PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Providence fans were standing at the beginning of the game, but Penn gave them little reason to be on their feet for the rest of the contest.
After an explosive first half, Penn men’s basketball held on in the final stages to secure the 81-75 victory on Saturday. The Quakers (3-2) were unable to maintain the same offensive effectiveness at the beginning of the second half, but they made enough plays down the stretch to hold off the Friars (4-2).
Going into halftime with a 47-30 lead, the Red and Blue scored just six points in the first eight minutes of the second half, and Providence cut the lead to as little as six points with 8:51 to play.
However, freshman guard Jordan Dingle and senior guard Ryan Betley silenced the raucous crowd by knocking down two straight threes with just over six minutes remaining to extend Penn’s lead to 12. Providence would never get closer than six for the rest of the game, as Dingle put the game out of reach with two more threes to give the Quakers the victory. The freshman finished with 19 points on the evening.
"There were critical times that we needed to score, and we did," coach Steve Donahue said. "I thought Jordan had a couple big shots there."
The first half was marked by dominant play from senior forward AJ Brodeur and Betley, who scored 15 and 14 points in the first 20 minutes, respectively. As a team, the Quakers shot lights out from beyond the arc, knocking down seven of their 14 attempts, with Betley making four of them.
The Friars seemed to put an emphasis on going right at Brodeur in the first half, usually with junior center Nate Watson, who has a slight height and weight advantage on the Penn big man. However, Brodeur held strong on the low block, as Watson shot just 2-for-7 from the field.
"He's a great low-post defender; he's a great defender in every aspect," Donahue said. "He switches one through five. ... He guards and he competes. I thought we did a great job in the first half of making them really shoot challenging shots."
Providence switched things up on defense in the second half and implemented a full-court press. Penn struggled to handle this pressure and turned the ball over four times in the first six minutes of the half.
"We knew they were going to do that, especially after we came out with a decent lead in the first half. We knew they were going to come out and pressure us," Betley said. "We didn't handle it too well at the start, but it's just a matter of settling down, understanding what they were doing and just being tough with the ball, being gritty."
After a Luwane Pipkins three for Providence cut the lead to seven with 10:53 to go, the Quakers were able to settle down and break the press more effectively. The Red and Blue got into the half-court, which slowed down the game, as well as Providence's momentum. Additionally, Penn knocked down several foul shots, in spite of the hostile environment, to hold a comfortable lead for the remainder of the contest.
"Me, Dev, and AJ, the three of us seniors, we've played in that type of environment," Betley said. "This is our fourth season doing that, so I don't think that really affects us at all. We're used to it, and it's just a matter of relaying that to our younger guys and keeping them calm and keeping them in the moment."
The Friars made it interesting in the final seconds by getting the margin back to six by game's end, but it was too little too late, and Penn held on to secure its second victory against a power conference team this year.