What is maturity?
Is it exuding confidence in your defense after forcing 26 turnovers at Brown and then allowing 48 points and 51.9 percent shooting from the field for Yale in the second half the very next night?
Is it a combination of sloppy defense and lack of rebounding that resulted in Penn notching more fouls (25) than boards (24)?
Is it a team that slowly disintegrated after building up a 20-13 lead, eventually managing to echo its sluggish starts at Dartmouth and Columbia in its previous second games of Ivy road trips?
Is it junior captain Miles Cartwright following up his heroic aggressiveness at Brown with just eight field goal attempts at Yale and a 28-minute scoring drought from the field to end the game?
Is it a group of road-weary Quakers who were visibly and audibly frustrated both with themselves and each other during and after the game Saturday night?
No, it’s not. File all of the above under continued youthfulness and immaturity.
“They just compete harder than us,” coach Jerome Allen said of Penn’s history of struggles at Lee Amphitheater, where the Quakers are now just 5-7 since 2002. “They play hard, they fight, they’re physical. For us, we expect things to fall into our lap.”
It’s true that this Penn squad fought back from a six-point deficit at Brown with 1:52 remaining Friday night to win. It’s true that Miles Cartwright has had a killer instinct more often than not down the stretch this season.
But it’s also true that the roller coaster is still in full swing. Another Ivy split. Another apparent statement game followed by another disappearing act.
When Allen looks at the calendar, he knows he should be looking at a significantly more mature team than the team he started with in the fall.
“[We’re] youthful in terms of not having any seniors, but we’ve played 30 games,” Allen said. “I think that’s a large enough sample size to be able to grow up. The team we were on March 9 should be a lot better, a little bit more improved, than the team we were on Sept. 15.”
Sure, freshmen Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry have each blossomed since September. But has the team as a whole gelled together like it should have by this point, with only one game left to go in the season?
No one present at Lee Amphitheater Saturday night would say that it has. Box-outs were rare, fastbreak opportunities were squandered and questionable officiating was directly and unwisely questioned by multiple Penn players as the second half progressed.
What Allen likely found most troubling was that defensive rotations went from late to nonexistent as the game wore on.
“For about 18 minutes we played solid defense and I was pleased for the most part,” Allen said. “But in the second half, we just didn’t have the same focus or the same energy on the defensive end.”
Sometimes the fundamentals are there for Penn basketball. Other times, they’re not. But the inconsistency hasn’t gotten all that much better from start to finish this season. The Quakers haven’t arrived yet because they have yet to find themselves.
It’s too late to arrive this year. There’s nothing the Quakers can do against a slumping Princeton squad to prove that they’ve matured into a squad full of players who make each better and play cohesively on a consistent basis.
Next season will decide once and for all whether this team full of underclassmen has what it takes for long-term Ivy success.
But the glimpses of brilliance Penn has shown from time to time in 2012-13 have been too few and far between to suggest that this team isn’t still a youthful bunch with everything to prove.
The 2013-14 Quakers may be vastly better than the 2012-13 Quakers, but the 2012-13 Quakers didn’t as mature as much as they could and should have.
Maturity is nailing at least the fundamentals night in and night out. Maturity is finding ways not to play down to your level of competition. Maturity is team unity at both ends of the floor after 30 games.
We may very well see that maturity next season, but with one game left this season, Penn fans are left wondering what and where the maturity is now.
MIKE TONY is a junior English and history major from Uniontown, Pa., and is Senior Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at tony@theDP.com
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