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Slajchert's career-high pushes Penn past Colgate at Cathedral Classic

11/26/2022, 8:00pm EST
By Owen McCue

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

PHILADELPHIA >> Anyone who’s proclaimed the midrange jumper dead might want to take another look.

As long as junior Clark Slajchert is in a Penn uniform, the shot will have a place in the Quakers’ offense.

Slajchert knocked down shot after shot while pulling up from a similar spot in the lane on Saturday evening against Colgate. He sprinkled in five threes as well for a career-high 33-point night that helped the Quakers walk away with an 81-69 victory on the second day of the Cathedral Classic at the Palestra.

“You guys know me, I’m very analytical,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “I’ve had years where we don’t have kids shoot that shot, but the shot that he shoots from 12 to 15 feet he was second in the nation, 56 percent. That’s a good shot for him. It’s not a good shot for everybody. But that’s one he’s very comfortable with and the numbers back it up.”

Penn junior guard Clark Slajchert, right, is congratulated by teammate Max Lorca-Lloyd after his career outing Saturday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Penn didn’t score a point until the 13:29 mark in the game when junior guard Jordan Dingle got his team on the board, 13-2. 

Dingle didn’t miss on his next six shots to help the Quakers recover from the slow offensive start. He had 14 of his season-high 26 points in the first half to help Penn take a 34-31 halftime lead and they never trailed in the second half. 

Slajchert was a big reason why the Raiders never stormed back ahead as he had 22 of his points after the break. One of his pull-up midrange jumpers gave Penn its first double-digit lead, 59-48, with 8:26 to play. 

“The shot felt good and they were playing drop coverage, so even though there were kind of guys around, there was enough space so I felt comfortable getting the shot off,” Slajchert said.

The Raiders, who were led by 17 points from senior forward Keegan Records and 14 points off the bench from junior guard Chandler Baker, cut the lead back down to four, 59-55, with 6:36 to go.

Dingle responded with a dunk off a feed from sophomore forward Nick Spinoso, one of his eight assists in the game. Slajchert added a three on the next possession to extend the lead to nine.

Slajchert slipped open for a wide open three at the 2:52 mark that put Penn ahead 73-61 and seemed to shut the door on Colgate. 

Whatever he wanted to do on Saturday, Colgate seemed unable to defend. The 6-foot-1 guard, who scored more than 2,800 points in his high school career at Oak Park in Los Angeles, finished 13-for-18 from the floor and 5-for-8 from three.

“We didn’t execute the game plan on some of them, but some of them he just made shots that are just other worldly,” Colgate coach Matt Langel said. “He’s a talented guy who can really score. At his stature, he can get different shots in different ways off balanced even when you put people all on him. They have good players. It’s not just like you can double team him all the time and leave other people open.  He certainly executed and finished a lot of plays at a high level.”

Saturday was Slajchert’s fourth game of 20-or-more points in eight games this season. He had just one such outing in 2021-22 —  a 25-point performance Nov. 28, 2021 in a loss to Arkansas.

Slajchert averaged double figures (10.7 ppg) off the bench last season in his first year of collegiate hoops. He’s once again second on the team in scoring behind Dingle (21.0 ppg) but his average was already up entering Saturday’s game and now is up to 16.3 ppg through the team’s first eight contests.

“It feels good, but I think it’s all of us,” Slajchert said. “I’m just kind of getting easy looks because of our offense.”

Donahue highlighted the importance of players like Spinoso, who had a pair of buckets late in the second half to go along with his eight assists and eight boards, in making sure the offense functions properly.

“We ain’t gonna be able to just do it,” Donahue said of the offense. “Nick Spinoso has eight assists. He’s setting up the toss. He’s the timing trigger. That’s a big piece of the offense to have.”

Slajchert’s big performance helped Penn to its third straight victory and third win in four games and a .500 mark for the first time since a 2-2 start last season (Nov. 16, 2021). It’s a nice change of pace after an 0-3 start to the season and a losing record for the majority of the 2021-22 campaign.

The Quakers will play a third game in three days against Delaware on Sunday to finish off the Cathedral Classic. A win would turn a losing record into a winning one in the span of just one weekend. That would be the first time Penn is above .500 since its last game of the 2019-20 campaign.

“We haven’t had the start to the season we wanted,” Slajchert said. “We’re kind of eager to play, so having three games back-to-back-to-back I think is a good thing for us. We want to get out there and prove that we’re a better team than we’ve shown and now we have three days in three games to prove it


Donahue faces former player Langel

Not all was smiles for Donahue following his team’s victory on Saturday.

On the other sidelines, he knew someone very close to him was reeling from a second straight loss.

When Donahue was an assistant at Penn under Fran Dunphy (1990-2000), he coached Langel during the course of his playing career, which spanned from 1996 to 2000. 

The two sat on opposite sides of the floor a handful of times when Langel was an assistant at Penn (2004-2006) and Temple (2005-2011) under Dunphy and Donahue was at Cornell.

However, Saturday marked the first time they faced off against each other as head coaches since Langel took over at Colgate more than a decade ago.

“I recruited him. I’ve known him since he was 16,” Donahue said of Langel. “He’s one of the closest people in my life. It sucks. I root for him all the time. I think he’s done an unbelievable job at a very hard place. They’re going to be very good again this year in their league. 

“It’s no fun. We talked about it. We thought this would be a good situation. Come back to the Palestra for three days, family’s here for Thanksgiving, but the game itself isn’t fun for me and him, but I think it was just the right thing for him to  come back.”

Langel averaged 11.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 2.8 apg during his playing career at Penn, knocking down 201 threes in his career, which ranks fifth all-time.

Penn is one of the programs he follows closely throughout the season and his relationship with Donahue is a strong one.

He shared similar sentiments to his former assistant coach.

“In basketball, if you’re in it for long enough and I’ve been fortunate enough now to kind of be in it long enough now, closing in now on two decades, you make friends in this profession,” Langel said. “He helped me a lot as a player. He was an assistant coach and spent a lot of time helping me get better as a player.

"Those relationships, you’re rooting for those teams every other time during the year, so you don’t really like to play against them because someone’s going to have to win and if you’re fortunate enough to win you don’t necessarily feel great about it because the team of you guys root for isn’t winning. Other than that, it’s just another game.

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