That’s a pretty great way to end the semester.
In the last game before a two-week break, Penn men’s basketball overpowered Dayton on the road in an emphatic 78-70 win. The Quakers (8-4) outshot the Flyers (4-5) from every area of the court, most notably from beyond the arc.
The Quakers opened the scoring at the UD Arena with a pair of three pointers from senior Darnell Foreman and junior Antonio Woods, which put them ahead 6-2 a minute into the game. From there, Penn’s shooting and stifling defense put them ahead 21-7 with 12 minutes to go in the half.
Dayton wasn’t ready to lay down just yet. The Flyers rattled off a 16-0 run over the next seven minutes. The Quakers’ defense, which looked so good in the first eight minutes, suddenly couldn’t get a stop. Dayton’s Josh Cunningham in particular was hard to guard, finishing with 21 points and a perfect shooting day from the field.
“During that stretch they switched from zone to man [defense] and we struggled. We didn’t do a good job of getting the momentum and that place starts rocking and all the momentum was towards Dayton,” coach Steve Donahue said.
“Any time there are stretches like that – I don’t think it’s something that we’re really overly concerned with because we don’t hurt ourselves. We take care of the ball typically, we don’t let teams crash boards. I’m more proud that we hung in there and went on to the next play after that run and really played some good basketball.”
After trading buckets for the remainder of the first half, the Red and Blue slowly started to regain momentum. In the second half, Penn gradually built a lasting lead. For every bucket from Cunningham and the Flyers, the Quakers answered with one or two of their own.
With a just over a minute left and Penn up five, Dayton started fouling. Unlike previous games, the Quakers managed to take advantage of their free throws, preserving the lead and securing the upset – the first Ivy League team ever to beat Dayton. Foreman especially took advantage of his chances, making all four of shots from the charity stripe.
Penn’s lead – both at the end of the first half and in the second – was maintained in large part thanks to senior sharpshooter Sam Jones, who made five of his six three-point attempts, including several with a hand in his face from well beyond the arc. Jones finished the game with more points (15) than minutes (13), proving his x-factor ability even in limited minutes.
“Its hard to imagine winning that game without his input. If Sam can do his role — come in cold and be successful… We know what he can do. I think it’s a heck of a weapon,” Donahue said.
“My guys were just getting me open shots. My job is to shoot the ball when I’m open, and the guys just got me the ball in great spots,” Jones said.
Woods, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, had a huge game in his return to his home state. The guard scored a team-high 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out five assists and played all but six minutes in one of the most complete games this season. Woods’ all-around game allowed the Quakers to move the ball efficiently, leading to a balanced offense: four players reached double figures.
“It was just fun to be back in that arena, I played there lots of times in high school. I’ve never lost a game in that gym, so I’m glad to be leaving still undefeated, Woods said. “It was always a great environment to play in, so I was excited. My family came out to the game, lots of people I haven’t seen in a while, so it was a great experience.”
The win marks perhaps the biggest win in the Donahue era. According to Donahue, Dayton was a much tougher environment than UCF was a year ago. To go into a routinely successful team’s home court and pull out a decisive win is a huge accomplishment, even if the Quakers try to downplay what the win means.
“This is probably the biggest win in my career here at Penn. I’ve never played in an environment or a stadium that big and it was sold out, so it was awesome. It didn’t feel like an upset, it felt like we were supposed to win that game”, Jones said.
“This was our eighth straight away from home, and we’ve done a lot of good things, but we haven’t played our best game yet,” Donahue said.
Penn’s next game is in another two weeks, giving the Quakers a chance to prepare for finals and rest up ahead of the new semester and the start of Ivy League play. When the Quakers return to action, it will be as part of a nine-game homestand featuring two Big 5 and five Ivy League opponents.
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