While many Penn students were finishing off their Thanksgiving leftovers, Penn men’s basketball had a job to do.
To cap off their appearance in the Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim, Calif., the Quakers faced off against Long Beach State on Sunday and came away with the win over the Beach by a score of 95-79.
After a back-and-forth first half where both teams finished with 43 points, it looked like this would be another close game for Penn (5-3). However, the Quakers blew past the Beach (3-6) in the second half, outscoring them, 52-36.
“It’s been a great tournament for us,” coach Steve Donahue said. “But more importantly, for these guys, it’s another chance to be together for six days and really get to have fun with each other. Hopefully that builds your team going forward and get you prepared outside the basketball part of it.”
Penn’s chemistry was on display on Sunday afternoon, as 75% of its field goals came off assists. The quick ball movement of the Red and Blue proved to be too much for Long Beach State to handle in the second half.
Although the win was a team effort — every Penn player who saw the floor scored — the Quakers were led by a pair of freshmen. Guard Jordan Dingle stayed hot with 21 points after finishing with 27 in Friday's loss against No. 14 Arizona. Meanwhile, Max Martz, a 6-foot-6 forward, broke out with 17 points, making six of his seven shots.
“I think these guys have done a great job adjusting to the speed of play and slowing down,” senior forward AJ Brodeur said. “But they’re still learning, they’re still making those types of mistakes, but you can definitely see their growth as players.”
The veterans played a big role as well. Brodeur stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, five rebounds, nine assists, four steals, and three blocks.
“[Brodeur] allows us to compete with Arizona. If we don’t have him, we don’t compete with Arizona, let alone [Villanova] and hopefully the really good teams in our league that we have to play this year,” Donahue said.
Fellow senior Devon Goodman finished with 16 points in the win.
The Quakers are tough to beat when they're hitting shots from deep. They made 15-of-36 shots from beyond the arc on Sunday afternoon, while Martz made 5-of-6.
As the Red and Blue head back home from their road trip, they will begin to prepare for their clash against No. 22 Villanova, one of their biggest games of the season. The matchup could end up playing a critical role in determining the Big 5 champion.
Penn has many reasons to be optimistic for its contest against the Wildcats (4-2). The Quakers pulled off a thrilling upset against Villanova at the Palestra last year. This year, they have shown that they are capable of playing well against a nationally ranked team, as they hung tough against Arizona on Friday.
“We’re going to have to play like we did in the second half for 40 minutes going forward,” Brodeur said. “I don’t think we’ve played a complete game yet in our season, and that’s going to have to change when we go forward. We took great steps in showing what kind of team we can be in terms of toughness.”
However, the Red and Blue still have an uphill battle. To give themselves a chance, they will need to defend well against the Wildcats' multiple five-star players, including freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. The first-year star was one of the most heavily recruited forwards in the nation as a high schooler and has already made an impact at Villanova, where he is nearly averaging a double-double.
In their win over the Wildcats last year, the Red and Blue out-rebounded their rival by a large margin, so that could be a key again for Penn on Wednesday at Finneran Pavilion.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.