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Credit: Eric Zeng

The Red and Blue had a chance to make paradise even sweeter. But unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

Penn men’s basketball fell to No. 12 Kansas State, 64-48, in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam basketball tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The game was closer than the final score indicated, as the Wildcats (4-0) separated themselves late once the game was out of hand. Junior guard Devon Goodman once again led the Quakers in scoring with 18 points in the contest.

“I thought we really competed well,” coach Steve Donahue said. “But we’re disappointed, we didn’t execute like we can. We didn’t play well with the ball … give them credit that’s what they did to us.”

The Wildcat’s defense was as good as advertised and it stifled the Quakers (4-1) throughout the contest. The Red and Blue committed 19 turnovers and only scored 48 points after averaging roughly 83 points over their first four games.

Kansas State forward Makol Mawien wreaked havoc in the paint all night. Mawien recorded four blocks to go along with eight rebounds, and he held junior forward AJ Brodeur and senior forward Max Rothschild to a combined six points. 

Both teams got off to a slow start offensively in the first half.

At the halfway point, Penn was 9 for 28 from the field, including a 2 for 13 mark from downtown. Fortunately for the Quakers, Kansas State was not much better. The Wildcats finished the first half 10 for 29, but were shooting below 30 percent for much of the half. However, despite shooting so poorly, Kansas State managed to go on a 13-0 run over the last five minutes of the first half to take back the lead.

At the five-minute mark, the Red and Blue led 21-15 and seemed to be in control. But following AJ Brodeur’s second foul, the junior forward went to the bench and the Wildcats took full advantage. Over the last five minutes of the half, the Quakers were not as disciplined as they were earlier in the game. They went 0 for 5 from the floor, committed two turnovers and four fouls, including a crucial third foul for Brodeur.

The second half started out much differently than the first half as both teams came out explosively. Goodman got the Quakers rolling with two early three-pointers and had eight of the team’s first 10 points in the frame.

But Kansas State was able to stay an arm’s length away and increased their lead to 11 with 12:24 minutes left in the game. However, the Quakers once again started to chip away at the lead. Freshman forward Michael Wang scored four straights points and assisted on another basket before Brodeur hit a jumper to cut the Wildcat’s lead to six, with 9:10 left in the game.

It looked like Penn had figured out how to stop the Kansas State offense and the possibility for an upset was very much in play.

But from that point on, Kansas State would pull away by outscoring the Red and Blue 18-8.

Turnovers, ultimately, were the story of the game. Kansas State’s defense notoriously forces a lot of turnovers (18.5 per game) and that trend continued again tonight. The Red and Blue’s 19 turnovers were five more than their season average and the most they committed all season.

“They wore us down with their defense. We did not consistently take care of the basketball,” Donahue explained. “I thought we rushed ourselves when we had good looks … there was no flow.”

A bright spot for the Quakers continues to be Goodman. The junior guard is averaging 19.0 points per game over his last four contests and has risen to the occasion of stepping in for the injured Ryan Betley.

“At this point in his career, he’s very confident,” Donahue said. “He worked hard in the offseason to get bigger, stronger, better. His shooting is much better. He’s just a confident basketball player right now.” 

The Red and Blue will be back in action tomorrow night against Oregon State. The Beavers (3-1) are led offensively by junior forward Tres Tinkle (19.3 points per game) and senior guard Stephen Thompson Jr. (16.5 points per game). The Quakers will look for a win to finish third in the Paradise Jam Tournament.