Last season, Penn men's basketball went a putrid 0-4 in Big 5 play. This year might turn out better, but it's starting much the same.
On Wednesday night, as part of a Big 5 doubleheader at the Palestra with La Salle and Temple beginning the evening, Penn faced St. Joe's and fell, 85-80 in overtime. Star junior guards Jordan Dingle and Clark Slajchert led the Quakers with 28 and 18 points, respectively, but it was the Hawks and sophomore guard Erik Reynolds II who pulled out a gutsy victory after clawing back from a 17-point hole in the first half.
“It just wasn’t a consistent effort,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said postgame.
The Quakers entered tonight on a four-game win streak, looking to continue their good form against St. Joe's. Both teams started out aggressively with the Hawks attacking the paint and Penn taking primarily three-point jumpers early on.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, their offense fizzled out early, allowing the Quakers to take the reins. Throughout the first half, the Red and Blue took a plethora of threes, hitting a strong six-of-12. Additionally, contributions off the bench from forwards Eddie Holland III and Michael Moshkovitz, who combined for 13, aided the offense. By midway through the first half, the Quakers took a 27-10 lead and looked on their way to a surefire win.
However, St. Joe’s (3-3) did not stay cold for long. The Hawks went on a 10-0 run, taking advantage of a slew of Penn turnovers. The Quakers were able to seize some of the momentum back off of a poster dunk by Nick Spinoso. The sophomore forward/center had a game-high 11 assists, proving to be a capable facilitator on offense.
Another notable statistic was senior guard Lucas Monroe’s 12 rebounds (three offensive) in the first period alone — allowing Penn (5-5) to keep possessions alive. Monroe finished the game with 16 rebounds, an impressive total for a guard that measures at just 6-foot-6.
“I think he was the best defensive rebounder in league play last year for us,” Donahue said of Monroe. “He can guard multiple guys.”
The score was 36-29 at the half, with the Quakers in control mostly the whole way.
The start of the second half was more of the same for both teams. The Red and Blue continued cruising offensively with excellent ball movement, more in the paint this time around. However, midway through the period, St. Joe’s cut the lead down to three. Penn’s offense stalled for a bit, and all the momentum shifted to the Hawks, who were then able to take the lead 61-60 with six minutes left in an extremely quick offensive run.
Both teams started to trade buckets for the next couple of possessions. With 3:30 left in the game, the Red and Blue led by two. At the two-minute mark, the game was all tied up at 69. Each team was finding a way to get to the free-throw stripe. The Quakers' defense started to collapse, though, allowing two easy buckets in the paint.
With 16 seconds left, Penn was down 74-72, but miraculously, Dingle was able to score a quick floater with five seconds remaining — sending the game to overtime after a big defensive stop at the rim on the other end.
A clutch effort by Spinoso at the two-minute mark put the Quakers up yet again, only for St. Joe’s to respond with a bucket of their own. With around 30 seconds of overtime left, the Hawks took the lead on free throws, going up 81-80.
In the end, the Hawks were able to take a shocking win as Penn’s final possession ended in a missed three by Slajchert that proved to be the difference.
The Quakers will have another chance to earn their first Big 5 win since January 2020 on Saturday at 2:00 p.m., when they'll face La Salle (3-4) — which is coached by none other than former Penn coach Fran Dunphy, who helmed the Red and Blue for 17 seasons.