After an eight-day layoff from their whirlwind start to the season, the Penn basketball team might have been excused for coming out slow against Binghamton on Wednesday night.
But the Quakers refused to back down and fought to a 65-54 victory.
Penn (2-5) ended a five-game losing streak in a scrappy, hard-fought affair. Sloppy with several turnovers from both sides early on, the referees also slowed down the tempo by calling a tight game.
The numbers may not have been pretty, but coach Jerome Allen wasn’t worried about the aesthetics of the victory.
“I don’t want to say this is an ugly win or a bad win — any win in my book is a good win,” Allen said. “We have a really talented team that all like playing for one another. You have to learn how to win.”
Binghamton (2-5) never held an advantage but was always within reach. Penn opened up to a 20-11 lead in the opening minutes and took a 39-34 advantage into the locker room — only their second halftime lead of the season.
The Quakers finally built up their first double-digit edge at the 5:26 mark and cruised from there to the finish line.
“We were all anxious and ready to play,” junior guard Miles Cartwright said. “I thought we had some really good days of practice … The focus from everyone was great. There are still some things we need to clean up and do better, but this was a great start.”
Cartwright led the Quakers in scoring with 15 points, and Fran Dougherty recorded his fourth double-double of the year, scoring 11 points and grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds.
Penn also got a big contribution from its bench, which combined for 32 points, eight of which came from Dau Jok in a career high.
“I think we had a great week of practice during the break,” Jok said. “Coach talks all the time about being ready when your number is called. In a practice setting, we go at it every day.”
The Quakers defense also stepped up, limiting the Bearcats to 17-for-58 shooting and just five assists. Binghamton freshman Jordan Reed scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
In response to Binghamton’s zone defense, which kept Penn from penetrating the lane, the Quakers were forced to take more three-point attempts than usual.
It backfired for the Bearcats, as Penn hit 10 treys at a 40 percent rate.
“We try not to rely on threes or outside shooting,” Cartwright said. “We try to play inside-out, so when they went zone we still tried to get the ball inside. They gave us some open looks from outside, and I’m just happy they went in tonight.”
After the game, the Quakers were full of relief and optimism. Allen spoke of the great steps he believes his young team has made over the past few weeks.
“I have an appreciation for forward progress, and I think tonight we showed some sense of progress,” he said. “We are just trying to be consistent in our effort and our enthusiasm and not allowing other teams to play harder than us.”