Over the past few days, Penn men’s basketball competed in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, an early-season tournament played each November on Coastal Carolina University’s campus.
The Quakers (3-4) dropped their first two games of the tournament against Utah State (4-1), 87-79, and Davidson (2-2), 72-60, before picking up a 71-63 win against Old Dominion (2-4) on Sunday afternoon.
-- Penn vs. Utah State, Thursday, Nov. 18 --
In their first matchup, the Quakers fell to Utah State in double-overtime, 87-79.
Penn came out to a slow start, as Utah State scored the first four points of the game. However, a layup by junior Lucas Monroe and a dunk from fellow junior Max Lorca-Lloyd put the Quakers within two at the five-minute mark.
Soon after, the Aggies went on an 6-0 run that was eventually halted by Clark Slajchert and Nick Spinoso, who combined for 11 straight points. This effort brought the Quakers within one at 16-15 with eight minutes left in the half.
For the last two minutes of the half, Utah State was scoreless, and Jordan Dingle tied the game up at 28 after a pair of baskets in the paint.
Utah State started the second half as they did the first, getting a quick five-point lead before Jonah Charles fired back with a deep three off an Aggie turnover. Penn was unable to gain momentum, however, and Utah State had another scoring surge to build a double-digit lead to 48-37.
To close the gap, the Quakers answered with back-to-back threes, and the Red and Blue eventually got their first lead of the second half at 56-55 with less than five minutes left to play.
“We always have fight in us no matter what — no matter what the score is, as long as we believe in ourselves and each other," Charles said. "We weren’t worried at all, we weren’t stressed at all.”
Penn and Utah State exchanged baskets for the rest of regulation, keeping the game close. Jordan Dingle had the chance to win it for the Quakers at the buzzer, but his three-point attempt rolled off the rim, keeping Utah State alive. The Penn sophomore — who's been excelling all season — recorded a career-high 31 points in the losing effort.
The Quakers took a 74-73 lead with 30 seconds left in the overtime period via a three-pointer from Max Martz. However, a review of the play turned the three into a two-point basket; the game was tied at 73, and a second overtime was needed to decide a winner.
“There were so many crazy things that happened," coach Steve Donahue said. "The line thing’s one. At the end of regulation, Jordan takes a shot and the defender didn’t let him stand or land — that could be called a foul.”
The Aggies were able to pull away in the second overtime period, getting the first four points and holding off Penn for the rest of the period to advance into the winners bracket.
“We could work on pushing the pace and transitioning, getting into our sets a bit sooner," Charles said. "I think it’s something we’re improving on … It got better throughout the weekend after Utah State.”
-- Penn vs. Davidson, Friday, Nov. 19 --
After a tiring game and a tough loss against Utah State, Penn was unable to flip the script the following day, suffering a 72-60 loss to Davidson.
The Wildcats got up by double digits early — four minutes into play. Coach Donahue called a timeout, changing all five guys on the floor in hopes of generating offense and halting Davidson's run. Penn eventually got on the board at 16-1, after George Smith made only one of three foul shots.
The Quakers didn’t give up, and, bit by bit, cut into the Wildcats’ lead. After Spinoso and Lucas Monroe put four points on the board to start Penn’s scoring output, Dingle notched a pair of threes that started a 10-4 Penn run.
“The ups and downs have been a lot, but I think the one thing that has been consistent is the kids have really not given up at all," Donahue said. "[They have] great perseverance — don’t really worry about what’s just happened, but how we can fix it.”
Soon after, Davidson responded with seven points on three straight possessions. However, the Red and Blue fought back again, managing to hold off Davidson for nearly five minutes to get the game tied up at 29 when Williams went in for an uncontested jumper after a steal. The Wildcats got a final three to end the scoring in the period, making it 32-29, Davidson.
“During timeouts, we were told to just play four minutes at a time," Charles said. "Play these four minutes and win these four minutes. We’ll worry about the next 16 minutes after that. 'Next four minutes' was a big mantra that we talked about all weekend.”
The closest Penn would get to Davidson in the second half was when Dingle opened the scoring, making it 32-31 in favor of the Wildcats. Three long-distance baskets from the Wildcats put Davidson on a 10-0 run, giving them a 48-36 lead. The Quakers were unable to come back, losing the game 72-60.
-- Penn vs. Old Dominion, Sunday, Nov. 21 --
After yet another tough defeat, the Red and Blue faced Old Dominion on Sunday in the seventh-place game, taking it 71-63. Penn’s impressive .490 shooting percentage, despite only 51 shots taken, helped lift them above the Monarchs.
Penn did not trail for the entirety of the game, but Old Dominion was constantly lurking close behind the Quakers.
Coming out strong, Penn took the first five points of the game. When Old Dominion tied it up at 9-9, Penn went on a 5-0 run. Again, as the Monarchs got within two of Penn at 16-14, the Red and Blue scored eight straight points with the help of back-to-back threes from Martz and Charles.
At the half, the Quakers led 31-25.
The second half was almost all back-to-back baskets, yet Penn maintained a consistent six- to 10-point lead for the first part of the second half. Jelani Williams scored five points in a row seven minutes into the half to give Penn a 48-37 lead, a lead that coach Donahue saw as being somewhat inevitable based on their improved play.
“There [were] moments in the second half that we were locked in," Donahue said. "Great execution, ball movement, cuts. I think the defense has been pretty solid and can get better … I just think that on the offensive end, we have a team that can be a very good offensive team … At times, we show it — [we] just want to get more consistent.”
Old Dominion pushed back, cutting the Penn lead to seven before the second media timeout. However, after Michael Moshkovitz and Charles hit threes for the Quakers, Penn took off, pushing their lead to 63-48 and forcing Old Dominion to call timeout.
The Monarchs kept pushing, though, and made it a two-possession game at 67-61, thanks to five unanswered points scored over a 63-second span.
Penn was able to remain on top for the rest of the game and did not give into Old Dominion's challenges. After Penn’s Spinoso missed both free throws, the Monarchs missed a three, and Williams held onto the rebound, got fouled, and scored the final two points of the game.
The Quakers finished the weekend 1-2, taking the seventh-place game, 71-63. Utah State, Penn’s first opponent, which it took to double-overtime, ended up winning the invitational.
“Utah State was good. I think it’s a great test for us," Donahue said. "It’s something we learn from. We’re gonna get better from all this competition and all these moments. Most important thing is we get ready for the Ivies … and ready to be our best at that point.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.