Binghamton is not a standout basketball squad. No, not even close.
So it was as good a time as ever for Penn coach Jerome Allen to spread the minutes and receive a solid bench performance from 11 guys on the roster.
Allen’s done this before, in nearly every game of the season. He’s searching for combinations that work, combinations that don’t work; players that will defend and players that will make second, third and fourth efforts when necessary. Entering Wednesday’s game versus Binghamton (2-5) at the Palestra, Allen hadn’t quite found those guys, those combinations. At game’s end, he probably still hadn’t found them.
What Allen did find, however, was progress. Just as he doesn’t believe in moral victories after any loss, he doesn’t believe in bad wins.
“I have an appreciation for forward progress and I think tonight we showed some sense of progress,” Allen said. “And we may not necessarily be where we’d all like to be, but I do think we showed some sense of progress.… I don’t want to say this is an ugly win or a bad win, any win in my book is a good win.”
It wasn’t a great win — Allen admitted as much — but it was a win. That’s exactly what the Quakers (2-5) needed.
After carrying the team for much of the season, junior Fran Dougherty had plenty of help from his co-captains Miles Cartwright and Dau Jok and freshman Darien Nelson-Henry. Nelson-Henry had arguably his best game of the young season, teaming up with Dougherty in the post, putting up seven points and pulling down five boards. When it wasn’t Dougherty and Nelson-Henry, it was Dougherty and sophomore Greg Louis, who had five points — including a trey — to go along with two rebounds, a block and a steal.
Cartwright led Penn with 15 points while Jok had a career-high eight, going 3-for-3 from the field.
Despite obvious flaws in the Quakers’ play — they were outrebounded, 49-39, they gave up the ball 17 times off turnovers and they shot just 34 percent from the field — there’s a lot that a recently frustrated Allen was happy about.
“It wasn’t a great shooting night,” Allen said, “but we came up with a couple plays when we needed to offensively. Hopefully the guys on the team start to understand that when it’s not fancy, or it’s not entertaining — in terms of style of play or the ball going in the basket — why we still have a chance to win.”
The Quakers allowed the fewest points, 54, against an opponent all season. For the most part, they stayed out of foul trouble and points and minutes were distributed more evenly than they’ve been in some time. They also held Binghamton to 29 percent shooting, the lowest — by far — for an opponent all season.
Allen knows the expectations bestowed upon any Penn basketball team, especially one that hasn’t won an Ivy title since 2007. He said that sometimes, those expectations “supercede the process.”
The 2,712 fans at the Palestra Wednesday night didn’t get a 20-point romp against a team ranked No. 344 in the Pomeroy rankings. They probably weren’t expecting it either.
Formerly at Rider, which the Quakers beat last season in overtime, first-year Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey saw a vastly different Red and Blue squad Wednesday night than he did last season.
“They had their identity figured out a little bit better last year by this time,” Dempsey said. “But now with so many new pieces and it being so early in the season … they need time spent together.… A month from now they’ll be a much different team.”
Forward progress is better than backward process. Even against Binghamton.
MEGAN SOISSON is a senior health and societies major from Mechanicsburg, Pa., and is Senior Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. Her e-mail address is soisson@theDP.com.
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