A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Although Penn men’s basketball impressed with a weekend sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth, the Quakers also showed that they may be plagued by one of the same issues that doomed them last season: fatigue.
In Friday’s overtime win against Harvard, four Quakers — seniors AJ Brodeur, Devon Goodman and Ryan Betley, as well as freshman Jordan Dingle — logged over 35 minutes. Goodman and Brodeur were especially prominent, playing 44 and 40 minutes, respectively. The Red and Blue came back out against Dartmouth less than 24 hours later, and Goodman and Brodeur each played over 34 minutes again.
“I play a lot of minutes, but every minute that I’m out there I try to play hard and do what I have to do to help my team win,” Goodman said.
While the extended minutes did not seem to have an effect on Goodman, who had arguably his best game of the season on Saturday, Brodeur seemed out of rhythm all night. The senior saw his 40-game double-digit scoring streak snapped on a 4-of-16 shooting performance which included a number of missed shots around the basket.
“Nobody else in the country has to play these back-to-backs, especially after an overtime game, and I think AJ was incredible,” coach Steve Donahue said. “Defensively, in almost 80 minutes of playing time guarding Chris Lewis and Chris Knight, that's where the mental and physical fatigue affects the shots that he typically makes."
With Ivy League play just getting underway and five more back-to-back weekends coming, getting Goodman and Brodeur some much-needed rest might be key in preventing a late season burnout. Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, outside of Betley and Dingle, few other players have been consistent enough for Donahue to rely on in crucial moments.
For much of the early season, junior Eddie Scott was the fifth man in the starting lineup for Penn. But once the team hit a rough patch to start Ivy play, Donahue began tinkering with his starting five; four different Quakers have filled that final starting spot in the team's last six games.
“I was worried about fatigue [versus Dartmouth]. Max Martz gave us nine [minutes], Jarrod [Simmons] gave us five, Lucas Monroe gave us 13, Eddie Scott gave us 20,” Donahue said.
Despite this cast of characters putting in important minutes, the Quakers got little out of them offensively, with all players outside of the big four combining for just 22 points across both games this weekend. Due to the team's inability to get much going offensively with Brodeur on the bench, Donahue has begun experimenting with different ways to get his star big man some rest, even while playing 35 minutes a night.
“For a big, [Brodeur’s] cardio fitness is ridiculous, so what we do is we try to give him two days off in a row, and then build back up so he is ready to go Friday and Saturday,” Donahue said.
One player who has emerged recently as a potential fifth man for the Quakers is senior guard Ray Jerome. Earning just his second career start in the game versus Dartmouth, the senior has averaged just under 25 minutes and five points a contest since the game versus Princeton on Jan. 10.
Even if Jerome lands in the lineup for good, the Red and Blue will need some combination of Scott, Monroe, Martz and Simmons to begin producing if the team is going to keep up this weekend’s momentum while keeping its consistent producers from becoming overworked.