CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — After an 84-69 loss to Delaware Monday night that was more crushing than its score indicated, the Penn men’s basketball team could not right the ship against Fairfield in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament Tuesday afternoon.
The Quakers fell to Fairfield, 62-53, in a game in which Penn again failed to spread the wealth offensively. Fran Dougherty led the way for Penn with 31 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
“It’s a young team and everything,” Dougherty said. “The reads aren’t there for the young guys yet, not really being sure exactly where to be on offense. It just comes down to execution and being in the right spots.”
Dougherty’s offensive dominance began early. While he scored 17 of his points in the first half, no other Quakers had more than six points at the break.
But Penn’s lack of offensive balance is just the tip of the iceberg as far as coach Jerome Allen is concerned.
“The only way we’re going to allow ourselves an opportunity to win is if we contain and defend,” Allen said. “We play OK in certain stretches, and then we just allow guys to come up with offensive rebounds, take the ball in the middle, put us in rotation situations, and that’s what undisciplined teams do.”
Penn (1-2) hung with Fairfield (2-1) early, going on a 13-4 run that began near the end of the first half and extended into the second. The Red and Blue entered the locker room with a five-point deficit and cut a 29-19 Fairfield lead down to a one-point Stags advantage early in the second half.
But Fairfield responded with a 7-0 run of its own to open up an eight-point lead that the Stags never relinquished.
After scoring 20 points against Delaware the previous night, Miles Cartwright notched just nine points in 32 minutes of play. Cartwright was one of seven Quakers to turn the ball over at least twice. But the offensive inconsistency hasn’t fazed Dougherty yet.
“We can do it,” the captain said. “We showed that we can battle with the teams. We come back every time. It’s just we have to come out stronger in the second half right away. We have to get used to that, because it’s like that every weekend in the Ivy League season.”
The game saw Penn fall to a familiar nemesis — second-year Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson helmed Princeton from 2007-11. The loss marked the Red and Blue’s sixth-straight defeat to a Johnson-coached team.
But the current, youthful Quakers are weighed down far more by their lack of defensive cohesion than the program’s history with Johnson.
“I say to the guys all the time, ‘When the ball’s not going in the basket, how are we still going to win the game?’” Allen said. “The sooner they believe and start to lock into the defense, the better.”
The loss will relegate Penn to the NIT consolation bracket on Monday, with the time and venue to be determined.