Phillips | Penn basketball's turnaround must start with Allen

· January 12, 2013, 9:00 pm

Amanda Suarez | DP

Freshman guard Tony Hicks came off the bench for 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes of play. Hicks was one of just two Quakers to score in double figures on Saturday.


PRINCETON — The Quakers might have better players than the Tigers. In some alternate universe, they might even be the better team.

They just lack the ability to change.

All season, the Quakers have been turnover-prone, and Saturday was an example of how nothing has been done about that issue.

Freshman center Darien Nelson-Henry still can’t handle double-teams, and guard Jamal Lewis continues to cough up the ball more often than he takes a shot.

For a while, it seemed to be the players themselves who were responsible for this stagnancy.

But after Princeton’s resounding defeat of the Quakers, it’s clear who needs to step up.

Coach Jerome Allen needs to pull the right strings, both emotionally and tactically, if this team wants to have a chance to compete in the Ivy League for the rest of 2012-13 season.

“I didn’t think we had the right sense of urgency to win that game,” Allen said. “It comes down to doing all the little things that it takes to win on the road.”

He went on to question “how hungry we are to compete for a championship, not necessarily every year, but just today.”

If, as Allen claimed, they weren’t hungry, then clearly, he didn’t get them up to play.

The same signs that have plagued the rest of the season arose Saturday, for sure, but coach Allen’s inability to make the correct in-game adjustments ultimately plagued the squad.

As Allen correctly asserted, Princeton is “okay.” The 7-7 Tigers are not a fantastic basketball team.

But if that’s true, then how do they shoot 50 percent from long range, sinking 11 three-pointers, six of them coming in the second half?

Clearly, Allen’s game plan failed.

The Tigers play with four forwards, giving them a height advantage over a Penn team that doesn’t have enough size. Coach Allen acknowledged this fact, and planned accordingly.

He placed junior Steve Rennard on Princeton’s star senior Ian Hummer.

“Even the ref who talked to me was surprised he was guarding me,” Hummer said. “I outweigh him by 100 pounds.”

In addition, Allen told his team to help anytime the ball came into the paint.

While the Rennard on Hummer call didn’t completely backfire, his other decision, to ratchet up the help defense, did.

Allen didn’t realize that, in addition to having a large lineup, the Tigers also shoot well from three-point range. Princeton ranks third in the Ancient Eight in three-point shooting at a 36.4 percent clip.

Early in the game, after Princeton guard T.J. Bray had sank a few three pointers, Allen never thought to change up the game plan.

Even at halftime, when Princeton was shooting 5-for-12 from three, Allen opted not to risk allowing more points inside in order to avoid the three-point daggers that Princeton was draining seamlessly.

Allen threw some different looks at the Tigers in the second half, but he didn’t have the right answer to prevent the outside looks the Tigers were getting.

One could say that the players were overly aggressive on defense, biting a little too much, but if that’s the case, Allen should have been able to curb that.

It’s understandable to have a poor night from a tactical standpoint, or to have a team come out flat. But having both occur doesn’t bode well for the remainder of the Ivy season.

“It starts with me,” Allen said. “I’ve got to do a better job.”

He’s right. Either coach Allen needs to get his team to step up, to get hungry, or he needs to compensate by pulling the right strings on the court.
_
JOHN PHILLIPS is a junior English major from Philadelphia. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com._

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