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Penn, Dingle spoil Lafayette coach Jordan's first game against alma mater

11/23/2022, 12:15pm EST
By Corky Blake

Corky Blake (@corkyblake)

In a sense, Jordan Dingle played the role of Mike Jordan — the Penn Hall of Fame point guard from the late 1990s — to defeat Mike Jordan — Lafayette’s first-year head coach.

The Quakers’ leading scorer flashed his defensive brilliance with a steal and layup in the opening 20 seconds of overtime and scored the ensuing five points to spark Penn to a 74-68 victory over Lafayette on Tuesday night at Kirby Sports Center.

Thus, putting a damper on Jordan’s home debut and dropping the Leopards to 1-5 while improving the Quakers to 2-5 heading into hosting this weekend’s inaugural Cathedral Classic at the Palestra.

“I was reading the (ball) handoff from their big and he wasn’t strong with the ball,” Dingle said. “I was able to get my hand in – I have pretty long arms – and make the steal.”

“Jordan played a good second half and overtime and showed great leadership,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “He has really good instincts. He’s already had 4-to-5 runouts like that this season.”

Lafayette first-year coach Mike Jordan was a former standouts at Penn. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Just like Mike Jordan in his heyday running the point for the Quakers and directing them to Ivy League titles in 1999 and 2000, the latter season in which he was honored as the league’s Player of the Year.

“We’ve got to get better with our focus during the game, at both ends (of the court),” Jordan said of a Lafayette squad that rosters just one senior in Leo O’Boyle. “We have those lapses, Coach (Fran) Dunphy used to call it ‘game slippage.’

“But we’re getting there … it’s about learning how to win these games.”

Donohue was an assistant on Dunphy’s staff that brought Jordan to Penn from the Germantown section of the city. His leadership with the Quakers was instantaneous. 

Now, Jordan is instilling those winning habits little by little into his Leopards, even if it’s not translating into victories just yet. However, one long-time Lafayette basketball observer noted how the Leopards have refused to give in to much more talented opponents this season – witness a 63-59 loss at Saint Joseph’s and respectable defeats at Miami (67-54) and Saint John’s (83-68).

That’s why Jordan was hired to succeed another Philadelphia legend, Fran O’Hanlon, who guided the Leopards to four Patriot League titles and three NCAA tournament appearances in 27 seasons.

So, what’s different this season for the Leopards?

“Our preparation for games,” said O’Boyle, a 6-7 forward from Scranton Prep. “In the past, Coach O’Hanlon had his offensive plays … and they worked. Now, we’re really getting into scouting our opponents, finding their weaknesses. For me, as a senior, I’ve pretty much been through it all and have sense what to expect. We take our plan and put it into action.”

Sophomore point guard CJ Fulton, who came to College Hill by way of Belfast, Ireland, played more than 42 minutes in Tuesday’s loss and contributed 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists against four turnovers. He said the new coach’s greatest impact has been at the other end of the court.

“More defensive emphasis,” Fulton said. “We knew their guards Dingle and (Clark) Stajchert were the keys to their team. We watched a lot of film on them.”

 “They’re very similar to us in what we run on offense, and there were times Mike was calling out what I was going to do (on offense),” Dingle said with a laugh. “That made it more fun and challenging.”

Penn junior guard Jordan Dingle led the Quakers to an overtime win on Tuesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

What Donohue saw on film from the Leopards were game plans specifically tailored to their opponents. True, the offenses were similar Tuesday night since they were spawned from the Dunphy-O’Hanlon coaching tree. The defensive approach was vintage Jordan – in your face, take away your strengths.

“Mike has them guarding, and tonight they competed on our guards,” Donohue said. “That was consistent with what we saw in their other games, going after your strengths. Because we have two good guards, they chased after them all night.”

That defensive approach led Dingle (22 points) and Slajchert (six points) to shoot a combined 9-for-28 from the floor and 2-for-12 from beyond the arc. Dingle compensated by going 8-for-8 from the foul line – the rest of the Quakers were 7-for-17. The flip side, however, was Penn outscored Lafayette 40-22 in the paint with junior forward Max Martz going for a season-high 18.

“We’re close to getting over the hump,” said Fulton, who led the country in assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman. “It’s the little details that we have to do better. We play well and then at time we have lapses.”

When asked what will cause him to lose sleep from the defeat, Fulton quickly pointed to an ill-advised pass across the baseline in overtime and a defensive sequence when he went under a screen instead of over it and Dingle drained a 3-pointer because of it.

So, there was no fairy tale, last-second winning shot in Jordan’s home debut against his alma mater. Instead, it was another learning experience for the Leopards to bank on heading into Friday’s game at Penn State.

The Philly Experience
By the time Lafayette opens Patriot League play at home against American on Dec. 30, it will have played more games in Philadelphia (three) than at home (two). In addition to the St. Joe’s trip, the Leopards play at Drexel on Nov. 30 and at La Salle on Dec. 21.

“The (Philly) games are great for us,” said Jordan, whose program nearly has the schedule to expand the City 6 to the City 7. “85-percent of the schedule was done before I got here. I added Penn State, the games at UMBC (last weekend) and La Salle.”

In addition, two of the three players in Jordan’s first recruiting class are from Philadelphia – guard Mark Butler of Penn Charter and wing Joshua Wyche of Cristo Rey.

Poised Penn
Dingle liked the way the Quakers emerged victorious against the Leopards. Obviously, Lafayette isn’t in the class of Iona, Missouri, Towson and West Virginia, but a win is a win.

“Our team’s been progressing very well,” said Dingle, a Blair Academy product who had his former coach Joe Mantegna in attendance (“He made me a better coach when he played at Blair,” Mantegna said). “Having a lead late in the game on the road … we might’ve lost this game before, but we stayed poised when they made their run. We stayed together and kept our cool.”

No one was cooler than Dingle with nine of his team’s 13 points in overtime. He was 4-for-4 from the foul line.

“I knew coming out for the overtime I had to make plays and play with more energy,” he said. “At the end, the name of the game is making free throws. I focused on my breathing and made them.”

“We fought really hard and defended well,” Donohue said. “We fouled too much, and we didn’t shoot it well. But this was our fifth out of six games on the road, and they said we have the ninth-hardest schedule in the country to start the season. This was a gritty win by our guys.”

No Place Like Home
Penn returns to the Palestra to play five straight games and seven of their next eight. This weekend in the Cathedral Classic, the Quakers will play Hartford on Friday, Colgate on Saturday and Delaware on Sunday. All games tip off at 4:30 p.m. They’ll then play all four of their Big 5 games within an 11-day span starting with St. Joe’s on Nov. 30 in the second half of a twinbill that will have La Salle hosting Temple in the first game.

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