There were a lot of things that could have pushed Penn past Temple in last night’s 76-69 squeaker. Better defensive rebounding. Greater offensive efficiency. Sharper shooting from beyond the arc.
But there’s one change that should have been made before the game started that would have given the Quakers their first Big 5 win of the season: more Patrick Lucas-Perry.
It was Lucas-Perry who helped spur the Quakers to their season-opening win over UMBC in November with a 15-point, 5-for-8 from the field performance in just 17 minutes of play. It was Lucas-Perry who drained a three-point basket from the left wing with 2:12 left at NJIT to break a 49-49 tie. He also nailed two foul shots to extend the lead shortly thereafter.
And last night, it was once again Lucas-Perry who put Penn in a position to pull the upset at the Liacouras Center. When “PLP” entered the game at the 13:29 mark in the first half, the Quakers trailed the Owls, 18-12. When he left the game with 1:13 remaining in the half, Penn led, 33-29.
That’s a plus-10 with PLP on the court, made possible by his 12 points, 3-for-3 three-point shooting and zero turnovers in the stanza.
“Pat stepped up and made shots,” coach Jerome Allen said. “He’s shooting the ball from three-point range, probably better than 50 percent on the season. I just thought he was locked in and focused and engaged in defensive schemes and he just made plays.”
And even though Lucas-Perry picked up his third foul less than five minutes into the second half, he still should have seen more floor time down the stretch. In the six minutes he sat out, Temple outscored Penn, 14-9. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a plus-10 with PLP and a minus-5 without him.
Upon his return, Lucas-Perry promptly hit a three to give the lead back to the Quakers after the Owls had taken their first lead since it had been 26-24 Temple with nearly six minutes to go in the first half. Temple coach Fran Dunphy took note of PLP’s sharpshooting dominance.
“I thought [Temple senior guard] T.J. [DiLeo] put us up one and then we left Lucas-Perry alone and he put them back up two,” Dunphy correctly recalled. “We can’t do that. We knew in the first half that we could not leave him even a little bit alone. One of our guys said, ‘Well I had to help [Temple senior forward] Jake [O’Brien] defensively.’ You don’t do that. We’ll figure that out, but we can’t be leaving their best jump shooter open.”
Hear that? Best jump shooter. This season’s stats back Dunphy up too.
Penn came into Temple shooting 32.1 percent from beyond the arc on the season, easily last in the Ivy League. In contrast, Lucas-Perry is now averaging 55.6 percent from three this year after the loss to the Owls.
So why is freshman guard Jamal Lewis starting instead of Lucas-Perry? Lewis came into Temple averaging just 4.2 points per game in 25.5 minutes a contest. And he still ranks second on the team in turnovers behind only junior guard Miles Cartwright.
Lucas-Perry has shown the outside shooting touch and defensive soundness that Penn has lacked too often early in games this season. For a team that tends to rely on off-kilter shooting and driving to spark its offense, PLP is an obvious solution for significantly increased playing time, a lot more than the 10.1 minutes a game he was getting before last night.
He’s not the solution, but he’s got momentum and clutchness, the two things this squad now needs most. With the rest of the Ivy slate looming, Lucas-Perry’s blooming must continue.