The momentum had shifted. A once 16-point St. Joseph’s lead was gone as the jam-packed Palestra went wild.
Then, Ryan Daly had enough. The junior guard made a contested layup to give the Hawks a one-point lead and after a defensive stop, he called for the ball and knocked down a contested step-back three-pointer over the top of Penn’s out-stretched defense.
Despite the Quakers’ comeback efforts, St. Joe‘s (4-14, 1-2 Big 5) held on to win the Big 5 matchup, 87-81.
The Hawks used a 16-0 run in the first half to create a 30-14 advantage. Penn (7-7, 1-2) methodically trimmed the deficit to six by halftime.
Both teams played with more effort defensively in the second half, but the game ultimately came down to Daly and Penn’s AJ Brodeur, who led all scorers with 33 points. Daly was more effective down the stretch in creating opportunities for himself and teammates.
Daly led the Hawks with 30 points on 11-of-23 shooting. Cameron Brown, Myles Douglas, and Anthony Longpre added 17, 11 and 10, respectively.
Shooting is all about confidence, and Brown doesn’t lack any. One game after shooting 0-for-9 from three, the freshman guard made his first three three-pointers and finished five for seven overall. He scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Penn fell behind early, but that didn’t stop Brodeur from going to work. Brodeur had 19 points in the first half and was the main reason Penn kept hanging around. With 10 minutes, 12 seconds left in the second half, Brodeur drove to the left side of the basket and sneaked a right-handed layup under a defender to give Penn its first lead in more than 20 minutes.
Penn guard Ryan Betley made four of his nine three-point shots to finish with 14 points. The rest of the team went 3-for-25 from three. In comparison, St. Joe’s shot 12-of-27 from behind the arc.
“I knew we couldn’t let it get from a one-point deficit to five or six, so I took it upon myself to try and make a play,” the Hawks’ Ryan Daly said. “I’m insanely competitive, sometimes to a fault. You can’t make the big shot unless you take them, so I’m always working to help my team out any way I can.”
“The defense, in general, isn’t what it needs to be,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “We’re just not mentally competing as well as I would like on the defensive end.”
“My coaches always tell me to keep shooting, I put the work in, so I never really lack confidence,” St. Joe’s freshman Cameron Brown said. “I always believe it’s going to go in.”
“I don’t have more respect for anybody than I have for Steve Donahue,” St. Joe’s coach Billy Lange said. “That’s one of the best coached teams in the country.”
Penn freshman guard Jordan Dingle did not start. It was the first time he did not start when available. Donahue said that Dingle’s first-half struggles contributed to the change. Dingle started the second half and finished with 12 points in 31 minutes.
The Hawks’ 46 first-half points was their second-most this season. Their 54 against UConn was the highest. The offensive start gave St. Joe’s a confidence that carried throughout the game.