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Clark Slajchert comes up clutch as Penn beats Drexel

11/16/2022, 12:45am EST
By Ty Daubert + Josh Verlin

Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert) &
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Clark Slajchert (above) hit three big 3-pointers in the second half to help Penn hold off Drexel. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

UNIVERSITY CITY — A second-year player in his third year on campus, Penn’s Clark Slajchert has seen himself grow since joining the Quakers program. 

After the Ivy League canceled the 2020-2021 schedule, he appeared in 25 games last year, preparing him to be a contributor at Penn in his second season, though per Ivy rules he’s a junior, with only this season and next to wear the Quaker uniform.

“I feel like a sophomore for sure,” Slajchert said, ”just being that I had one year of playing last year. But I think I learned so much last year, I can’t even really put it into words. It was a really up-and-down season, and I think the player I was at the end of the year, I was just so much more. I had a great understanding of the college basketball game, our program, our system and what I need to do to help us win. So I’d say I am an experienced sophomore.”

That experience proved beneficial on Tuesday night at Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center as he stepped up and hit crucial shots in the Battle of 33rd Street. With the Dragons closing in late and threatening a once-commanding Penn lead, Slajchert provided the Quakers with necessary breathing room. 

The sophomore guard buried three key second-half 3-pointers to give Penn just enough separation to hold off a Drexel comeback attempt and earn a 64-59 victory.

“He’s just a stone-cold killer,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said of Sjlachert. “At that frame, that’s how he’s always played basketball. He's kind of modest, but he scored over 3,000 points in high school. He just scores the basketball, and the moments aren’t too big. I thought, call his number because it’s not a big deal to him. This is what he does, and he’s very confident in his ability.”

Slajchert scored 16 points and went 3-of-4 beyond the arc to add to a 21-point night from junior guard Jordan Dingle. All three of his triples came late in the second half as Drexel followed a dreadful first half with a second-half push, the last of which put the Quakers up five points with 1:25 to play — enough cushion to help Penn escape with its first win of the season after opening with three losses.

“We were going to have to be able to do that if we want to win,” Slajchert said, “because that’s going to happen a lot throughout the year. If we want to go into someone else’s home court and win games, they’re going to get momentum and we have to be able to make shots and quiet the crowd and get our momentum back. That’s going to be a big thing for us this year, and we’re all capable of doing it. I think tonight it just happened to be my shots that were kind of timely for the momentum.”

Drexel (1-1) hung until the end behind a solid performance from junior big Amari Williams, who had 20 points and seven rebounds. The Dragons fought back after an ugly early showing to put the pressure on Penn and excite a packed house on their home floor.

“I thought it was a really hard-fought game,” Drexel coach Zach Spiker said, “hard-fought game. Thought we dug a little bit of a hole there at the half. I think you can point to a handful of possessions that made a difference and a couple of obvious stats that we all see.”

The offense was stagnant for Drexel throughout the first half, shooting just 31% from the floor, 20% from 3-point range and 44% from the foul line. The Dragons went 4:55 without a point in the middle of the half as Penn ran out to an 11-0 run to establish its lead and control of the game.

Leading 33-22 at the break, Penn capped the decisive first half as Lucas Monroe capitalized on a Drexel turnover to slam home an emphatic buzzer-beater. Led by a 10-point half from Dingle, the Quakers scored 26 points in the paint in the first against a Drexel defense that features the 6-foot-10 Williams, the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year.

Dingle connected on a pair of floaters and a dunk to fuel his first-half scoring, while forward Michael Moshkovitz added six points, two rebounds and three assists.

“I think last year we were the No. 1 team in the country in points in the paint,” Donahue said. “I think that’s a product of shot selection in offense, and that’s kind of what we do; we don’t hopefully take hard twos. Dingle and Slajchert are unique players in that they can get within 12-14 feet and they’re very efficient at it. You don’t want to go too deep because (Williams) is such an elite shot blocker.”

Penn extended the lead to as many as 15 points early in the second half before Drexel finally put some stretches of offense together. Things got started for the Dragons when Luke House nailed back-to-back 3s to bring the deficit back within single digits with 14 minutes to play. Freshman Justin Moore made two baskets in a row just three minutes later to make it a 47-42 game.

But with under eight minutes remaining in the game, Slajchert made his own pair of back-to-back 3s to bring Penn’s lead to nine. Drexel kept battling, pulling within two as Williams continued a solid night as he turned a steal into a dunk and connected on a jumper with 1:50 left.

