FORT MYERS, FLA. — The streak couldn’t last forever.
Despite another blistering start, Penn men’s basketball fell to Towson, 79-71, on Tuesday night in the semifinal of the Gulf Coast Showcase, ending its streak of three dominant wins.
It looked like the Quakers (3-3) would make it four when they came out on fire, opening up a 16-6 lead in just minutes before the Tigers (4-1) could find their feet.
But an incredible 19-2 run by Towson over the next 10 minutes of the first half meant that Penn was put on its back heels, suffering from its first time losing in four games, when it fell to La Salle in a double-overtime heartbreaker.
“That was the most disappointing part [of the game],” coach Steve Donahue said. “We came out and played really well, and they answered our punch, but we did a poor job of being strong with the basketball, being poised...we just didn’t really handle the pressure.”
Penn coughed up eight turnovers over the final 12 minutes of the first half, dooming them to play catch-up for the rest of the game.
They struggled to put together any momentum after the Tigers’ huge run in the first half. Penn trailed between five and ten points for virtually the rest of the game, only coming within three at the stroke of halftime.
Penn’s offense scored its lowest number of points this season, while its defense allowed the second-most yet from six games. Over a third of the Quakers’ points were put up by sophomore Ryan Betley, whose 25 points kept them in the game as they struggled to keep up with the Tigers’ pace in latter part of the second half.
“That’s a good defensive team that tried to shut him down,” Donahue said. “I thought he did a good job of trying to create on his own, using the offense to get open. I hope that continues tomorrow.”
Other top scorers for the Quakers were senior captain Darnell Foreman, who put up 16, and sophomore forward AJ Brodeur, who mustered 12. No one else broke double digits.
Also worrying for Penn was foul trouble — three players had their time limited by accumulating four fouls, while senior Caleb Wood picked up a technical for a verbal dispute to boot. Donahue lamented that his team’s defense could have been better.
“We didn’t do a good job of keeping them in front and then making sure we’re not fouling. We were undisciplined,” he said. “I thought we could have done a lot better defensively.”
He continued to highlight how important it was the Quakers could get these games in against similar mid-major programs, who could provide a thorn in their side and help them improve by the time Ivy League play rolls around in 2018.
Penn will get one more chance to do just that on Wednesday at 5pm, when it takes on UMKC for third place in the Showcase. Between Wednesday’s contest and one at Monmouth on Saturday, the Quakers should get a solid chance to restart another winning streak of its own.
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