This Thanksgiving, Penn men’s basketball has a lot to be thankful for, including the four three-point lines on the Anaheim Arena court.
On Thursday night, the Quakers kicked off their play at the Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim, Calif. against Central Florida. After a narrow 68-67 victory over the Knights, the Quakers played No. 14 Arizona, which had a back and forth two-point victory of its own against Pepperdine the previous night. Penn kept the game close all night, but it fell to the Wildcats by a score of 92-82.
The Quakers (4-3) entered the Wooden Legacy with a 3-2 record on the season, coming off the heels of a six-point road victory over Providence (4-4). Penn has given its freshman class extensive minutes to start the season, with Jordan Dingle, Max Martz, and Lucas Monroe each averaging more than 10 minutes per contest thus far. This tournament would be their first tournament action with the Quakers, as well as the first tournament play since returning to action for senior guard Ryan Betley, who missed all of last season due to an injury after leading the team in scoring his sophomore year.
The Quakers came out slow on offense to start the tournament against UCF, scoring just two points through the first five minutes of action. The team's defense kept it in the game during this stretch, a theme throughout the contest. The Red and Blue held UCF (4-2) to just 32.4 percent shooting from the field during the game, keeping it close despite Penn’s struggles on the boards.
The low-scoring play continued for much of the first half, with UCF shooting just 14-of-42 from the field and Penn turning it over 13 times. Despite these turnovers, the Quakers held a narrow 31-30 lead at halftime.
The second half was much of the same. Despite UCF’s low shooting percentage, the Knights put up 27 more shots than the Quakers in the game as a result of their dominance on the glass. UCF outrebounded Penn on the offensive glass, 22-3. The Knights also dominated the turnover battle with 10 fewer than the Red and Blue.
Despite that, the Quakers were bailed out by their excellent shooting. Led by the senior trio of AJ Brodeur, Devon Goodman, and Ryan Betley, who led the team in scoring with 23, 19, and 14 points, respectively, Penn made more than 50% of their shots and 45% of their three-point attempts.
In the game's final 20 seconds with UCF down three, the Knights shot three three-point attempts, but the Quakers were able to grab a defensive rebound. After a timeout, Penn turned the ball over on an inbound with two seconds on the clock. On the ensuing UCF possession, Darin Green made a contested shot in the corner as time expired. After review, the basket was ruled a two-point attempt, as Green's foot was inside both the NBA and men's Division I three-point lines, and the Quakers held on to win by a single point.
Coming off the narrow victory, the Quakers tried to carry their two-game win streak into their contest against Arizona (8-0). Playing in California, the fans were noticeably present for the Wildcats, filling the small arena with cheers in favor of Arizona throughout the contest.
In the first half of the game, the Wildcats and the Quakers battled back and forth, with each team putting together extensive scoring runs. Arizona led by as many as 10, while the Quakers led by five early on. After the Quakers took a 31-30 lead with two and a half minutes left in the half, Arizona went on an 11-2 run to close it out.
Early in the second half, Penn’s offensive centerpiece found himself in foul trouble. Within the first three minutes of the second half, Brodeur picked up his third and fourth fouls and played limited minutes for the remainder of the game. In his absence, the Quakers stepped up shooting from behind the arc. Their efforts were led by Dingle, who finished with a game-high 27 points, including seven made three pointers. Despite limited time in the second half, Brodeur finished with a season-high 10 assists along with 11 points.
The Quakers struggled to stop the Arizona offense, which was highlighted freshman guard Nico Mannion, a top-10 recruit nationally. Mannion led the Wildcats in scoring with 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Arizona finished the night shooting 58% from the field and 46% from deep. Despite a strong effort of their own on offense, the Quakers could not put up enough points to keep up with the offensive firepower of the Wildcats, ultimately falling 10 points short.
Penn will look to build off these two games in their third-place matchup on Sunday against Long Beach State (3-5).