Phillips | Penn men's basketball still in search of signature win
February 18, 2013, 8:35 pm·
Laura Francis | DP
This Penn team is tricky.
They’ll beat Columbia fairly handily, blow out Brown and then come back against a bad Big Green squad, doing just enough to make the dissenters hold their tongues.
But the gig is up. We’re onto the game the Quakers are trying to play.
Honestly, the Red and Blue should beat Brown and Dartmouth. Even the fact that the Quakers were down against the Big Green for much of the first half is enough to give Penn fans pause.
We’re halfway through the Ancient Eight schedule, and if Penn expects to be regarded as a team to watch next season, it will have to do much more than win the games against worse competition.
Last year, it was a loss against a bad Yale team that ultimately derailed Penn’s title chances, more so than the losses against Harvard and Princeton. Good teams mourn bad losses, but what makes a mediocre team blossom into a good one?
I’ll give you a hint — beating Dartmouth doesn’t qualify.
Penn masked its disappointing effort against Harvard with a win after traveling north the following day, but the result at Harvard still raises real questions about whether the potential of this team will be realized.
Following the 71-48 loss to the Crimson, coach Jerome Allen didn’t mince words.
“One, we didn’t deserve to win,” Allen said. “Two, we didn’t come out with the fire and the hunger and the determination, whether it was getting shots blocked or giving up offensive rebounds.”
The irony of that statement is that Allen was criticizing himself just as much as he was criticizing freshman center Darien Nelson-Henry’s defensive play, or the team’s inability to grab offensive boards.
Facing one of the best teams in the conference, with the chance to get his team a signature win, Allen came up short.
The Quakers have become notorious this season for lacking fire, a lethargy that leads to lax defensive possessions or a too-risky pass.
Perhaps junior captain Miles Cartwright hasn’t assumed his leadership role as well as one may have hoped after watching Zack Rosen for three years.
Or maybe the chemistry isn’t right.
Look no further than freshman guard Jamal Lewis for an example of a player whose role on this team isn’t even the least bit defined. He scored 14 points at Dartmouth after putting up just seven points total in the last eight games.
Lewis has gone from being a starter, to sitting on the bench, to receiving significant playing time all over the course of a few weekends. And he is just one example of the inconsistency that plagues this team.
Regardless of what exactly the problem is, when Allen took this position, he accepted the responsibility to deal with these issues. And up to this point, there has been very little in the way of solutions.
Sure, Penn can get its act together in the second half like it did at Dartmouth on Saturday. The Quakers always seem able to play well for a half.
But to win a game against Harvard or Princeton, the Quakers need to put together 40 minutes of clean basketball.
And Penn needs to compete on both ends of the floor, being aggressive but contained. Until now, the Quakers haven’t shown that they are capable of this.
They have two opportunities left to get their signature win, both home games against the Crimson and the Tigers.
If Allen hopes to give his squad momentum heading into next season, wins against weaklings like the not-so-Big Green simply won’t cut it any more.
Penn needs to come up big in a big game, or it’ll be relegated to mediocrity for the forseeable future.
And mediocrity isn’t a good enough reason to keep a head coach around for long. Just ask Glen Miller.
JOHN PHILLIPS is a junior English major from Philadelphia and is an associate sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.