PHILADELPHIA — Clark Slajchert took a quick dribble as Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard flew by, freeing the senior up for a wide open three from the wing he routinely hits.
If it went down, it would have pushed Penn to a 49-47 lead over the Associated Press No. 16 Wildcats with 15 minutes to play, completing a comeback from 16 points down.
The shot looked good but came up a little short. It was a microcosm of the afternoon for the Quakers, who gave Kentucky fits for the better part of 30 minutes in what wound up being an 81-66 loss.
Despite having the ball with a chance to tie or go ahead three times in the second half, Penn (6-5) never could quite get over the hump against the Wildcats. A 9-0 Kentucky run around the under-eight media timeout, capped by an open Antonio Reeves three, pushed the Wildcats’ lead from four points to 13 and put the game out of reach.
What could Penn fans take away from a solid showing against one of the most decorated programs in college basketball?
After taking a gut-punch loss to La Salle on Saturday, Penn responded by easily brushing aside Division III Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham on Wednesday at the Palestra, 111-57.
As is expected in a game against a Division III team, Penn could give regulars like Nick Spinoso, Tyler Perkins and Clark Slajchert light workloads. Slajchert scored 17 points on eight shots in just 15 minutes of action; he got virtually the entire second half off.
By the end of the evening, 14 different Quakers had scored. Penn also hit a program-record 21 three-pointers.
There aren’t many meaningful Quakeaways one can take away from a Division III tune-up game. But there’s certainly much to mull over ahead of Penn’s big-time game on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center against Associated Press No. 16 Kentucky.
Maybe these can be Palestra Ponderings on a possible path to victory instead.
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…
PHILADELPHIA — Penn has developed a knack for playing games down to the wire in less than ideal circumstances.
Winning those games? That’s been a different story.
The Quakers rallied from 12 points down in the second half to force overtime against Belmont on Saturday but never led in the extra session en route to a tough 84-79 loss in the Cathedral of College Basketball Classic.
Penn (4-3) had the ball down three points with about 17 seconds to go in overtime but couldn’t get a potential tying three-pointer up in the air after a broken play led to a backcourt violation; junior forward Nick Spinoso, who was mostly brilliant on Saturday, was charged with the turnover.
Close games like the ones Penn has played recently — at Maryland Eastern Shore, versus Lafayette, and now versus Belmont — have a ton of variance, and frankly, are often decided by luck. Penn wouldn’t have even gotten to overtime if not for Belmont’s Isaiah Walker bricking a pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left to play in regulation in a tied game.
But there are some key signals Penn fans can identify through the noise, such as how …