Penn needed this win in the worst way. The Manhattan Jaspers fought hard — maybe harder than Penn at times — but it was the Quakers who tallied another one in the win column.
It was not pretty. In fact, it was ugly. Coach Jerome Allen was less than pleased.
“They say, ‘Be happy with a win,’” Allen said. “And I’m somewhat happy, but we have a ton of work to do and I won’t be blinded by a ‘W.’”
Jerome Allen never believes in moral victories but also won’t be blinded by a ‘W.’ He recognizes that win or lose, there will always be film to analyze.
“I can’t say we were the hardest playing team on every possession,” he continued. “On loose balls, we’re reaching for it and they got guys who are diving for it. That’s really how I compute who’s giving what effort.”
Allen was referring to consecutive Manhattan possessions during which the ball ended up on the floor and no Penn player decided to join it.
Allen was furious, going to his knees and screaming at his players to get on the floor after the ball.
Seniors Tyler Bernardini and Rob Belcore both agreed that the team could have and should have played better.
There are no two ways around it: Penn did not look good.
With all that said, the win was crucial for the Quakers’ confidence, as well as for the very season that lies ahead of them.
A loss would have been the fourth-consecutive one, and the second heartbreaker in a row. With upcoming games against Villanova, Delaware and UCLA, the same Penn team that started 3-1 could have been staring at a seven-game losing streak going into winter break.
Bernardini hit a huge three that put the Quakers up by four points and really helped seal the game.
“When you’ve had stretches before where you’ve lost so many close games in a row like we’ve had, you just don’t want to let that keep going and let that momentum build,” the senior said.
“It affects everything. When you’re winning, everything is good. Every time you’re in the locker room, every time you practice, everything you do when you’re winning is great. When you’re losing, every time you shower, you feel dirty afterwards because it’s like, ‘Damn.’ You’re trying to win.”
After the postgame lift, Bernardini probably took a shower. And, if what he says is true, he felt clean for the first time in a week.
Do the Quakers need to play better and leave more on the floor as a team if they want their winning ways to return? Do they need to be more like the tenacious Belcore, who contributed 10 points, many in the paint, and at one point was playing center — if you can call it that for a 6-foot-6 guard? Certainly. Few, if any, of the players would dispute that.
“We’re aiming for perfection,” Allen said.
Penn didn’t find anything remotely close to perfection at the Palestra on Tuesday night. For their season, though, the Quakers found the one thing they needed so desperately: a win.
ETHAN ALTER is a junior history major from Los Altos, Calif. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com
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