Early in the season, the Quakers have some things to figure out.
Penn men’s basketball traveled to Lafayette on Tuesday night for its annual matchup against the Leopards and came away with an 86-75 loss.
Coming off a win in their home opener against La Salle, the Red and Blue (2-2) weren't able to slow down the Leopards (3-2), allowing them to shoot 54.2% from the field on the night.
“They played great offense the whole 40 minutes; they’ve been shooting the ball well the whole year,” coach Steve Donahue said.
The Quakers were seeking to change their three-point shooting fortunes. Entering the game, the Red and Blue were shooting just 23.7% on threes as a team, and the shooting didn’t look good as they missed their first three attempts of the game, all open looks.
That would turn out to be just a brief hiccup, as Penn would come back to hit its next four threes and finish shooting 34.4% from deep.
With freshman Jordan Dingle not making the trip due to injury, Donahue was looking for others to step up. After receiving limited minutes through the first three games, senior guard Ray Jerome came out firing, knocking down his first two three-point attempts to help the Quakers bust out of their slump.
“[Jerome] has done a good job over the last couple of months getting ready,” Donahue said.
Freshman forward Max Martz also delivered a strong performance in just his third game at the collegiate level. Martz made 4-of-5 first-half shots and led the Quakers at halftime with 10 points. In addition to his 6-foot-6 frame, Martz also showed that he can knock down shots as well, scoring from behind the arc and knocking down a couple of mid-range jumpers.
Even with Penn’s offense beginning to click, the Leopards were also on fire in the first half, shooting just under 60% from the field and going into the locker room with a 40-39 lead.
Lafayette continued to knock down shots at a high clip to start the second half, but sophomore guard Bryce Washington stepped up to keep the Red and Blue close. Shooting just 1-of-8 from deep coming into the game, Washington made back-to-back threes and finished at the rim on a fast break to put him in double figures for the first time this season.
Washington helped power the offense in the second half, but the defense just couldn’t hold up. Lafayette consistently found open looks beyond the arc and kept hitting shots inside.
“We’ve been pretty good defensively this year, and Lafayette had a lot to do with it, but we did some uncharacteristic things at the end of the shot clock," Donahue said. "We fouled at the rim, which we typically don’t do, and when we had our chances at the rim down at their end, we just didn’t execute like we needed to."
Junior guard Justin Jaworski, who leads the Leopards in scoring with 17.5 points per game, showcased his impressive shooting early on by scoring his team’s first eight points. With his first shot, Jaworski extended his streak of games with a made three to 42, the second-longest streak in the nation.
Jaworski put up another impressive outing with 20 points but also acted as the Leopards’ lead ball distributor. He finished with a career-high six assists. Five Lafayette players finished with double-digit scoring numbers while the Leopards shot 50% from deep as a team.
While the Quakers haven’t looked good in their two losses, both have come against non-conference opponents. The Red and Blue will be looking to improve their shooting and find their identity on defense as they move deeper into their Big 5 and Ivy League games. Next up is a trip to Providence on Saturday.