Winless no more.
In a back-and-forth overtime thriller, Penn men’s basketball fell to previously winless Monmouth at the Palestra, 76-74.
Although the game's outcome looked predictable on paper, the Quakers (10-4) simply could not generate any consistent offense against the stifling defense of the Hawks (1-12).
Partly to blame for the Red and Blue's offensive struggles were the absences of senior forward Max Rothschild and freshman forward Michael Wang, both of whom have been important contributors to the Quakers’ success so far this season.
Rothschild, who is also a captain, has missed the last three games with a back injury, and Wang injured his right ankle in Penn’s blowout loss at Toledo.
When asked about a timetable for their return, coach Steve Donahue could not provide one, saying only that the two are “day-to-day.”
In addition to injury concerns, the Quakers failed to convert at the free-throw line, continuing a troubling trend that dates back as far as last season. The team missed 12 free throws overall, including five in the overtime period alone from junior forward AJ Brodeur.
“We’ve talked about it a lot,” Donahue said. “We have to look that one right in the eye. In tough games, we’re going to have to go to the line and make free throws. … You can’t give away points, especially once it gets down to overtime against a team that’s really fighting.”
Unfortunately for Penn, the team’s shooting struggles extended past the charity stripe, as the Quakers shot below 33 percent from the three-point line and 35 percent overall.
Simply put, the Monmouth defense was not allowing any easy buckets.
“Monmouth presents some issues,” Donahue said. “They come out with this big lineup. They had Yale down, they had Princeton down, and they had Albany down before they ran out of gas, but they got to the finish line tonight.
“They don’t really allow penetration. They collapse on the ball and force you to kick the ball out.”
Despite the loss, certain Quakers played very well, demonstrating skills that could prove useful as Ivy League play fast approaches.
In particular, freshman guard Bryce Washington kept the Quakers in the game for stretches in the second half when Penn’s offense struggled to generate consistent looks. The rookie finished the game with 17 points, most of which came from a team-high five three-pointers.
“Bryce is a big part of our offense,” Donahue said. “His ability to make perimeter shots is huge.”
Additionally, Brodeur poured in 20 points while also demonstrating his abilities as a passer, pacing the team with four assists.
If the absence of Rothschild, the team’s best passing big man, persists, Brodeur's assisting acumen becomes even more crucial for the Quakers, especially in their Saturday matchup against a Princeton team that recently defeated No. 17 Arizona State.
To beat the Tigers, the Red and Blue will have to put these two recent losses behind them and think of Ivy League play as a brand-new season. Donahue has emphasized this message by referring to the first 14 games as the “preseason.”
“It’s been a strange preseason with a lot of ups and downs,” Donahue said. “We have to rally the troops a bit to see who’s healthy, but it’s a great group. They play. They compete. We’re going to try to figure some things out. We need to get better and improve.”
Despite the losses, Donahue remains confident in his team, and he likes the Quakers' chances come Saturday.
“I sense that this group will get to work and do everything they can to win on Saturday and play well.”
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