Jaffe | Allen unable to find Penn basketball's intangibles




I’d like to imagine a world where Penn coach Jerome Allen and Harvard coach Tommy Amaker switched jobs for the past two weeks, and then faced each other yesterday.

Talent wise, Harvard and Penn aren’t so different - the Crimson have the edge, but not one that explains 20 and 30-point wins. On everything else? Those blowout wins are coming from somewhere.

Friday night, Harvard put together a mostly complete game, and after the game, Amaker praised his team’s efficiency and effort. Penn put together anything but a complete game, coming out of the gates strong as they often do, and then dropping the ball.

I mean that quite literally. For the third straight game, Penn had 20+ turnovers, conceding 24 points off turnovers to the Crimson. In fact, every player who saw playing time except for Dau Jok turned the ball over. On the other side of the court, Harvard spotted Penn just two points off turnovers.

“I’d like to see who you beat when you give up [24 points off turnovers],” Allen said.

Talent wise, Harvard and Penn aren’t so different - the Crimson have the edge, but not one that explains 20 and 30-point wins. On everything else? Those blowout wins are coming from somewhere.

Perhaps Cornell and Dartmouth, but that’s about it.

And that wasn’t the only problem last night. Penn sent Harvard to the line 35 times. They’ve sent teams to the line 101 times over a three-game stretch.

Between fouls and turnovers, Penn handed the Crimson 51 of their 83 points - last time I checked, Cambridge teachers already gave students enough freebies.

What’s important though is that this isn’t new. Out of 351 Division I basketball teams, Penn is worse than all but one - Ball St. - in turnovers per game, averaging 16.7 per game going into the weekend. Their 342nd ranking in fouls per game (23.2) isn’t pretty either.

So what explains all that? Coach Jerome Allen points to focus, energy, other intangibles. Those are all things a coach should be able to fix internally - Amaker certainly focused his players after losing to Yale and zoned them in even more after a close Columbia win. In contrast, Allen hasn’t gotten his team to play 40 minutes since ... Zack Rosen might remember.

I don’t know the final score in a world where Penn commits a sane number of turnovers and figures out that giving teams free throws isn’t free. But that’s a world where you have someone who can get his team to focus, fix those intangible weaknesses and redirect it after a loss - a world where you have someone like Amaker at the helm.

Because Amaker has done that, his team is looking to earn a second straight Ivy title. Allen hasn’t, and his is hoping to eek past the Big Green tomorrow.

During the postgame interview, Allen sounded like a broken record (which he conveniently compared his team’s performance to).

“It’s on me,” he said.

That’s quickly becoming his catchphrase. And honestly, maybe that’s the problem.

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