On Monday night, Penn men's basketball (3-1) pulled off an incredible upset in its 76-72 victory over No. 21 Villanova (2-1). The Quakers hadn’t beaten the Wildcats since 2018, even during the team's era with star guard Jordan Dingle — who gained Ivy League and Big 5 recognition for three seasons donning Red and Blue before transferring to St. John's last offseason. But it didn’t seem like the Quakers needed Dingle’s scoring to win this game. This team feels different. The Quakers don’t just look to one or two players for elite scoring anymore; everyone is involved.
Five players scored in double figures, with freshman guard Tyler Perkins leading the way at 22 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Ed Holland III’s 12 points were also helpful, as he added efficient shooting from the floor. Senior guard Clark Slajchert provided a spark as well in the second half and finished with 11 points. Things were tough defensively for both teams in a high scoring affair. However, despite foul trouble, junior center Nick Spinoso’s much needed interior presence was crucial with two blocks along with his 10 points.
“He's an incredible defensive rebounder, and most importantly, competes in every aspect of the game almost to a fault. He just competes at an elite level,” coach Steve Donahue said of Perkins postgame.
Even when Villanova made their mini-runs, the Quakers had an answer and seemingly were in control for a majority of the game. Penn now improves to 3-1 on the season, and while it's early, it's safe to say that a win of this caliber merits thought on how far the Quakers can go this season. The combination of fresh faces and the experienced older players creates a dynamic that might be a recipe for success.
Chemistry is such an important part of college basketball. It’s why every year in March, teams that you’ve underestimated or never heard of pull off shocking upsets, just like Princeton did in its run to the Sweet 16 last year. It’s way too early to talk about March when the Ivy League season hasn’t even started. But a win over Villanova — in which the Quakers showed scoring potential and held on defensively — is very promising. It should give this team newfound confidence going forward and a real chance at an Ivy League title.
The energy — both in the second half and after the game when fans stormed the court — was something new that hadn’t filled the Palestra in a while. The Quakers are starting to prove why it was wrong to count them out this season, following the departure of their top scorer. Penn is finding a new identity, one that may take them to a new and exciting destination.
“There's a lot going on in this world. But [the Palestra] is where we come and watch the Quakers, and rejoice. We did that [Monday]. I think these guys feel really good that they provided their students with that,” Donahue said.
ASHIL SRIVASTAVA is a junior and current sports associate studying neuroscience and bioengineering from Palo Alto, Calif. All comments should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.