Penn coach Steve Donahue calls it “huge … a big deal, it matters,’’ winning Big 5 games, and his Quakers now have won six straight in City Series play.
Wednesday, Penn’s veterans took control after halftime at the Palestra, finding an offensive rhythm, using La Salle’s defensive aggressiveness against the Explorers, cutting for hoops, or finding space for jumpers.
While La Salle made just 3 of 14 three-pointers, the Explorers were only held off the glass, grabbing just 3 offensive rebounds, while Penn’s AJ Brodeur had 7 offensive boards of his own.
Leading by 27-22 at halftime, Penn pushed the lead out to 46-27 soon after the break, after Brodeur worked inside and Dev Goodman hit a three-pointer and Ryan Betley hit two straight threes that really gave Penn a working margin.Goodman finished with 21 points on 8 of 17 shooting, Brodeur had 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Betley had 18 points and 8 rebounds.
For La Salle, senior Isiah Deas had 17 points off the bench and freshman guard Ayinde Hikim added 14, including 12 in the second half.
Maybe the key stat: Penn had 16 second-chance points, to 4 for La Salle.
"It’s great to see Ryan out there doing his thing,'' Goodman said about Betley returning after missing last season to injury. “We missed him a lot last year, having that scoring threat.”
"After the first two games, I thought we played really hard,'' Donahue said of a win at Alabama and a loss at Rice. “I just didn’t think we played as well as we could defensively. Things we really build our defense around, catch-and-shoot threes, and assisted baskets, fouls. I thought tonight we did all that for 40 minutes. We guarded, we didn’t foul, we made them finish over us. They just couldn’t get really any open looks from three.”
"They really came out like an experienced veteran team that was fired up by a disappointing loss,'' La Salle coach Ashley Howard said of Penn. “They shared the ball, they dominated us on the glass.”
After scoring 44 points in Penn’s first two games, freshman guard Jordan Dingle had a quieter night, with 5 points on 2 of 10 shooting. It didn’t seem to faze him though. You’d be hard-pressed to pick Dingle out of the crowd as a freshman.
Penn isn’t quite as deep as it had expected to be when the school year began. Jonah Charles, who Donahue said had been Penn’s second-leading scorer in early scrimmages, broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot and is out “a couple of months for sure.” Meanwhile, Michael Wang, an impact freshman in City Series play last year, has tendinitis, with his timetable for a return uncertain.
La Salle, now 1-1 after a big opening win over Iona, will be a work in progress with all sorts of talent but no clear go-to late-game scoring choice.