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Senior guard Clark Slajchert drives to the basket past Brown's Lyndel Erold on Feb. 17.

Credit: Caleb Crain

In its second game in less than 24 hours, Penn men’s basketball extended a streak that has lasted over 32 days.

On Saturday, the Quakers fell to Brown 71-64, all but extinguishing their Ivy Madness hopes. The defeat marked the latest chapter in what has become a familiar story for the Red and Blue, whose losing streak now stretches to eight games, one game away from tying the all-time program record for consecutive Ivy League losses. Despite 32 points from senior guard Clark Slajchert, Penn’s offense sputtered down the stretch, delivering the Quakers their fifth single-digit defeat in the last seven games.

“We play stretches of good offense but it seems like, for most of the [Ivy] League games, we just get out of sorts,” coach Steve Donahue said of Penn’s struggles in the clutch. “We just get flat, and teams feel that, and they took advantage of it tonight.”

Despite the loss, the Quakers battled with the Bears for much of the game, and the driving force behind that contention was Slajchert’s stellar play. After yesterday’s loss to Yale, Slajchert remarked on the status of his ankle, saying it was still “not ideal” but that he was willing to play through pain in order to help the Quakers end their skid.

And while that pain likely persisted through Saturday’s game, Slajchert showed no signs of struggle, scoring six of Penn’s first eight points and helping the Red and Blue leap out to an early advantage. Overall, Slajchert's 32 points accounted for 50% of Penn's overall scoring output, and no other Quaker scored more than 8.

“He’s such a competitor,” Donahue said of Slajchert. “He throws his body around, does all he can on both sides of the ball.”

Over the rest of the first half, Brown was able to draw even and pull ahead thanks to the superb play of its own lead guard, Kino Lilly Jr. Though Donahue felt Penn did a “good job” guarding Lilly Jr., holding him to just two field goals in the first half, his six free throws and 12 points before the break helped keep the Bears afloat amid a poor shooting performance. Despite converting just 34.6% of their first half field goals, the Bears entered the locker room with a four-point lead.

Credit: Caleb Crain

Sophomore guard Cam Thrower attempts a three-point shot over Brown's Lyndel Erold on Feb. 17.

Slajchert and Lilly continued to duel into the second half, with Slajchert opening the scoring on a mid-range jumper and Lilly Jr. responding with a pull-up three-pointer. Lilly Jr.’s play helped Brown sustain their advantage early, but a deep three from sophomore guard Cam Thrower knotted the game at 40 with 13 minutes to go and set the stage for a nail-biting finish.

But from there, a film that has become all too familiar to this year’s version of the Red and Blue began to play. With the game on the line, Penn’s shooting went cold, allowing Brown to rip off a 20-9 scoring run to secure the victory. The exclamation point came with 3:14 left to go in the game, when Lilly Jr. connected on a long-range triple to give Brown a 60-49 lead — an advantage the Quakers could not overcome.

There are a number of factors on which to pin Penn’s demise in the clutch. One is the team’s carelessness with the ball: dropped passes and miscommunications led to nine second-half turnovers. Another is the Bears’ hot shooting: Brown connected on 56% of their shots in the second half, including a 45.5% clip from three. But as Donahue put it, Penn’s late struggles cannot be boiled down to “one thing or another.” After eight straight losses, the problem is all-encompassing.

“We don’t execute like we need to,” Donahue said. “In terms of running a read, a react, getting into the next action … There’s moments in the second half of most games where we just fade.”

Penn will play its final two road games of the season next weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard. With a 1-8 conference record, the Quakers will need to win out in order to stay alive in the hunt for Ivy Madness. And while that may seem like a steep hill to climb, as the Quakers sit tied for last place in the Ancient Eight, there is nowhere to go but up.