Jerome Allen has consistently focused on the defensive side of the ball during his tenure as Penn coach, and it showed on Saturday night.
The Quakers (5-17, 2-3 Ivy) pulled away from Brown (8-11, 2-4) in the second half on their way to a 71-48 victory behind an incredible defensive team effort. The Red and Blue held the Bears to just 23 points in the second half.
After suffering a disappointing loss to Yale on Friday, Penn was able to hold Brown to shooting just 29.8 percent from the floor, including an abysmal 2-for-18 from three-point range.
“I thought for the most part the guys did a good job of responding to our challenge from yesterday,” Allen said. “I thought they played hard, I thought they defended, I thought they played with a certain sense of urgency and their ability to make shots which is icing on the cake.”
The contest was a tight affair throughout the first period, but momentum shifted at the very end of the half. With the teams tied at 25 points apiece and only 45 seconds left, junior captain Miles Cartwright stole an inbounds pass, drove the length of the floor, made a layup and drew a foul for the three-point play.
The Quakers carried that momentum into the second half, starting out strong to earn a double-digit lead over the Bears.
The visitors cut the lead to four points with 14:40 remaining, but the Quakers went on a 16-2 run and the Bears didn’t have a response.
“We talk every half about starting the second half the right way,” Allen said. “The first four minutes are the most important part of the game, whether we are up or whether we are down. Just in terms of trying to establish our will.”
Cartwright again established himself as the team’s offensive leader, as he put up a career-high 28 points, 18 of which came in the second half.
“I just tried to be aggressive,” Cartwright said. “Coming in to this game, I knew [Brown] coach [Mike] Martin knows me well and I was sure that they were going to try to get the ball out of my hands. I just wanted to be aggressive and my teammates kept finding me, it was great for us and the shots went in.”
The game was a homecoming for Brown head coach Mike Martin, who was an assistant coach at Penn for six years before taking the job in Providence.
“I guess they welcomed me back. I didn’t enjoy that evening,” Martin said. “They were flying all over the court. Defensively, they took us out of what we tried to get into.”
Both teams were shorthanded, as Penn was without Fran Dougherty, Steve Rennard and Darien Nelson-Henry, who warmed up but did not play. Meanwhile, Brown only had nine healthy bodies, which allowed Penn to push the tempo.
“We can’t get up and down because we have nine players,” Martin said. “We didn’t want to get into an up-and-down game and I thought the tempo in the second half certainly went in their favor.”
The rest of the Quakers also stepped up. In the absence of the team’s two best rebounders, Penn dominated the boards and won the rebounding margin, 44-35. Freshman guard Tony Hicks was also a key contributor, finishing with 15 points.
For Allen, this game was symbolic of the potential his team can achieve if it plays hard and defends well.
“The only thing I really want to see is forward progression,” Allen said. “And hopefully, we can use this game as a springboard to get us to believe that we can be the defensive team we can be.”