Penn men’s basketball won its fourth consecutive game (and third in Ivy League play) with a 76-67 victory over Columbia on Saturday afternoon. Here’s what we learned from the Red and Blue’s tight win.
1. Senior guard Ryan Betley went down with an apparent ankle injury in the second half and did not return to the game. Betley won’t play in Penn’s Sunday contest against Cornell, and it’s unclear if and when he would be able to return to action after that.
2. The major question mark that Penn faces is how the team could perform if Betley misses significant time or isn’t able to play at all again this season. The Quakers had to deal with a similar situation when Betley went down with a season-ending injury in the first game of 2018-19, but that team had experienced guards like Antonio Woods and Jake Silpe who were able to start and play significant minutes. This year’s backcourt group is filled with freshmen, albeit talented ones.
3. While not listed as a guard, freshman forward Max Martz might have to be the player to fill Betley’s role down the stretch if he remains unavailable. Martz made three key three-pointers in the second half to extend Penn’s lead when the Quakers were receiving little other outside shooting. He has also racked up a very impressive 50% mark from beyond the arc so far this season. While Martz still has some work to do to reach Betley’s level in terms of cuts and drives to the basket, it might not be too far-fetched to see him start consistently scoring in double-digits with more minutes.
4. A couple of other names to watch moving forward are freshman guard Lucas Monroe and sophomore guard Bryce Washington, who combined to play only three minutes on Saturday. If Betley misses significant time, or even if he is able to return quickly, these two players could provide important guard depth as the Quakers move through the Ivy Weekend slate. Monroe has been a solid rebounder and defender during his rookie season, and Washington could provide some big three-pointers off the bench. It’s unclear how much Washington will play, however, as he just returned to warmups before the Columbia game for the first time since suffering a wrist injury, and he wasn’t even receiving all that many minutes before the injury.
5. In the first half of Saturday’s game, Columbia double-teamed senior forward AJ Brodeur on several occasions. That strategy seemed to be working pretty well, as it gave Brodeur no room to operate in the paint and forced him to kick the ball outside to Penn’s struggling shooters. Then the Lions inexplicably stopped the double-teams for the most part in the second half, and the big man dominated on the way to a game-high 24 points. It will be interesting to see if other Ivy League teams start doing the same and collapse into the paint to try to stop Brodeur. If they do, Penn’s three-point shooting will become even more important.
6. Brodeur had struggled somewhat from the foul line going into this season, with mark of 57.6% from the charity stripe in 2018-19, but he has been much improved this year. He currently is shooting 75% from the line, and he made 10-of-12 free throws in Saturday’s game. If Brodeur keeps that up, he will be nearly impossible to guard, as teams often resort to fouling him inside to avoid giving up easy buckets.
7. Penn’s defense has been very effective over its four-game winning streak, and that continued for the most part against Columbia. Despite that, coach Steve Donahue did make note of a few plays in the second half where the Quakers overcommitted into the paint and gave up open threes. Three-point defense has always been one of Donahue’s points of emphasis, and continuing to force contested twos, as the Quakers did for much of Saturday’s game, will be key in limiting Ivy League opponents.
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