STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier for the Penn men’s basketball team, it did.
Despite returning five key contributors from one-game suspensions, Penn (2-9) fell in overtime to Wagner (6-5), 68-63. The Quakers missed their leading scorer, junior forward Fran Dougherty, as he recovers from mononucleosis.
As a result, the Quakers entered their matchup with the Seahawks short-handed for the second game in a row, even after regaining Darien Nelson-Henry, Henry Brooks, Tony Hicks, Miles Cartwright and Steve Rennard from their one-game suspensions.
Penn coach Jerome Allen declined comment on the nature of the suspensions.
The Red and Blue received significant contributions from all five on the day. Though Cartwright was able to drop in 17 points in regulation, he was unable to hit a contested straightaway three as the clock hit triple zeroes, sending the game into overtime.
I was going to try and come off the screen, I knew the bigs were going to hedge out hard,” Cartwright said.
But after facing some heavy pressure on the outside, Cartwright tried to redirect himself towards the basket before launching the ill-fated shot as the horn sounded.
“I didn’t have enough time, so I had to pull up for a three, ”he said.
The Quakers also received a standout performance from one of their youngest players.
Freshman guard Jamal Lewis led the way for the Quakers in the first half, going 5-of-7 from the field, including three three-pointers, to help give Penn a two-point halftime lead, 31-29.
“I just trusted in the system,” Lewis said. “Today, it just started to fall.”
The rest of the game, though, was a different story, as Lewis only attempted one more shot the rest of the game, finishing with 16 points on the night. As the game progressed, the Quakers began to turn more and more to the veteran Cartwright over Lewis.
“Miles kind of got the hot hand in the second half,” Lewis said. “We just kind of tried to ride him as long as we can.”
Wagner was also without its leading scorer in senior forward Jonathon Williams, who is averaging 15.7 points per game this season.
Playing in Williams’ stead, junior guard Kenny Ortiz stepped up, hitting six key free throws to keep the Quakers at bay at the end of overtime on his way to a 23-point, 10-rebound performance.
“I thought Ortiz did a good job of playing at his pace,” Allen said. “Getting in the paint, getting himself shots and getting his teammates shots.
“He’s the engine that makes that car go, and what we tried to do is keep him out of the paint as best we can, and to his credit, he finished the game well.”
With the loss, the Quakers have now dropped four straight, and things won’t get any easier in the future, as a road date with No. 19 Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indiana looms on the horizon.
Regardless of the team’s recent struggles, though, the Quakers remain undaunted.
“We’re going to go out and play hard [against Butler],” Cartwright said. “And we’re going to go out and win this game.”