WICHITA, Kan. — Some quick observations on Penn’s 76-60 loss to Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament:
1. People who tuned in from the start will remember this part: Penn passed its first test, which made things interesting for a good while. The Quakers got early looks and made them. Caleb Wood made a three on his first touch. Ryan Betley made one on his first shot. So did AJ Brodeur, but we need to check if Brodeur called the bank on his three from up top.
2. In case you hadn’t noticed, Devonte’ Graham is a special player, and even by halftime, the Kansas point guard had proved it in so many ways. Four of the first Kansas points were on offensive rebounds by Graham. Graham was missing early, driving shots but kept at it. He got hot and Penn paid for it. By the break, he had 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. He changed everything.
3. When Penn got its 21-11 lead, the Quakers tried to bleed some clock. That works only if you make some shots while you’re bleeding. Penn just bled. The building finally got Rock Chalk loud.
4. Bill Self had said he’d be using center Udoka Azubuike in an “emergency” situation. That early Penn lead counted as one. The big guy who had missed the Big 12 tournament with a ligament injury got out there. It wasn’t so much that Azubuike changed things, as the Jayhawks understood they needed all hands on deck. Self kept him on the bench in the second half.
5. The last call of the first half had Steve Donahue absolutely livid. He had Darnell Foreman foul Graham with six seconds left, only Penn’s third foul of the half. Then Donahue sent Dev Goodman in with instructions to do the same thing. Goodman put his arms around Graham. Graham muscled through it and got the ball out of his hands. A shooting foul was called. Donahue to ref: “He hugged him!” Graham hit three free throws for the 33-26 halftime lead. A massive difference obviously from 30-26.
6. If you’d said Wood and Betley would combine for 4 of 7 first-half threes, I’d say the Quakers would be within range. They were.
7. Kansas didn’t get to be Kansas by not diving all over the court. Penn had cut the lead to 39-35. Graham had missed a three-pointer. The ball got to the floor, a Jayhawk got to the ball, tipping it back out to Graham, who swung it to Svaitoslav Mykhailiuk, who buried a three from the right wing.
8. Antonio Woods kept Penn in range, playing his usual perimeter defense, hitting a couple of big threes. When Wood got free from a screen for a three-pointer up top, he buried it. A spin move by Brodeur got Penn within 50-45, 12:33 left. Timeout, Kansas.
9. Kansas did a lot of things, but crashing boards at either end wasn’t one of them. Penn held its own there. Each team usually getting one shot per possession was the norm more than the exception. Penn’s three-point shooting meant those odds weren’t terrible for the Quakers.
10. Did we mention Graham is special? A lot like watching Villanova’s Jalen Brunson. Understands what is needed and when.
11. Kansas made its free throws. Penn didn’t. That mattered.