Earlier this season, Penn men's basketball cruised to a 20-point victory over the Hartford Hawks at the Palestra. On Monday night, the Quakers repeated their rout on the opponent’s home turf.
On Monday night, Penn (10-11, 2-4 Ivy) secured a much-needed 76-52 win against Hartford (4-17) after having lost three straight games against Ancient Eight opponents. Having beaten the Hawks by a comfortable margin during the Cathedral Classic this past November, Penn was hungry for a repeat performance. The Quakers’ 50% shooting from the field and 42% three-point rate reflect the team’s efficient offensive display.
“I thought we played really well for 30 minutes or 35-minute periods in each of the last few games," coach Steve Donahue said. "Before tonight, we just talked about making sure we played well for 40 good minutes, [and] I thought we did that after a slow start.”
The contest was neck and neck following the opening tip-off. Hartford was the first to gain momentum, thanks to efficient all-around shooting from the field, but stellar ball movement and sharp cuts to the basket by Penn kept the Quakers within striking distance.
Key passes from sophomore forward-center Nick Spinoso opened up the Hawks’ defense and allowed Penn to gain ground on the scoreboard. Spinoso played a key role in the offense with his rotations and dished out an impressive five assists throughout the game.
“This whole week, we've been working on getting the ball moving, not being so stagnant on offense, and really just trusting each other to make the right plays," Spinoso said. "Coach really stressed it this week so I'm glad to be able to perform and make the right reads.”
If Hartford started the opening half well, Penn finished it in a resounding display of dominance. Hawks fans had front-row seats to the Jordan Dingle show as the junior guard led the Quakers into the midway break. After slamming home a strong two-hand jam early in the contest, Dingle would rest on the bench until late in the first half. He was a man on a mission from the moment he checked back in, especially offensively. He finished his night in Connecticut with 23 points, shooting 4-8 from three.
Following the break, the Quakers came out of the locker room to continue what they started — entering the second half ready to extend their lead. With 10 minutes left to go in the match, Penn sat on a very comfortable 16-point lead.
The undeniable x-factor for Penn was impressive three-point shooting. The Quakers hit 14 shots from beyond the arc, two shy of their highest total this season. Hartford’s struggles from deep hindered its ability to respond to Penn’s offensive precision.
“Having Jordan and [junior guard Clark Slajchert] gives us so much off the dribble,” Donahue said. “I think we have to take more threes that are catch-and-shoot and be efficient with it. We have guys who can make them and it’s a big part of our offense. When we shoot well, it helps us with spacing and opens up games.”
Spinoso and senior guard Lucas Monroe were essential forces on the glass for Penn as well, finishing with a combined 14 rebounds. Hartford fought hard and competed with the Quakers for possession off of second-chance opportunities, yet the team's efforts fell far too short as the Red and Blue notched their seventh double-digit win of the season.
“It was great to get a win tonight, especially a win like this when we felt like we were really flowing,” Spinoso said. “We really needed it desperately. We had a couple of tough losses recently, but now we get to play six out of seven remaining games at the Palestra. I like our odds. We know we're not out of it”.
All of the Quakers’ remaining games this season will see them up against Ivy League opponents, beginning with a much-anticipated match against Harvard at the Palestra at 2 p.m. on Saturday.