One down, three to go for Penn in the Big 5.
Penn men’s basketball defeated La Salle, 75-59, in its first home game of the season. Looking to defend their Big 5 title from last season, the Quakers (2-1) outplayed their cross-city rivals, especially in the second half. With the win over the Explorers (1-1), the Red and Blue are three wins away from another Big 5 title.
In an attempt to rebound from a tough loss at Rice, Penn was aggressive by hustling on both ends and playing solid team defense.
“It’s huge for us. We love the Big 5,” coach Steve Donahue said. “For us to go out there and win six straight [Big 5 games], it is a big deal, it matters.”
With Penn coming out of halftime up 27-22, the game looked like it would be decided in the final minutes. However, the Quakers went on a 19-5 run to start the second half, turning a close game into a runaway win.
“If we didn’t (go on that run), I think this game goes down to the wire,” Donahue said.
Despite a 7-for-28 performance from the three-point line, the Quakers’ grit allowed them to retain their lead throughout the game. Penn finished with 16 offensive rebounds to La Salle’s three, and they took the ball away from the Explorers eight times.
“I think we’re a good three-point shooting team, we just haven’t been able to connect. We’re getting good looks … but when you start missing you start trying a little too hard sometimes,” Donahue said.
The team’s chemistry was also on display, as 13 of its buckets were scored off of assists.
In this Big 5 game, it was a Big Three for the Red and Blue that led them to victory. A trio of seniors — Devon Goodman, AJ Brodeur, and Ryan Betley — carried the load offensively, scoring 21, 20, and 17 points, respectively. No other Penn player finished in double figures.
“It’s great to see Ryan out there doing his thing,” Goodman said. “We missed him a lot last year … Having him back makes it easier for all of us, especially for me as a point guard.”
Throughout the game, the Quakers made a living in the paint, scoring a majority of their points from close range. Their strong rebounding effort allowed them to win the battle at the rim.
Although Penn led by as many as 19, La Salle mounted a comeback attempt late in the game. The Explorers came within eight with four minutes remaining, but Penn was ultimately able to put the Explorers away.
Penn’s depth will be something to keep an eye on throughout the season, as its bench was outscored, 39-5, by La Salle.
“We certainly have to keep developing the depth for sure, but I think it will happen,” Donahue said. “You’re asking a lot of young guys to start producing. I just think it’s going to take time.”
The Red and Blue will have nearly a week off before their next game: they will travel to Lafayette on Nov. 19 to take on the Leopards (2-1).
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