Against St. Joseph’s on Saturday night, senior guard Tyler Bernardini and the Penn men’s basketball team learned that life in the fast lane is a double-edged sword.
After a dominating first half and hot shooting early in the second period led the Quakers to a 62-39 lead with just 12:13 to play, the tide began to turn.
Less than eight minutes later, Hawks stars Carl Jones and Langston Galloway had led the visitors on a 25-6 run and closed the gap to just four points.
The Quakers did not look to be playing the same suffocating brand of basketball they had shown in the first 28 minutes of the game.
“You try to have a balance between playing basketball and still keeping your foot on the gas,” Bernardini explained. “Zack [Rosen], myself, Rob [Belcore] being seniors, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
The Quakers never really achieved the balance Bernardini described, but they were able to hold on and reach the ultimate goal: a win.
In doing so, the Quakers made important headway toward the style of play they wish to employ in all of their games.
They came out swinging, keeping their opponent on its heels. Penn’s confidence seemed to swell with every crisp offensive play, with every made basket.This is a position on the flip side of which the Red and Blue has found itself many times in the past — in games against Villanova and La Salle, the squad was unable to make up for early deficits despite inspired play late.
But even more impressive than their offensive outburst was the fact that the Quakers did not crumble in the face of mounting pressure.
No doubt, they came precariously close to squandering a seemingly insurmountable lead.
“It seemed like everybody was in a rush,” coach Jerome Allen said. “The ball was a hot potato.”
The St. Joe’s student section — which outnumbered the Red and Blue Crew by a considerable margin — was raucous, to say the least.
With a reported attendance of 8,722 — the Palestra’s maximum capacity — the showdown had all of the intensity and vitriol expected of Big 5 basketball.
All of this magnified the importance of Penn’s experienced leaders keeping their squad under control and keeping the ball from becoming a “hot potato.”
“No matter what happened, I thought we still expected to win the game,” Rosen said.
Confidence like that from the team’s undisputed leader surely helped the younger players stay composed.
If the Quakers continue to perform with this type of rapid-fire intensity throughout the conference season, composure will be an extremely valuable commodity.
One foot will be on the gas, but the team must make sure not to stray off course.
They’re living life in the fast lane — but trying not to lose their minds.
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