Lawrenceville, N.J. – It seemed to be over.
The losing streak. The offensive futility. Penn basketball seemed to have it figured out.
After getting its lead to 14 points with less than eight minutes to go, the Quakers let another game slip through their fingers, culminating in a game-winning three-pointer by Rider’s Anthony Myles with just 26.1 seconds to go to finish off Penn, 89-88.
Penn (2-8) had two chances in the final seconds but Miles Cartwright missed a two, Fran Dougherty missed a tip-in and on the final possession for the Quakers, Dougherty turned the ball over while posting on Rider forward Daniel Stewart.
“I flashed to the elbow, [the pass came in] and it was pretty much a one-on-one situation,” Dougherty said of the play. “There were shooters in the corner in case I didn’t have anything.”
Coach Jerome Allen quickly pointed out that Dougherty forgot about the weak-side screen, but the play ultimately came down to the senior captain, who couldn’t convert.
And while the play was one of Penn’s few offensive mistakes, it was enough as the defensive miscues added to the 14 turnovers offensively added up to a heartbreaking loss.
The narrow defeat to Rider (6-5) comes after a dominant second half offensively where the Red and Blue shot 69.2 percent from the field.
The Quakers were led by 44 points from Cartwright, Dougherty and sophomore guard Julian Harrell in the final 20 minutes, scoring 20, 18 and 23 points, respectively, for the entire game.
Cartwright was especially on fire, hitting six threes while dishing out eight of his nine assists in the second half.
“I got some open looks and my teammates set some great screens,” Cartwright said. “Jamal [Lewis], Tony [Hicks] and even Julian put the ball on target, so I was just taking what the defense was giving me.”
“I was able to get easy shots in the paint,” Dougherty said of his own play. “I applaud [my teammates] for getting me the ball. Miles had nine assists and I know a lot were to me in the post.”
But it was all for naught as the Broncs dominated the boards with sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry missing his second game due to a concussion for Penn.
The Broncs outrebounded Penn by 17, 43-26, while collecting more offensive rebounds (21) than the Quakers had defensive rebounds (20). It led to 28 second-chance points for Rider and 31 free throw attempts as Penn’s post players got into foul trouble.
“Even when we had Darien, it’s not like he solved our rebounding issues,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, rebounding is a function of effort. Effort and determination.
“You can’t expect to win ballgames if you give up 20 offensive rebounds. In the second half, I counted nine straight possessions where they missed a shot, got the [rebound] and scored.”
While the Red and Blue struggled rebounding the ball in the second half, the first half was no picnic either as Rider got off to a quick start with some offensive boards.
But the Quakers responded with a 28-10 run led by Lewis and Harrell. Lewis had three first half assists while Harrell had a game-high 11 points in the opening frame.
Yet just as the second half ended, the first half came to a close with a Rider run. The Broncs took a one-point lead into the half after a 17-4 run led by freshman forward Kahlil Thomas, who made all four of his shots in the first 20 min.
And ultimately, the game came down to that one-point margin. The Quakers are now on a five game losing streak that they will look to end after New Year’s at George Mason on Jan. 2 before facing La Salle and Princeton in early 2014.
Allen laid out a simple plan for getting the Quakers back on track after his staff breaks down the film of Penn’s latest loss.
“Practice hard, watch film with the team, get on the bus, go down to Virginia and play the game,” Allen said. “That’s all we’re worried about. I can’t look to league play. I can’t look to the 11th. I can’t look to the fourth.
“I can only see the second… I’ve got the film right in my hand and we’re going to use this as a learning tool.”
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