the game. After Villanova’s Caleb Daniels split a pair of free throws, Dingle found senior guard Jonah Charles in the left corner for an open three-pointer in transition. Charles, a three-point specialist, couldn’t convert the look, which would have pulled Penn within five points. The Quakers never seriously threatened after.
It’s obvious that Penn desperately needs guard Clark Slajchert back. The junior, who averages more than 17 points per game, sat out his second consecutive contest with a knee injury. Penn coach Steve Donahue told the Daily Pennsylvanian that Slajchert has a bad bone bruise and is likely out until after Penn’s three-week finals break.
What could Penn fans take away from Wednesday’s tilt?
It’s not often that a team manages to lose a game in which it goes on a 21-2 run, but Penn did just that on Wednesday night, dropping its Big 5 opener to Saint Joseph’s in overtime at the Palestra, 85-80.
The Quakers (5-5) dominated the Hawks for 25 minutes, but that simply wasn’t enough. Saint Joseph’s (3-3) clawed back from a 14-point second half deficit on the back of some ramped-up defensive intensity, using ball-side pressure to disrupt Penn’s dribble handoffs and passing. Couple that with some three-point shooting progression to the mean, and you have a recipe for a comeback.
Despite everything, Penn held leads with 77 seconds left in regulation, 1:55 left in overtime and 1:00 left in overtime. Even after giving up the lead for good, the Quakers had four possessions in the final 56 seconds of overtime with a chance to win or extend the game.
Three open looks from long range did not go down for Jonah Charles or Clark Slajchert, while a fourth chance was wiped away by a debatable charge call on sophomore swingman Eddie Holland III.
What did Penn fans learn from an excruciating defeat?
The Quakers used a solid defensive performance to build a 15-point lead over Drexel early in the second half, and after wobbling a bit, made enough plays down the stretch to seal a 64-59 win over their next-door neighbors Tuesday night.
Playing on the road against an SEC opponent for the third consecutive season, Penn went toe-to-toe with Missouri on Friday night at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, but ultimately fell short, 92-85.
The game’s defining sequence came with 5:49 to go in the second half and the Tigers up one, 70-69. Missouri’s best forward, Kobe Brown, got the ball at the left of the free throw circle and unsuccessfully attempted to back down Penn center Max Lorca-Lloyd.
As three Quakers surrounded Brown, the Tigers senior stumbled backwards in the lane. Instead of calling Brown for a travel, the officials signaled for a held ball with the possession arrow favoring Missouri.
The Tigers took advantage of the break, as Nick Honor hit a killer pull-up three-pointer over George Smith in the dying seconds of the shot clock to extend the Missouri lead to four. Penn would get no closer than four points down for the rest of the night.
What did we learn about the Quakers in a solid showing against an opponent ranked 50th in KenPom heading into the game?