If someone had told me three years ago that Penn men’s basketball would play an ACC team off the court and it wouldn’t even be all that big a surprise, I would have laughed until my sides split.
Now, this is no longer fantasy. It’s real life.
Penn blew the Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes out of the water on Tuesday night with a statement 89-75 victory over what was widely seen as a respectable power-conference opponent. Though Miami made it a close game for a brief stint in the second half, truth be told, it was over before halftime.
The game started as a total shootout, with the scoreline at 30-27 to the Quakers 12 minutes in. But over the next ten-minute stretch, Penn left the visitors behind with a maelstrom of high-flying shots and frenetic defending that culminated in a pair of threes from rookie big man Michael Wang to cap a 16-5 run from which the 'Canes could never recover.
At halftime, Penn led 50-36.
Let me rephrase that.
Halfway through a game against a legitimate ACC program, Penn men’s basketball was on pace to drop 100 points.
It was awesome. It was epic. But it wasn’t even a surprise.
What may have caught some off-guard was Michael Wang’s 23-point day. The big man made shots from every distance on the floor, and he made it look easy. But anyone who has watched him before saw the potential for such a day.
“We have really great confidence in our shooters, especially [Wang],” star junior AJ Brodeur said. “If he gets an open look — I don’t care if guys are running at him, trying to hedge over a screen — we want him to shoot.”
It certainly makes life easier for coach Steve Donahue, who may have been sweating after the loss of a top-two player on the team, Ryan Betley, five minutes into the season. Yet between Wang, junior Devon Goodman (who scored 16 against Miami), and rookie Bryce Washington, the Quakers have shown they will replace Betley’s outside scoring by committee this year — and that committee will blow up the boxscore, too.
Penn shot 60 percent from the field against the same program that finished last season ranked No. 22 in the country.
Take it all in. This is not a moment — the Donahue movement has taken full root in Philadelphia, and it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future.
The Quakers are playing attractive basketball, and they’re having fun doing it. Tuesday’s signature win was brilliant, but it won’t be a one-off.
Next Tuesday, Penn hosts Villanova, the reigning national champion. It might be unrealistic to say the Quakers are favorites over the Wildcats, but the beauty of the Quakers under Donahue in his fourth season in charge is that they have shown it's far from impossible.
Penn’s dunking on Miami represents a new phase of the program to outsiders, but players and close followers alike will know that they’re right where they should be.
A double-digit win over a Power Five conference team did not come as a shock. That’s a beautiful thing.
Can the Quakers bring a real surprise to the Palestra in a week?