If you thought Penn men’s basketball was dominant in Wednesday’s win over Navy, you hadn’t seen anything yet.
In one of the most impressive performances in program history, Penn made mincemeat of Penn State Brandywine from start to finish, opening up a 39-point lead at the half and cruising to a 99-40 win, setting an all-time record for the biggest margin of victory in school history.
"[First-year PSU Brandywine coach] Ben [Kay] is building a program there, and they’re a young program, so it’s a lot, and I knew they were gonna have a hard time with us,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “But that being said, I’ve been on the coaching side where the players don’t take this seriously, and the teams hang around. And we don’t have any of that – we have kids that respect the game, respect the opponent and in all those things I look for, we did a great job.”
It was obvious from the start that Penn (2-2) would give PSU Brandywine no life early, picking apart the overmatched Nittany Lions with precise ball movement and outside shooting. A pair of three-pointers each from guards Antonio Woods and Darnell Foreman gave Penn a double-digit lead within the first three minutes, and by the time the starting unit collectively came out, the Quakers held a 20-5 lead.
As the names on the floor changed, though, the Red and Blue’s superiority over the Nittany Lions (0-2) didn’t — in fact, it was a Penn sub that was the star of the game. Having gone scoreless in 10 total minutes in his short collegiate career entering the afternoon, freshman forward Jarrod Simmons gave glimpses of what’s to come in a dominant late first-half stretch.
Scoring in a variety of ways inside and out — ranging from a three-pointer from the top of the key to a strong one-handed jam off a nice feed from Jake Silpe in transition — the rookie scored 14 points in a four-minute stretch, boosting Penn to a huge lead it would never look back from.
“Yeah, I would say it’s just respect for the game; you have to respect the other team and give it your all every time you step on the court,” Simmons said on the team’s mental approach to its first game against a non-Division I foe in two years. “As a team, we wanna make sure we hold ourselves to a standard, and meet that standard every time we step on the court.”
Though the game was out of reach by the second half, the contest still produced some memorable moments for the Red and Blue. Besides Simmons’ outburst, the team also saw the first points of the season from senior Sam Jones and the first career ones from sophomores Kuba Mijakowski and Zack Kaminsky, in addition to the first career three-pointer from freshman Eddie Scott. The team collectively shot a season-best 38.5 percent from deep, with 10 different players making three-pointers.
Overall, the game against PSU Brandywine — which is one of Penn State’s “commonwealth campuses,” and does not compete in the NCAA but rather the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association — represented a chance for the Red and Blue to tune up and rest ahead of their tough Thanksgiving stretch. No Quakers played more than 20 minutes, which could pay off dividends for the team down the road.
“It’s perfect, because you love playing games, but you don’t wanna wear guys out, especially after a double-overtime game [against La Salle on Monday],” Donahue said. “And we’re still trying to figure out this rotation, and a couple of guys helped their case, so I was pleased with how we approached this game. Even though it was a big advantage for us, we competed and played the right way.”
Despite the margin of victory, the final result did leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Red and Blue fans — or a lack of a taste at all, to be more precise. Had Penn scored 100 points, which it hasn’t done in any game since January 2006, all fans in attendance would’ve been treated to free Abner’s cheesesteaks.
But as the crowd became increasingly rowdy hoping for the chance to make history, the Red and Blue came up just short, choosing to hold the ball instead of shooting on their last possession and thus finishing one point shy of glory.
“Is that still in place? Yeah, I probably would have [gone for another shot] just for that sake, that’s a promotional thing,” Donahue admitted, before making a prescient vow.
“You know what — we’ll do it again.”
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