CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Penn basketball found its Miami vice: turnovers.
On a night in which the Red and Blue played competitively with the Hurricanes, sloppy Quaker miscues ended up being the difference: Penn committed 21 turnovers — and Miami scored 25 points off those mistakes — as the Green and Orange rolled to a 74-62 win.
“I was proud of the way we competed, particularly in the first half — we didn’t make shots that we usually make,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “But early in the second half we got too casual, and they stepped into passing lanes.”
The Quakers (1-1) endured a frigid shooting performance in that first half, shooting just 32 percent from the floor, including a 3-for-13 showing from three-point range. They improved both rates in the second frame, but an increase in turnovers and increased offensive efficiency from Miami (3-0) nullified any chance of a comeback.
Freshman forward AJ Brodeur was once again the Quakers’ star, leading the squad with 16 points and eight rebounds. The Massachusetts native was coming off a double-double in a season-opening win over Robert Morris last Friday, and figures to be an anchor of the Penn offense in the years to come.
“I’m still adjusting to the speed, the mental aspect — everything that goes into a NCAA Division I basketball game,” Brodeur said. “Once we all get into a grove, we’re gonna be a force in our conference.”
The two teams, meeting for the ninth time (Miami now leads the series 6-3) looked evenly matched for the game’s first half, as both offenses struggled to get going. The Hurricanes went into the break up 28-23.
However, things quickly got out of hand for the Red and Blue after halftime. Miami went on a 21-6 run shortly after intermission and never looked back, stretching the gap to as many as 23 points. Junior guard Ja’Quan Newton had a game-high 18, making him one of five Hurricanes to score in double figures.
The Quakers managed to chop at the deficit in garbage time behind three-point shooting from junior forward Sam Jones, but never truly threatened in the game’s final minutes.
Several Penn scorers had difficult evenings, none more so than sophomore Jackson Donahue. The guard was held scoreless on 0-for-9 shooting, including seven misses from three-point range. After emerging as the team’s top outside threat a year ago, Donahue has made only 15 percent of his field goals through two games this season.
“I really wish I knew exactly where things [will go] in terms of our rotation; there are some spots to be won, some minutes to be won,” Steve Donahue said. “Jackson Donahue is just not playing as well as he’s capable of playing. He knows that.”
Still, there are plenty of positives to take away from Saturday’s contest; Miami is among the nation’s best teams, having finished last season ranked eighth in the USA Today Coaches’ poll. Though they are not ranked at the moment, they will figure to once again be one of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, widely considered to be the strongest league in college basketball.
And, as Donahue points out, the games that truly matter will not come until 2017 — and tough road contests can provide valuable lessons for a team looking to find its identity.
“It is so hard to play college basketball on the road,” the second-year coach noted. “I thought, ‘Let’s go on the road, let’s be battle-tested, and know what’re facing.’
“That way, come January and February, we’ll be ready to go.”
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