So much for a fresh start.
After a triumphant win over Princeton last Saturday, the Quakers were blown out in their own building by Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s, 85-68, in front of a packed Palestra crowd.
The drama did not match the atmosphere, as the nightcap of the old-fashioned Big 5 doubleheader was all but wrapped up by half, as the Hawks (12-5, 1-2) led the Quakers (3-11, 0-4), 57-23, at the break.
“It was a great crowd,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “I just wish that we connected to that type of atmosphere.”
The Hawks’ win marked their first Big 5 victory of the season, and Penn’s second straight winless season in the Big 5.
The defeat represented a missed opportunity for the Red and Blue to build some much needed momentum and get their first back-to-back wins of the season.
“You would like to try to have some consistency in terms of results, and try to put some things together,” Allen said.
The Quakers led exactly once, 4-2, and it was in the first two minutes of the game. Saint Joseph’s would run away with the game soon after.
A 12-0 Hawks run midway through the first half put the Red and Blue in a hole they didn’t come close to digging themselves out of.
“They ran harder than us,” Allen said. “They ran to open spots, while we casually jogged back hoping guys weren’t open. Our communication wasn’t great.”
The Hawks, who led by as much as 38, came out on fire from behind the three-point line, shooting an outrageous 13-for-15 from deep in the first half.
“St. Joe’s shot the hell out of the ball,” senior guard Miles Cartwright said after playing in the last Big 5 contest of his career. “My hat’s off to them.”
St. Joseph’s high scorer was senior guard Langston Galloway, who put up 20 points on 6-7 shooting from three. He hit all four of his attempted threes in the first half.
Juniors Chris Wilson and Ndao Papa added three triples each in the first half to give the Hawks more than a sizable lead.
“We lost focus,” Cartwright admitted. “They had a lot of open threes early, so they definitely got a rhythm, a lot of confidence.”
Conversely, St. Joe’s did an impressive job of shutting down Penn’s best big men, as the Hawks held Fran Dougherty and Darien Nelson-Henry to a combined 15 points and five rebounds.
St. Joe’s forward Halil Kanacevik had an impressive night on the boards, grabbing 15 rebounds — three times as many as Nelson-Henry and Dougherty’s combined total.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, sophomore forward Julian Harrell re-injured his knee in the first half after seven scoreless minutes. The severity of the injury is not yet clear.
Tony Hicks was the only Penn starter with a solid performance, putting up 15 points in 21 minutes to lead the Quakers in scoring.
After only nine players saw action for the Quakers against Princeton, coach Jerome Allen sent just about everyone out on the court on Saturday night, playing 14 men in total.
The bench didn’t provide much help early, however, as the non-starters went 0-8 from the field in the first half.
One of the few highlights for Penn was a monstrous Dylan Jones slam off a Tony Bagtas assist with just under seven minutes to play. Jones, a freshman, posted a respectable line with 10 points and five assists.
St. Joe’s offense cooled off in the second half — they shot just 33.3 percent from deep — while the Quakers’ bench found some fast break success, helping the home squad go on a 23-5 run in the final eight minutes.
But it was too little, too late for the Red and Blue, who now look to finish their non-conference schedule strong against NJIT on Jan. 25.
“Hopefully this game tonight stings,” Allen said. “It’ll get [the players] to pay attention a little bit more.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”