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Freshman guard Bryce Washington has emerged as a starter for Penn men's basketball after beginning the season on the bench.

Credit: Eliud Vargas

Coming off big wins against Stockton, where the Quakers surpassed 100 points, and Delaware State, Penn will face Atlantic Coast Conference standout Miami (Fla.) at home on Tuesday.

The Quakers (6-2) faced their only two losses of the season after traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam tournament prior to Thanksgiving Break. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, are fresh off a four-point home loss to Yale. Last season, Penn beat Yale in the Ivy League Tournament, as well as once during the regular season. If history tells us anything, Tuesday’s game could potentially be a huge win for the Quakers.

Similar to Penn, Miami (5-3) has demonstrated a solid presence in the paint, relying on center Ebuka Izundu in most games. However, their guards have also contributed consistently to the offense, with at least one scoring over 15 points in each game this season. Penn will need to rely on its overarching defensive identity if it wants to come out on top. 

The Red and Blue come into the game with a lot of momentum, and a key part of their success so far this season has been freshman guard Bryce Washington. Following the season-ending injury to Ryan Betley in the first game of the season against George Mason, Washington was forced to step up for the Quakers and has so far failed to disappoint.

Averaging a quiet eight points per game, Washington has made his presence known behind the three-point line, sinking 55.6 percent of his long-range attempts, well above the team average of 38.3 percent. Keeping his efficiency intact, Washington was able to thrive against Delaware State in the Quakers' last game, dropping a season-high 16 points along with eight rebounds.

With such a deadly stroke from deep, similar to Betley’s stellar shooting, Washington has allowed the Quakers to continue playing a spread offense that utilizes their strong presence inside with the forward duo of junior AJ Brodeur and senior Max Rothschild. This inside threat demands a shift in the defense so that more opportunities arise from range.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and also having been a track star in high school, Washington utilizes his length and speed often to make things tougher for opposing offenses. So far this season, he has racked up the second-most blocks for the Quakers with seven, and the fourth-most steals with five. As he continues to gain more experience on the court, his defensive performance will likely develop even further.

Despite his breakout start to the year, there have been moments where Washington's lack of experience has been visible. So far this season, Washington has recorded at least one turnover in every game but one and has turned the ball over multiple times in two contests. However, his mistakes have started to dwindle as the season has moved on, so it was not surprising that his first turnover-free game was his latest against Delaware State.

It’s no question that Penn men’s basketball is a tight-knit group; the players even spent Thanksgiving with each other just a couple weeks ago. In this environment, Washington has the opportunity to get the support he needs to continue progressing by the start of Ivy League and late-season play.

Washington has already contributed a lot to the Red and Blue and has picked up a lot of slack following the loss of Betley. He will hope to continue to make an impact against the visiting Hurricanes on Tuesday.

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