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Sophomore guard George Smith looks to drive past Iona defenders during the team's season opener at Hynes Athletics Center in New Rochelle, N.Y. on Nov. 7. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

In its season opener on Monday at Iona, Penn men’s basketball scored only 50 points throughout the entire game behind an abysmal 3-25 from three. But on Friday night, Penn (0-2) reached the half-century mark just a few minutes into the second half, and matched that total from downtown with its sixth shot.

Despite this improvement on offense, though, the Quakers fell to Missouri 92-85, falling to 0-2 to start the season.

In the end, self-inflicted mistakes came to haunt Penn. The team had 19 turnovers, leading to 29 points for the Tigers. Of those, seven came from junior guard Jordan Dingle, who ended the game with 18 points, but none of them came until the two-minute mark of the first half. 

From the opening tip, Missouri seemed in complete control of the game. In the first two minutes, the Tigers were 4-4 from three and had forced two turnovers, opening up a 12-0 lead when Penn coach Steve Donahue called timeout. 

To Donahue, though, despite the quick scoring from Mizzou, Penn's defensive strategy was working.

"Our defensive game plan was to keep them out of the paint," he said. "And I thought them relying on the long three actually allowed us to get back in the game quicker."

But after that break, the Quakers heated up, going on a 22-5 run and taking a lead, which lasted for most of the first half. Much of this offense came from junior guard Clark Slajchert, who led the Quakers on Friday night with 21 points on an impressively efficient 7-13 shooting. 

"I think you need to see the ball go through the basket consistently and in that sense   these guys are really good shooters," Donahue said. "We should be a really good shooting team and if we run good offense, I expect we'll make a lot of threes."

However, Mizzou, led by first-year head coach Dennis Gates, answered by having his players picking up Penn from full-court for much of the first half and nearly all of the second. As the first half wound down, this relentless pressure forced several key turnovers. With the takeaways and several minutes in the bonus on their side, the Tigers finished the first half on an 8-1 run to tie the game at a 43-43 tie. 

"In some ways, I thought we carved it up to get open shots and unfortunately other times we did not handle it well," Donahue said of the full-court press. "The turnovers were disappointing and something we're gonna have to work on."

While the contest’s first period was one of runs, the rest of the game stayed close until there were around six minutes remaining. Noah Carter, who led Mizzou with 28 points behind 6-9 from downtown, heated up, creating a 10-point Tiger lead, which essentially held until the game ended.

Despite ultimately ending up with the loss, Penn did a good job of bottling up Missouri senior Kobe Brown, who was named second team all-SEC last season. After a pair of triples in the game's opening minutes, Brown only scored two more points in 20 minutes. Perhaps more importantly, he was held without a rebound, after averaging over 7.5 last year.

"[Brown] was the focal point of our defensive plan and just every time he got it, we swarmed him," Donahue said. "He's such a great offensive rebounder, [but] I thought we team rebounded really well."

Throughout the game, the Quakers made their presence known  on the glass, where they out-rebounded Mizzou 37-29. Slajchert was a force in that area, too, tallying six boards alongside senior center Max Lorca-Lloyd’s seven.

The Quakers showed major improvement on offense from their season opener at Iona earlier in the week. But in crunch time, they simply couldn’t keep up with a Missouri squad averaging nearly 95 points per game through two contests this year.

The Quakers are next in action this Sunday, taking on Towson at 4 p.m. in the Palestra for their home opener. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.