With 8:42 remaining in the second half, junior guard Darnell Foreman’s jumper put Penn basketball within two points of George Mason at 57-55.
Between that moment and senior guard Matt Howard’s free throw with 3:07 left, the Quakers scored zero points on nine missed shots and a turnover. George Mason scored 13 points and put a competitive game out of reach.
Penn fell to George Mason 79-60 at the Palestra on Saturday afternoon in the Red and Blue’s penultimate game before winter break. Coach Steve Donahue was satisfied with the Quakers’ (3-5) effort before they fell apart, but emphasized the need to play all 40 minutes. He thought psychology played a role in snowballing the impact of missed shots.
“You try to teach your team the ebbs and flows of games. We’re missing shots and we allowed ourselves to affect the defensive end in that last 8 minutes,” Donahue said. “We didn’t have that same grit and toughness and competitiveness because we were thinking about why we’re missing some shots we normally make.”
Forward Jalen Jenkins led the way for the Patriots (8-3) with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and six rebounds. Donahue wasn’t surprised by Jenkins’ efficiency, as the big man is shooting 72.6% from the field this season. He added that part of Jenkins’ success came from the Quakers focusing on guards Marquise Moore and Otis Livingston II.
“He got more buckets because we focused on their leading scorers,” Donahue said. “We started trapping -- and the kid did a pretty good job handling. He doesn’t have to score, that’s the best thing about the kid. He only averages 10 points a game and shoots 75 percent from the field. That’s a pretty good weapon.”
The Red and Blue eventually adjusted to Jenkins, who was responsible for the Patriots’ first eight points and posted 14 of his points in the first half. But that didn’t work, either.
“When we started paying attention to him, he started kicking it. That’s something I’ll probably look at and decide if I showed him too much attention,” Donahue added. “Did that start our defense breakdown because we had to stop him, because he was doing so well?”
With Penn shifting some attention to Jenkins, it opened room for Moore and Livingston. Moore scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half, also contributing 16 rebounds and 10 assists for what he said after the game was his first triple-double. Livingston added 13 points on mostly midrange and three-point jumpers.
“It’s difficult because you’re picking your poison. You can’t make Moore a jump shooter. He’s ridiculous,” Donahue said. “He had a triple-double and I thought we did a good job on him.”
Howard was Penn’s leading scorer with 15 points, adding seven rebounds, while sophomore guard Jackson Donahue and freshman forward A.J. Brodeur each scored 11. Donahue hit three first-half three-pointers, but was mostly quiet otherwise in 19 minutes. Brodeur carried the Quakers in the first three minutes of the second half with his own 8-0 run and two blocks on the defensive end, but was also somewhat quiet in the rest of his 31 minutes.
Perhaps a telling statistic of how the game got out of hand was that the Red and Blue shot 6-of-16 from three in the first half and 1-of-12 in the second half. However, Donahue believed the Quakers executed well on offense for most of the game.
“They trapped the post, we played off it. It’s a pretty simple game against George Mason. They force you to make standstill threes after the trap. It’s hard to pass them out,” he said. “But by [the end of the game] we were mentally and physically probably up to our limit, we don’t have our legs, we don’t have our confidence.”
Penn’s game in Orlando against Central Florida on Monday will be its last until Drexel on December 28.
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