By virtue of a 78-70 defeat of Saint Joseph’s on Saturday at the Palestra, the winner and new, undisputed champions of the Big 5 are your Penn Quakers. The Red & Blue went undefeated in the city series (4-0) for the first time since 2001-02, and only the second time in the last 38 years.
La Salle was the first Big 5 foe to fall on Dec. 8. The Quakers thumped the Explorers 83-65 in Tom Gola Arena.
Three days later, Penn shook up the basketball world by knocking off Villanova—the defending national champions—78-75 at the Palestra. The victory ended the Wildcats’ 25-game Big 5 winning streak, and marked the first time the Red & Blue vanquished Villanova in 16 years.
Saturday’s game versus Saint Joseph’s (9-11) was a quintessential Big 5 contest. The Red & Blue were up in the opening minutes, then the Hawks moved out front, before Penn wrestled control back. Midway through the first half, the score was tied 18-18.
Freshman guard Bryce Washington netted three-pointers on consecutive possessions to put the Quakers up 31-25 with 6:42 left in the half. Saint Joe’s scored two easy buckets in the final two minutes, and the Red & Blue entered the break leading 35-31.
A three-pointer by Washington two minutes into the second half gave Penn a 41-35 lead. Junior forward A.J. Brodeur followed up with a jumper in the paint to lengthen the lead to eight. The Hawks got within four, but junior forward Kuba Mijakowski nailed a triple with 13:33 on the clock to give the Quakers a 50-41 advantage.
Saint Joe’s guard Chris Clover hit a jumper to cut it to seven. Senior guard Jake Silpe responded with a three to push it to 10. A layup and free throw by Washington put Penn ahead 56-43 with 12:42 to play.
A trio of three-pointers by the Hawks made it a four-point, 58-52 game with around nine minutes remaining. Saint Joe’s got as close as three points with 2:44 on the clock, but Washington hit a three to make it a six-point, 70-64 game. The Hawks were within three again with 2:09 left; this time Silpe was money from behind the arc.
The Red & Blue made their free throws in the final minute and held on for the victory.
Washington led the Quakers with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He also dished out four assists. He was 8-14 from the field and 6-12 from three-point range.
Brodeur had 20 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. Freshman forward Michael Wang added 12 points and six rebounds. Silpe chipped in 13 points and three rebounds. He was 3-5 from behind the arc.
Penn shot 43 percent from the field (27-63) and 37 percent from the three-point line (14-38). Their 38 three-point attempts were one short of the school single-game record.
The Quakers played efficient basketball, committing only seven turnovers.