Mike Livingston (@liv_tws)
PHILADELPHIA — The older guys are often the stars of the team in college basketball, particularly in the Ivy League where most players hang around for all four years.
On a University of Pennsylvania team with only a few established vets, a pair of freshmen have the Quakers looking like a threat in the Ivy League early this season. Freshman guards Sam Brown and Tyler Perkins, are perhaps two of the Quakers’ best young prospects in recent memory.
Perkins, a 6-foot-4 guard from Lorton, Va. was the first Penn freshman to start in the season opener for the Quakers since Jordan Dingle back in 2019. Brown, the sharpshooting combo guard from Lower Merion, has quickly established himself as one of the Quaker’s best-scoring threats early on after missing the team’s first four games with an injury.
The young duo led the way for Penn on Sunday afternoon at the Palestra where the Quakers took down Monmouth University, 76-61, in the finale of the weekend’s Cathedral of College Basketball Classic.
Penn freshman Sam Brown led the team with 16 points on Sunday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
It seemed each time Penn was on a run, one of the Quakers’ young guys led the charge. Notably, as the team looked for a pick-me-up at the forefront of the second half, Brown and Perkins combined to send Penn on a run that put the squad up by nearly 20 points.
Brown had an off day against Belmont on Saturday in his first-ever start for the Quakers, tallying only three points on the day. Back in the starting lineup for Penn in just his fourth career game Saturday, he led the Quaker with 16 points as he went 6-for-13 from the floor and 3-for-8 from beyond the arc and added six rebounds.
He carried the load for Penn in the first half when he scored 13 of his points.
“What Sam is, is he’s an all-around basketball player,” Penn head coach Steve Donahue said. “I don’t think people know that. He’s a great shooter, but he also has the ability to guard multiple guys on the court and guard the perimeter. His toughness, his ball handling, his decision-making, and his shot-making, it’s all there, and I just don’t think the moment is ever too big for him.”
As one threat passed for Monmouth, another seemed to pop up as the game went on.
Perkins, who has started all eight games for the Quakers to start the season, is averaging 16.3 ppg, 2.5 apg and 7.1 rpg while playing more than 32 minutes per game. Perkins finished with 15 points, two assists and seven rebounds Sunday.
He waited until the second half to get hot but provided a much-needed spark plug when he did as he got 10 of his points in the second half, knocking down a couple of big-time threes to extend the Penn lead as Monmouth began to creep back in later in the game.
“It’s a game of runs,” Perkins said. “Forty minutes a game, it’s a long game, so we knew we had to stay with it. No matter what the score wasm we had to play hard all forty minutes. If we do that, we believe that we can win the game, so just stay with it, playing hard, playing together, playing Penn basketball, and being tough.”
That is what has come to be expected of this Penn team, they pick each other up when they're down and even when they are up. That showed Sunday. As Brown departed the game, Perkins took over. Later in the period, senior guard Clark Slachjert (nine points) took the reins on offense.
“I’ve probably let up a little bit more with this team,” Donahue said. “It’s one of the best groups I’ve ever coached in terms of people and how they treat others and how they represent our program. I’ve probably lowered the bar at times because they’re so young and this and that.
“I’m just like it’s your team now. I’m tired of trying to baby you, you figure it out and make the right plays. At halftime, I said the same thing, now we have a lead, it’s your team, figure it out, take another step here and that’s what we did, we got it up to 20.”
Unlike its previous five games that all came down to the wire, there was no need for a gritty run down the stretch for Penn. The Quakers put Monmouth away with relative ease in the second half, mounting a 20-point lead and letting the Hawks down slow with a steady barrage of threes and some hard-nosed and-one shots down the lane.
The Quakers are off to a nice start on the young season, holding a 5-3 record with a notable ranked win over Villanova. Penn also finished the second annual Cathedral of College Basketball Classic with a 2-1 mark, collecting wins against Lafayette and Monmouth while falling in overtime to Belmont.
Penn next plays Division III FDU-Florham on Wednesday.
“We were hungry to respond from the loss yesterday, but we were excited we got to turn around and play again today,” Slachjert said. “We know that we can play so much better than we have this weekend, so we were just excited about the opportunity and we showed that we wanted to take advantage of it today.”