The Quakers had hoped to build momentum heading into Big 5 competition after Thanksgiving break, as they traveled south to Fayetteville, Ark., to take on No. 13 Arkansas for the first time in either team's history. Unfortunately, in a contest without the Red and Blue's leading scorer — sophomore guard Jordan Dingle — Penn (3-6, 0-0 Ivy) dropped its ninth game of the year to No. 13 Arkansas (6-0, 0-0 SEC), 76-60. The Razorbacks had Las Vegas' backing, with Arkansas being favored by 18.
"Any time you're playing a team as good as [Arkansas], you've gotta make shots. They don't do a great job of defending the three ball, and we made it a point of emphasis to shoot from three," coach Steve Donahue said. "At the end of the day, with the way we shot the ball, we can't expect to win games against that type of talent."
The two teams started out neck and neck, with redshirt senior guard JD Notae drawing first blood on a driving layup. Sophomore guard Clark Slajchert quickly answered with a three-point shot to give Penn the lead. The California native, who drew the start in place of Dingle, finished with an impressive career-high 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting with three three-pointers. Sophomore forward Max Martz scored on the ensuing possession after capitalizing on an Arkansas turnover to put Penn up 5-3 with 18:49 remaining in the first period. This would be the Quakers' last lead of the contest.
The Quakers were notably hobbled in this contest. Dingle, senior forward Michael Wang, and junior center Max Lorca-Lloyd did not play, and freshman center Nick Spinoso left the game after just three minutes with an injury. As a result, the Quakers' tallest player was Michael Moshkovitz at 6-foot-7, and Donahue was forced to roll out a smaller lineup throughout the contest despite Arkansas sporting a 7-foot-3 starter in Connor Vanover.
"With everyone healthy, we'd expect to have more size in our lineups, but after [Spinoso] went down, the bench wasn't any deeper," Donahue said. "[Moshkovitz] and [Martz] had to guard those bigger players, and they're not as effective, given the size mismatch."
The Razorbacks would storm back and take a lead they wouldn't relinquish, thanks to some stellar performances from Notae, redshirt senior guard Au'Diese Toney, and graduate senior Stanley Umude. The trio combined for 32 points and 13 rebounds in the first half. Toney would be ejected from the game less than a minute into the second half after responding to a technical foul by junior guard Jonah Charles.
In the second half, Arkansas was able to keep its foot on the pedal, and the Razorbacks led for the entire second period. The Quakers did manage to cut the lead to just 10 with 4:11 remaining after junior forward Lucas Monroe sunk a free-throw. Monroe would finish with 14 points on four-of-six shooting. Nonetheless, the Razorbacks would not be deterred, as Notae answered, and Arkansas pulled away in the final minutes to hold on for a victory.
"You really have to credit Arkansas — they are a very talented team and played great basketball for 40 minutes," Donahue said. "We just didn't make the shots we needed to in order to stay in the game."
Notae would finish with 28 points on 24 shots, leading all scorers, while Umude scored 19 for the Razorbacks. Notae, a Georgia native, has stepped into a primary scoring role for Arkansas this season, and this matchup proved no exception. Arkansas will host Central Arkansas on Dec. 1 in its next matchup.
The Quakers will close out their long November stretch, consisting of 10 games, Wednesday when they host No. 7 Villanova at the Palestra, where they will hope to begin Big 5 play on a positive note. The last time Penn hosted Villanova, they defeated the No. 17 Wildcats 78-75 en route to a Big 5 title.
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