The Penn men’s basketball team had a lot to prove on the court in Friday night’s season opener at the Palestra.
After a rough first half against UMBC — the Red and Blue’s deficit reached 22 points only 15 minutes into the game — a young Penn team rallied in the second half to secure its first win of the season, 80-75.
Though Penn (1-0) had a higher shooting percentage, going 9-for-17 in the first, the Retrievers (0-1) had more than twice the opportunities.
The Quakers had trouble both securing and keeping the ball. They had only one offensive rebound to UMBC’s 11, and the Retrievers had 10 steals in the first half.
“Those guys came off their start playing hard, played like they were ready to win,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said.
UMBC relied heavily on its seniors, especially Ryan Cook, who appeared unstoppable en route to a game-high 28 points on the night.
But in this tale of two halves, the Red and Blue made a furious bid for the comeback.
At the 12:51 mark of the second half, junior captain Miles Cartwright sank a jumper to pull the Quakers within four points.
Sophomore Patrick Lucas-Perry snatched the ball away from the Retrievers soon after, getting the ball to Cartwright at the arc for a three-pointer to bring the Quakers within sight of the lead that was soon to come.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I knew Patrick was going to give us 15 points and five steals,” Allen said. “And if not for them, I’m not sure we would have been victorious tonight.”
In the second frame, Penn found a new defensive intensity, and on the offensive side, the Quakers were getting the shots and opportunities they lacked in the first half.
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation, but when the time came, we buckled down and played as hard as we could,” said Cartwright, who led the team with 21 points, 15 of which came in the second.
Retrievers’ senior guard Bryan Neller, who tallied 14 of UMBC’s first-half points, was held to only one second-half point.
Lucas-Perry added that the shift in play was all about the mindset.
“If we just take what we learn in practice and apply it to the game, it should be easy from there,” Lucas-Perry said.
Fran Dougherty showed a growing confidence as the game progressed, grabbing seven total rebounds in the second frame, two of which came on the offensive end.
Freshman Tony Hicks also had a breakout game in his collegiate debut, notching three swipes and tallying 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting, which included a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
Though Allen had to find a happy medium between encouraging the young players and discussing what wasn’t working early in the game, he said he appreciated the team’s second-half effort in the face of adversity.
“They kept battling so I take my hat off to them,” he said.