Penn men’s basketball squad spent December on a six-game losing skid, but is now second in the Ivy League. A big reason for the turnaround? Sophomore guard Jordan Dingle.
Dingle leads the conference in scoring with 19.5 points per game and has paced the Quakers (10-12, 7-2 Ivy) in scoring during their four-game winning streak.
“The only thing that’s going through my head is like, ‘What can I do to continue to help us win over the course of the game?’ ” Dingle said. “Usually that involves scoring, but then at the end of the game, it’s being a more common voice to a lot of my teammates that are out there, especially if it’s a close game … Just reminding us of the things that we need to do.”
With the top four teams in the conference qualifying for the Ivy League tournament in March, the Quakers, who trail Yale (7-1), look to extend their winning streak against Harvard at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Palestra.
Dingle’s 31-point games on Jan. 22 and Jan. 28 against Yale and Harvard, respectively, tied his career-high and made him the first Penn player to score more than 30 points against two consecutive Ivy League opponents.
“[Yale and Harvard are] two of the better teams in the league, and we needed all 31,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “They’re both hard-fought, contested games. Those two teams, I’m sure, wanted to stop him … It’s a heck of an accomplishment.”
Dingle’s performances earned him two Big 5 Player of the Week awards in the month of January, in addition to an Ivy League Player of the Week award.
“It does mean a lot, especially considering that there’s so much talent in the Ivy League and then the Big 5 especially, but I try not to focus on it too much because that’s not what I put my effort toward,” Dingle said. “I work hard so that we can make the most of this team and that we can win, but the individual accolades are a nice recognition.”
Dingle has also shown marked improvement on defense since his 2020 Ivy League Rookie of the Year season.
“[Dingle] was a very average defender, now he’s a really good defender that gets steals and has an impact on the game,” Donahue said. “He also was a very average to below-average rebounder, and now he’s one of the best rebounding guards.”
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Entering this season, Dingle was one of the only players on Penn’s roster with Division I basketball experience. With last season canceled due to COVID-19, and upperclassmen such as senior guard Jelani Williams and junior forward Michael Moshkovitz playing their first NCAA games this year, Dingle is already considered a veteran as a sophomore.
“Jordan’s personality in particular games is very calm,” Donahue said. “He’s not somebody that gets really high or really low. You can talk to him, even when there’s craziness in a game, and his calm demeanor, I think, helps other players relax, [since] the best player and the leading scorer can relax. I didn’t really recognize that as much when he was a freshman, but I kind of recognize it this year.”
Saturday’s game against third-place Harvard will mark the first time since December that fans are permitted in the Palestra for a men’s basketball game. Penn, which beat Harvard, 78-74, on Jan. 28 in Cambridge, Mass., seeks its first regular-season sweep of the Crimson since 2007.
“We’re obviously excited to have the added element of fans in the building, but we’re just focusing on our preparation this week,” Dingle said. “That’s the most important thing, just making sure that we’re ready, doing all of the small things that lead to us playing well on Saturday.”