On a Saturday night during formals and finals season — and on national television — the Palestra was a circus.
The basketball was everywhere but in the basket, and players were on the ground more often than they were standing.
At one point three players volleyed in the corner trying to get a rebound and keep it inbounds. A few plays later, it bounced off a player’s foot into the second level of the stands. More guys than possible to count found themselves tangled up in one another on the hardwood.
And the fouls — 30 in the first half and 52 total —oh, the fouls. The Quakers went to the line 33 times while Villanova made it there 38. Even at the charity stripe, both teams combined for 23 misses.
Penn’s 28 first-half points came from just four field goals and the Red and Blue only made six more after the break.
The game was nothing short of unconventional. It could hardly even be called basketball.
In fact, junior guard Miles Cartwright said he hadn’t played in a game like this since his nine-and-under AAU days.
Statistics often don’t tell the whole story. But Saturday, they said everything.
“Really not pretty,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said, ”but pretty to us.”
Wright walked out of the Palestra with a victory, his fifth on the season and first in Big 5 play, knowing his team got the job done. He didn’t need pretty.
On the other side stood Allen — who had a remarkably long chat with his team in the locker room before coming out for a press conference alone — who doesn’t believe in moral victories and now has seven ticks in the loss column after an ugly showing.
“We try to prepare our guys to win basketball games, not come close and not have a solid showing,” Allen said. “We’re not doing a good enough job of locking into [high] expectations.”
Combined, the Quakers and Wildcats had more turnovers (32) than baskets from the field (31). Neither team could buy a bucket as Penn shot 33 percent and Villanova was barely better at 39 percent.
Sometimes unconventional works. Against a struggling Villanova squad, unconventional did not. It’s unlikely that unconventional will work in the future.
Penn needed consistency to win this game.
But no one stepped up to shoot for the Red and Blue, save for Cartwright with 16 points.
Junior forward Fran Dougherty was shut down by a quartet of Wildcats forwards and was limited to just two points in 19 minutes. Only Cartwright stayed on the floor for longer than 30 minutes.
The Quakers are still learning, and Saturday night served as an important lesson. Allen knows what needs to happen moving forward.
“I just think about trusting your teammates and trying to keep the game simple,” he said.
Instead of trying to save the day with big plays, Penn needs to slow it down and buy into the system. Nine games into the season, there’s no other choice.
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.