The new year has not been treating Penn men’s basketball well so far.
Looking to rebound from two consecutive losses to Princeton to begin Ivy League play, the Quakers couldn’t get the job done against Saint Joseph's, losing by a score of 87-81. With the loss to the Hawks (4-14, 1-2 Big 5), Penn (7-7, 1-2) is officially out of contention to repeat as Big 5 champions.
“St. Joe's was the better team. They played better, and they were mentally and physically tougher,” coach Steve Donahue said.
The game did not start out as planned for the Quakers. They struggled defensively, allowing St. Joe's to make 12 of its first 16 shots.
Additionally, the Quakers were unable to stay out of foul trouble early on, committing five within the first 10 minutes. As a result, the Hawks entered the bonus early and were able to accumulate six first-half points off bonus free throws. Given the final score, those foul shots ended up being crucial.
However, the Red and Blue were able to end the first half on a high note as they went on an 8-0 run, capped by a Max Martz buzzer-beating three-pointer. Despite their poor play throughout much of the game, Penn was miraculously only down six at halftime.
Despite briefly taking the lead towards the beginning of the second half, the Hawks quickly took back the lead with a 16-2 run that put the game out of reach.
Throughout the game, the Quakers relied heavily on senior forward AJ Brodeur, as they have a lot in recent games. Most of Penn’s possessions began with Brodeur attempting to find an inside shot.
He ended up attempting a season-high 22 field goals. He also made it to the charity stripe seven times, connecting on five as he totaled 33 points altogether on the afternoon, which was also a season high.
“He played a great game," Donahue said. "We’ve relied on him for so long throughout his four years."
When Brodeur was unable to get a good look inside, he dished out to his teammates on the perimeter to look for a three-point shot. However, St. Joe's defended the three-point line very well, and even when the Quakers found open shots from outside, they struggled to connect, hitting only 20.6% of their threes.
Outside of Brodeur, the team was unable to find consistent offensive production, with their next leading scorer being senior guard Ryan Betley, who finished with 14 points.
Penn struggled to defend St. Joe's guard Ryan Daly, who finished with 30 points. His performance was partially a result of the Quakers’ poor three-point defense, as the Hawks were able to connect on 44.4% of their shots from beyond the arc.
“We’re not playing to the standards that we had earlier [in the season]," Donahue said. "We’ve got to figure it out and get better."
The game was well attended, with Penn fans making plenty of noise as the Quakers made a second half comeback. However, the many Hawks fans who made the trip across town made their presence felt as well.
While the loss is certainly disappointing, the Quakers still have plenty of time to rebound as the most important stretch of the season is still in front of them.
Next, the Quakers will finish off the Big 5 season against Temple. With Penn out of Big 5 title contention, they will use the Saturday game as an opportunity to get in sync before Ivy League play resumes.
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