STATE COLLEGE, Pa. —
If Penn loses to Penn State on the road and there is no one there to see it, does it still make fans cringe?
Penn versus Penn State was never marketed as a glamorous affair. It was clearly a game between two bottom feeders, trying to scrape together a win in front of a virtually non-existent crowd at an embarrassingly empty Bryce Jordan Center.
And after Penn’s performance, I’m not sure fans had many reasons to come anyway.
Don’t get me wrong — I love watching college basketball. To me, it’s the best sport in the United States of America. But despite my affection for the sport, I’m disappointed to admit that the Quakers’ performance against the Nittany Lions was an irksome sight to behold, primarily due to a torrent of fouls.
Penn alone racked up 26 personal fouls in the game, many of them coming from players who weren’t even on the floor for significant minutes.
Steve Rennard and Darien Nelson-Henry, for instance, combined for nine fouls in just 17 minutes of play. Similarly, Greg Louis picked up three personals in seven minutes, and Henry Brooks fouled out in 20. Brooks and Rennard both accomplished the impressive feat of logging more fouls than points.
Overall, the Red and Blue rank third out of 347 Division I teams in the nation averaging 23 personal fouls per game. Both Brooks and Louis rank among the top 50 players in terms of fouls per minute with 0.23 and 0.24, respectively.
It should go without saying that teams fouling that often aren’t playing good defense. Fouls usually come when the defense has broken down and an offensive player attacks the rim. But the Quakers’ fouls frequently took place off the ball as well, especially as their big men struggled to maintain defensive position in the post.
So Penn entered the bonus —and double bonus—too early and too often. The Nittany Lions took 13 more free throw attempts than the Quakers, and foul trouble for Brooks and Nelson-Henry limited the presence of Penn’s big men inside.
The foul follies hurt the Quakers outside of the paint too. The excessive fouls kept giving Penn State a new shot clock and limiting the Quakers’ chances for fast breaks, which was crucial since Penn struggled mightily against the Nittany Lions’ zone defense in the halfcourt set.
And they weren’t even courageous or daring fouls that spectators of the game could enjoy. Players weren’t crashing into opponents as they dove for loose balls or went up for rebounds. Instead, the crowd mostly just heard the whistle due to petty fouls, a trip here and a bump there. Then, spectators had the pleasure of watching the Nittany Lions shoot free throws.
I’m not going to pull a David Stern and suggest the team should put its entertainment value before doing what is necessary to win. But in this case, making the game a more pleasant spectating experience and having a winning strategy aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they reinforce one another.
If the Red and Blue can sharpen their defense and play with greater discipline, then they can kill two birds with one stone: give themselves a chance to win, while also convincing fans to come see them.
KENNY KASPER is a sophomore philosophy major from Santa Rosa, Calif., and is an associate sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.
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