PHILADELPHIA– Penn’s season took a turn last Tuesday when junior guard Ryan Betley went down with a ruptured patella tendon that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season.
So when Penn was faced with the task of playing Rice on Friday night, head coach Steve Donahue had plenty of options of who to start in place of Betley.
It was freshman guard Bryce Washington who got the nod alongside guards Antonio Woods and Devon Goodman. He scored nine points, all coming from deep in 20 minutes of action. Two of his three-pointers came within the first two possessions for Penn as the Quakers cruised to a 92-76 victory at the Palestra.
“He came out of the gates at George Mason struggling,” Donahue said. “He was probably a little nervous but I think he’s going to be a really good player, he had really good scrimmages for us, he’s a confident kid.”
While Washington earned the starting spot, he received about the same amount of minutes as senior guards Jake Silpe and Tyler Hamilton. Silpe scored a career-high 16 points to go along with five steals in 19 minutes of action. Hamilton scored four points, making both of his shots while playing just below 19 minutes.
“Jake was terrific tonight,” Donahue said. “That’s what he does, five steals, he plays really hard, he competes for every damn ball and he’s a great guy to have that’s been through so much, I think that’s a strength of our team, we have a lot of guys that are willing to help us win that are experienced basketball players.”
There was a scare in the second half when Woods went down in pain, holding his right knee, and had to be helped off the floor by trainers. Fortunately though, Woods came back to the bench in full uniform, though with a big ice pack and a noticeable limp.
“It looks like he tweaked his knee-cap,” Donahue said. “I don’t know more than that, it seems like he’s done this before, it’s something that we’ve dealt with, he kind of has this in his DNA it’s kind of a loose knee-cap type of thing, that’s about as medical as I get.”
Losing Woods for an extended period of time would without a doubt hurt the Quakers and any team that loses 40 percent of their starting lineup for a long period of time would be detrimental, and that doesn’t include sophomore guard Jelani Williams who was supposed to be an impact player this season, getting injured in the preseason. But as Penn showed tonight, they have guards that they can plug & play anywhere at anytime.
“I think Antonio and Devon are guys that we’re going to rely on but the pace of this game was pretty fast,” Donahue said. “I just wanted to save them a little bit, they went small a couple times and we kind of matched that and I thought Tyler gave us good minutes again, he can guard bigger 3 or 4 men and we can go small at times.”
Should Woods be out for a while, expect the ball to go into the hands of forward A.J. Brodeur a lot more than it already has. He finished with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists against Rice.
“I wouldn’t say that I have more responsibility, it’s really on everyone to be that much more disciplined, that much more crisp, just more focused, with or without him, he’s a very talented scorer but we’re going to have to find ways to work without him and I think everyone kind of steps up in doing the little things and giving that effort 100 percent of the time, we’ll be able to kind of compensate a little bit for what we’re missing.”
Along with Brodeur’s 23 and Silpe’s 16, Goodman scored 15 points, as well as center Max Rothschild scoring 11 points.
Up next for the 2-0 Quakers is a game against Lafayette on Tuesday before they head down to the Virgin Islands and compete in the Paradise Jam where they’ll take on Northern Iowa in the first game and either Kansas State or Eastern Kentucky.
Of course the starting lineup and rotation for Penn isn’t set in stone just yet as we’re only two games into the season but Donahue knows he has plenty of guards that can make an impact on the floor.
“We’re just not a finished product yet so I’m going to try and be open-minded and advance the group anyway we can,” Donahue said. “That’s what worked tonight but there are guys that played a lot tonight that are still in the mix in my mind, they just got to keep showing me that they can help us.”