PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/13/2019 – The Big Five men’s season got underway at the Palestra. The University of Pennsylvania Quakers hosted the La Salle Explorers with Penn being the defending champions, and winners of their last five city series games. That streak extends to six as Penn takes a 75 – 59 win. It has meaning as the Big Five is important to the Red and Blue.
“This means a lot,” said guard Devon Goodman about the city streak reaching six, the longest run since 2003. “Big Five basketball is really competitive. All the teams are competitive. We match the energy.”
The Quakers were led by Goodman who scored a game-high 21 points. Forward AJ Brodeur recorded his 28th straight game in double figures getting 20 and added a game-best 13 rebounds. Brodeur has 21 career double-doubles. Ryan Betley returning to the Palestra had 18 points. and 8 rebounds.
The Red and Blue showed versatility on offense getting points inside, outside in getting some three-pointers, 4 by Betley, and making 12 of 16 from the line. Penn had 13 more shots than La Salle thanks to 16 offensive rebounds. The balance makes this team difficult to guard.
“It makes us very dangerous especially when the shots are falling from outside, and we have AJ scoring inside,” said Betley. When we are doing those things well it’s hard to stop us, and that’s what we want to do.”
The game turned in the direction of the Quakers early in the second half. The Explorers got to within 29 – 27 at the 18:26 mark on a short jumper by Jared Kimbrough, Brodeur answered thirty seconds later, and it started a 17 point run for Penn that featured three consecutive baskets from beyond the arc by Goodman and Betley. It was the key sequence of the game for the Red and Blue.
“If we didn’t do that, this game was going to the wire,” said Penn Coach Steve Donahue.
La Salle answered back from the 19 point deficit by going on a 9-point run. Later, the gap was 62 – 54 on a basket by Explorer guard Isiah Deas, who scored a team-high 17 points. LSU would get no closer. Deas was a starter, but now comes off the bench, and was labeled the bright spot for the team in this game by Coach Ashley Howard.
“We had a conversation about what would be best for the team,” Deas said about his role. “Being an older guy, you want to start, but it’s all about the team at this point. If this is what’s best for the team, I’m for it.”
Penn had a 47 – 30 edge in rebounds, 16 – 3 on the offensive glass. The turnover total was not large in terms of differential. The Explorers had 16, the Quakers 15. But Penn made the turnovers count getting a 25 – 12 advantage in points off turnovers.
“I thought the two things that hurt us was the rebounding and the turnovers,” La Salle Coach Ashley Howard said. “And our communication was not where it needed to be. We had a stretch in the second half we where we did not get back on defense, there was no communication, we left shooters wide open. But I am glad we were playing hard in the most difficult of situations. That is a positive that we can take that we played hard until the end.”
Guard Ayinde Hikim contributed a career-high 14 points.
The Quakers are 2 – 1 on the season, 1 – 0 in the Big Five, and will travel to Lafayette then Providence over the next ten days.
La Salle evens their record at 1 – 1. The Explorers host Temple at the Gola Arena on Saturday. It is an interesting twist in the schedule for La Salle who started against an NCAA Tournament team, then the Big Five champions, followed by another NCAA team.
Written By: Glenn Papazian