In its first game since Christmas, Penn men’s basketball got the equivalent of coal in its stockings.
The Quakers struggled to score throughout the game, ultimately losing to Toledo, 77-45. Penn (10-3) was able to keep it close early on, but the Rockets (12-1) created open looks on offense in the second half and pulled away. One of the biggest reasons for the Quakers’ tribulations was an early injury to freshman forward Michael Wang.
Both Penn and Toledo had significant amounts of time off prior to this matchup, and the rust showed early on. Highlighted by missed layups and turnovers, neither team was able to establish an offensive presence in the first part of the game. Junior forward AJ Brodeur and senior guard Antonio Woods provided the bulk of the points for the Quakers, finishing the half with eight points apiece.
As the half went along, the Rockets began to grow into the game. The same could not be said for the Red and Blue. Penn went scoreless for more than four minutes near the end of the half, allowing Toledo to gain control of the game and extend its lead. The Rockets finished the period with a 34-27 lead.
“For most of the first half, we competed, and I thought we outplayed them. But we had nothing to show for it because we missed easy shots,” coach Steve Donahue said.
Arguably the biggest moment of the first half, however, came with 11:59 remaining. Wang went up to grab a rebound but rolled his right ankle as he landed. He went to the bench and a large ice pack was put on his ankle by the trainer. He would not return the game, and he was seen walking on crutches.
The Quakers would continue their offensive struggles in the second period without Wang. Junior guard Devon Goodman found himself open in the paint on multiple occasions, but he missed three layups in the opening minutes. Woods would not score a point in the half.
“I think what happens is you miss some easy ones and it kind of snowballs mentally,” Donahue said about the misses. “We really allowed it to affect our play.”
Toledo took hold of the game and methodically increased its lead in the second half. Senior guard Jaelan Sanford led the way, finishing the game with a team-high 15 points, including a three-pointer that gave the Rockets a 51-35 lead with 12:54 remaining. The Quakers were never able to catch up, and the Toledo lead quickly ballooned to 22 with just under eight minutes to go.
“When you’re down, you’re extending your defense a little more than you like,” Donahue explained. “They had an ability to play through the shot clock and not let it affect them and make the extra pass."
One of the few bright spots for Penn in the second half was a career milestone for Brodeur. After another layup miss for Goodman, Brodeur tipped in the loose ball for his 1000th and 1001st points in his Penn career. He would finish the game with 19 points, giving him a career total of 1003 points. Donahue complimented Brodeur’s consistency for the Quakers.
“He’s an integral part of how we build a championship program. He competes every day. He competed today. You always know what you’re getting from AJ.”
In addition to Wang’s injury, the Red and Blue were also without senior forward Max Rothschild, who did not make the trip due to a persistent back injury. These are not the only injured players on the roster; junior guard Ryan Betley and sophomore guard Jelani Williams are both out for the season.
As Ivy play looms on the horizon, Donahue and the Quakers are going to have to hope to get players back on the court as quickly as possible. Penn will return home to face winless Monmouth on New Year's Eve.