Penn men's basketball shot out of the gates Wednesday night at the Palestra to beat Navy, 66-45, and collect its first win of the young season.
Despite the lopsided victory, the biggest cheer of the night came when fan and Penn field hockey senior Gina Guccione stepped on to the court with eight minutes left to nail a half court shot and win 5,000 dollars.
In a game that was never in jeopardy for the Quakers (1-2), the half court shot provided a late shot of excitement before the starters got to take a rest for the game’s final minutes.
The contest was decided before most fans even took their seats as the Red and Blue showed off their offensive firepower from the opening tip.
Penn routinely picked apart the Midshipmen defense and jumped out to a 17-2 lead to start the game. The Red and Blue nailed shots, played stingy defense, and did all they could to erase Monday’s double-overtime loss to La Salle from their memories.
“It’d only been two games, but we were already sick of it,” sophomore forward A.J. Brodeur said after the game.
“Even one loss is too many for us.”
The Quakers played angry all night. Players chased after fifty-fifty balls, made the extra pass and fought through picks.
Junior forward Max Rothschild helped set that tone on both sides of the ball. He abused Navy forward Tom Lacey in the paint, limiting him to just three rebounds and two points.
“We knew this was absolutely a game we needed to get,” Brodeur said. “So coming out strong, punching them in the mouth, that’s a tough team. We had to match to match their toughness.”
Navy (1-2) hit the canvas early after the Quakers hit them hard. Coach Ed DeChellis tried to slow down Penn’s early onslaught. But by the time he called his first timeout, just four minutes into the game, it was already too late for the Midshipmen.
After play resumed, the Quakers continued to pour it on, relying on relentless defense to generate transition buckets. Penn forced turnovers on three straight Navy possessions, and the lead quickly ballooned to fifteen points before eight minutes had been played.
Brodeur, Rothschild and junior guard Antonio Woods harassed the Midshipmen down low and up top. Navy only shot eleven percent from three and their inspired play, combined with a flurry of threes from senior guard Caleb Wood, helped widen the Penn lead to 27 points before the halftime buzzer.
“Our movement and our quick cuts got us those open threes,” said Wood, who caught fire in the first half and paced all scorers with 13 points.
The Quakers shot 50 percent as a team from behind the arc in the first half. But even when the offense slowed down the defense stayed strong. Navy didn’t score its tenth point until under five minutes remained in the half, and Penn went to the locker room up 43-16 after 20 minutes of nearly flawless basketball.
Woods and senior Darnell Foreman provided additional bright spots for the Red and Blue on Wednesday night, displaying their potential to be an elite backcourt duo.
Foreman was efficient from the field, knocking down four of his six shot attempts. Woods on the other hand dished out four assists, pulled down five rebounds and played sound defense.
“I think we’re close,” coach Steve Donahue said about his squad after the game. “I think we’re at the stage where we’ve got a chance to really prove how good we are.”
The Quakers play six more games this month, so they will have no shortage of opportunities to prove themselves before Ivy League play begins. They take to the Palestra floor again to face Penn State Brandywine on Saturday at 11:30am.
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