“I think Amari’s a talented player,” Spiker said, “so he can get a lot of points, and he can carry us on certain nights. … I thought he did a good job making decisions, and he hit some big buckets for us to bring that game back.”

Slachert then countered for the final time, teeing up a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Penn a five-point advantage that the Dragons couldn’t overcome.

“They’ve been going under the ball screens all game, so I knew I was going to have it,” he said. “I was just thinking throughout the game that I was going to be able to get in the lane and get easier ones, but they were giving it to me, so I knew when it came down to it, I could calm down, step behind the screen and knock down a shot, so that’s what I was able to do there.”


House gives Dragons spark

Luke House may have turned some heads in the crowd when he knocked down consecutive long-range 3-pointers to give Drexel some life in the second half, but those on the Dragons team expected nothing less.

“Luke House didn’t step up,” Spiker said. “All he did was sink to the level of his daily routine in training. If you’re here at 6:30, you’ll see him making that same shot. … Luke House did what Luke House can do.”

An Archbishop Carroll graduate, House played his freshman season at Division II California (Pa.) before transferring to Drexel. He appeared in just nine games as a sophomore and six as a junior. But now in his senior year, House has played more than 20 minutes in each of the Dragons’ first two games, and he’s made things happen in his opportunity, shooting 5-for-10 from deep to start the season.

“I think he was under the radar to those who weren’t paying attention,” Spiker said. “The guy scored 40 in a high school game. … Luke House is a tough, hard-nosed, Philly Catholic League basketball player, and he did some good things for us tonight.”


Lucas Monroe (above) played 34 minutes Tuesday after playing a total of 31 through three games. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Changes to Penn’s starting lineup

After three losses to start the season, Donahue made a couple swaps in his opening lineup, putting in senior wing/guard Lucas Monroe and sophomore Nick Spinoso in place of Jonah Charles and Max Lorca-Lloyd, who had each started all three games this season.

Monroe, an Abington product and a multi-year captain, has played the ‘1’ through ‘4’ in his years at Penn but was playing on the ball Tuesday night. He filled that role well, earning himself a team-high 34 minutes, finishing with only six points and two assists but committing just one turnover and grabbing 11 rebounds while going 3-of-5 from the floor, getting the Quakers into their sets and finishing around the bucket when needed.

“Neither one of Clark and Jordan are point guards by trade, and nor do we need them to be a point guard, but we need a point guard,” Donahue said. “I thought Lucas did that really well, and he adds such a defensive and rebounding presence, I thought that was the biggest change in our team over the last three games.”

Spinoso, who has been splitting time at the ‘5’ with Lorca-Lloyd this season, was clearly the better of the pair in a Sunday loss to Towson, finishing with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists, with a plus/minus of +7 in 22 minutes; Lorca had three rebounds and one assist in 17 scoreless minutes, with a plus/minus of -13. 

The numbers were more even in this one; Lorca-Lloyd finished with eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench, and Spinoso with two points, four rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes. But Spinoso did have the better plus/minus (+6 to -4) and hit a crucial 1-and-1 in the game’s final minute.

“Nick has really played well,” Donahue said of the lineup swap. ”I think Nick’s skill level, his ability to pass and cut and feed the post, he’s a unique big, I think it helps those two in particular, and it makes our offense run better.” — Josh Verlin


DAC coming back to life

There were times, during the low points of the end of Bruiser Flint’s tenure and the beginning of Zach Spiker’s, that the Daskalakis Athletic Center featured not much more than an assorted smattering of fans. Sometimes the visitors’ fans outnumbered those supporting the home team — not too crazy, considering it was a program that won just six games one season and nine the next, expectations and results just about rock bottom.

Things have been slowly trending upwards at 34th and Market, and the attendance has rebounded as a result, but there’s no doubt that the atmosphere on Tuesday night was one the program hasn’t seen too often, if at all, in the last decade. (Yes, it helps too that the arena has itself improved over that decade, adding new seating, a new entrance area and concessions stand, and most recently a $6 million scoreboard, new scorers’ tables, production area, and more.)

A crowd that looked half-empty 10 minutes before tipoff filled in completely by the first media timeout, more than 2,300 packing the DAC, two student sections completely full. And when the Dragons made their late-game push, that crowd got loud

“I think the atmosphere was incredible, I think our fans really showed out; they did a great job with it,” Spiker said. “Very appreciative to our student body, our faculty, our alumni. …They made a difference. It was loud, I think (Penn) got a shot-clock violation late, they made a difference. We need them to continue to be a factor in games.” — Josh Verlin


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