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Junior guard Clark Slajchert puts up a shot against Towson during the game at the Palestra on Nov. 13. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

In front of a semi-packed Palestra, Penn men's basketball played the first home game of its 2022-23 campaign, and it went much the same as its first two road games. 

On Sunday afternoon, the Quakers (0-3) fell to Towson, 80-74, and while the final score may seem close, the game was much more lopsided than it appears. Penn fell as far behind as 22 points with seven minutes remaining, and the Tigers held onto a double-digit lead for the majority of the contest. Key in Penn's defeat was the free-throw attempt disparity, for which the Quakers trailed by a whopping 32-10.

After losses to Iona, Missouri, and now Towson, Penn coach Steve Donahue thinks his team's strength of schedule so far should leave Quaker fans without too much to worry about.

"We are one of four teams in the country that played three top-100 teams," Donahue said. "I don't think there's a team in our league that would've won any of those three games we just played."

The game started off as a three-point shooting contest, as both teams were hot from downtown early. Towson (3-0) elected to double-team junior guard Jordan Dingle off the screen, which allowed the Red and Blue's superstar to find the open man on the three-point line, or make short passes to senior center Max Lorca-Lloyd for more play-making opportunities. On fire was junior guard Clark Slajchert, who made his four of his first five shots for 11 early points to keep the Quakers within a one-point deficit, 17-16, with 12 minutes left in the first half. 

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil Senior center Max Lorca-Lloyd looks to pass the ball to a teammate during the game against Towson at the Palestra on Nov. 13.

From there on, however, the Quakers sputtered, trailing 34-24 going into halftime. Key big men such as junior forward Max Martz and Lorca-Lloyd got in early foul trouble, and without them, Penn struggled to generate stops on defense, allowing 11 offensive rebounds and 10 second-chance points compared to the Quakers' two at half. 

Penn's hot shooting also wore off, as the team only managed to go 8-28 from the field and 4-16 from deep. Slajchert missed his next five shots, and Dingle also struggled in the first half, often settling for contested jumpers instead of driving to the basket, and going 0-5 from the field. Additionally, turnovers plagued the Red and Blue, with seven giveaways leading to an 8-0 advantage in fast-break points for the Tigers. 

The Quakers came out of the gate in the second half trying to get their superstar going. Dingle looked much more in rhythm, scoring a quick six points, and forcing Towson to call timeout as the Quakers cut the deficit down to eight with 16 minutes remaining. However, Penn couldn't further that momentum, as Tiger shooters started to hit from behind the arc, and turnovers and missed shots once again held Penn back. The Tigers went on a 10-0 run for the second time in the game to make it 57-36 in favor of the visitors with 10 minutes remaining.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil The men's basketball team cheers on their teammates from the sidelines during the final minutes of the game against Towson at the Palestra on Nov. 13.

After a timeout, Penn refused to throw in the towel, as the squad answered with a 11-0 run of its own to make it 57-47, and forcing Towson to call timeout. Dingle drove to the hoop for two easy buckets, and the Quakers forced steals and grabbed defensive boards on the other end — something they struggled with during the first half. While the timeout did not quell Penn's offense, it jumpstarted the Tigers', as the Quakers were never able to cut their lead to less than 10 for the next five minutes. Dingle stayed hot, making plays in transition, but Towson guard Nicolas Timberlake matched him shot-for-shot to make it 67-55 Tigers at the four-minute media timeout. 

Following the break, the game's momentum drastically changed for the Red and Blue on just one play. Slajchert forced a turnover, and with Penn on the fast break with a chance to make it a single-digit game for the first time in the second half, senior forward Michael Moshkovitz found a cutting sophomore forward Nick Spinoso for what should've been an easy layup. But Timberlake leaped up to block it, and the Tigers scored on their next opportunity to make it a 12-point game again. 

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil Junior guard Jordan Dingle makes a layup against Towson during the game at the Palestra on Nov. 13.

Penn wasn't able to cut the deficit to single digits until only 53.8 seconds remained, on a three-pointer by Dingle to make it 71-64. 

After only shooting 29% from the field in the first half, the Quakers drastically improved in the second, making over 60% of their attempts. However, while it was their defense that kept them in the game in the first half, they couldn't maintain that same level in the second, allowing the Tigers to shoot 59% from the field to nearly match them. 

After going silent in the beginning, Dingle finished with a season-high 24 points on 50% shooting, albeit going only 1-6 from distance. Slajchert also had his best shooting game of the season, scoring 21 points on 5-7 from deep and 8-14 overall. The Quakers will have a short rest to prepare for Drexel on the road this Tuesday, looking to earn their first win of the season. Still, Donahue doesn't consider it crunch time for his time, which still sits two months away from Ivy play.

"There's no such thing as a must-win. Our slogan is must-trust, to trust the process, and to work hard and not worry about the opponents, in particular," he said. "These games are about us getting better, competing for a Big 5 championship, and for an Ivy League title."