Nobody said it would be easy.
In Penn men’s basketball's final non-conference game of the season, the Red and Blue defeated Temple, 66-59, in a defensive battle that went down to the wire. The Quakers (8-7, 2-2 Big 5) began the game with a 14-0 run, but Temple (10-9, 2-1) was able to hang around in the second half to make things interesting.
This marks the first victory for the Red and Blue over Temple at the Palestra in just over 13 years. Their most recent home triumph came when former Penn coach Fran Dunphy was in just his second year leading the Owls.
Dunphy was honored before the game as the winningest head coach in Big 5 history, amassing 580 victories between his stints with the two local rivals. The Quakers defeated Temple, 77-70, at the Liacouras Center in North Philadelphia a year ago in Dunphy’s final game coaching against his former team.
"When we were at center court just watching the place erupt I got chills," coach Steve Donahue said. "Everybody in that building who knows [Dunphy] understands what a great person he is."
Both teams got off to slow starts, but the Owls were especially cold to begin the game. Temple missed its first 12 shots before finally getting on the board, but by that time the Quakers had built up a 14-point lead despite some shooting struggles of their own.
To Penn’s credit, most of Temple’s early shot attempts were contested, as the Owls were unable to move the ball effectively or penetrate inside. The Quakers also forced six turnovers, and they blocked four shots in the first half.
"I think we have the ability to be a great defensive team in the [Ivy] League," Donahue said.
Even with the suffocating defense, the Quakers didn’t commit a shooting foul until under four minutes remained in the first half. Penn also allowed zero threes in the first half. This was just the second time this season that the Owls failed to hit a shot from behind the arc in the opening period.
Penn led by double digits throughout the majority of the first half, but Temple was able to cut the deficit to single digits going into halftime, trailing by a score of 25-16.
The bulk of the Red and Blue’s offense in the first half came from senior forward AJ Brodeur, who put up 12 points on 50% shooting. Early in the second half, the Quakers began getting contributions from throughout the roster with seven different players hitting shots.
Temple was led once again by senior guard Quinton Rose, who came into the game averaging a team-best 15.1 points per game. Rose struggled in the first half, hoisting 11 shots but only being rewarded with six points. He would finish with 21 points but needed 25 shots to reach that number.
"That was our biggest focus; trying not to let [Rose] get to the rim," Donahue said.
For Penn, freshman guard Jordan Dingle continued his streak of hot second-half scoring, notching 11 of his 15 points in the final 20 minutes. Coming into the game, Dingle had 128 second-half points and only 48 first-half points this season. With just under nine minutes remaining, the Owls cut the lead to six, but Dingle knocked down back-to-back triples to double that margin.
Temple’s press defense proved to be effective late in the game, with a steal and finish by Rose cutting the Quakers’ lead to six once again with a minute to play as part of an eight-point run for the Owls. Penn continued to struggle to get the ball up the court, but ultimately the lead it had built up was too much for Temple to overcome.
The Red and Blue will now shift focus back to their Ivy League schedule, which resumes next weekend with games against Harvard and Dartmouth at the Palestra.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.