Steele | Penn men's hoops continues to put on its Jekyll and Hyde act

Another up and down weekend leaves more questions unanswered for Quakers

· February 23, 2014, 1:53 am   ·  Updated February 24, 2014, 10:36 pm

Sam Sherman | DP

In another disappointing Penn outing, Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers scored nine points and dished out 10 assists in the Crimson's 20-point win on Friday.


Another Ivy weekend doubleheader has come and gone, and Penn men's basketball's season draws nearer to a close. Two more games, 80 additional minutes of playing time, one win and one loss.

Following this weekend, the Quakers have played 23 games in the 2013-14 season. Yet as the Red and Blue's season finale against Princeton approaches, one thing has become perfectly clear: The more Penn plays, the less we know about who this team actually is.

In fact, over the course of the Quakers Ivy League slate, it's become evident that Penn seems to be the athletic embodiment of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

And what a strange case this team is. In almost every sense, no aspect of the Red and Blue's season has been consistent over an extended period.

In a variety of games this year, Penn has shown flashes of brilliance. The Quakers came out and played energetic, unselfish and confident basketball against Princeton, Cornell and Columbia, to name a few contests in particular.

But that's the Dr. Jekyll side of Jerome Allen's squad. Despite the successes, too often have the Quakers relapsed this season, following up an excellent effort in one game by laying an egg the next time out. Or vice versa.

One needs to look no further than Penn's past three weekends.

After sweeping Cornell and Columbia on Feb. 7 and 8, respectively, the Quakers followed those performances up by failing to score more than 55 points in either game the next weekend in losses to Yale and Brown.

Perhaps the microcosm that best describes Penn's season is what happened this weekend in games against Harvard and Dartmouth.

On Friday, the Quakers turned the ball over 20 times and allowed the Crimson to shoot 50 percent from the field. Junior Henry Brooks managed to foul out with 10 minutes remaining, leaving an already injury-plagued roster even more shorthanded.

So what did Penn do to follow up that effort? Did a talented basketball team continue to underwhelm and underperform against lesser opponents, making the narrative of this head scratching season somewhat easier to understand?

Of course it didn't. The Red and Blue put together one of their most complete performances to date. Penn turned the ball over only 11 times, shot 49 percent on the night and allowed only two Big Green players to score in double figures.

And it was Brooks who was the Quakers' MVP on Saturday. The veteran had what was likely the best performance of his college career, notching 11 points to go along with nine rebounds and one emphatic, momentum building block.

So it's clearly not a case of one step forward, two steps back for Penn. In reality, it's a case of one step forward, one step back.

Thus, we return to the question that has surrounded the Red and Blue from the very beginning of the season: How can a team with this much talent and experience be so inconsistent?

Truth be told, I don't have an answer. Neither, it seems, does Allen, who summed up his team's sporadic hot streaks after the game by saying: "Well they say a broken clock is right at least twice a day, right?"

As the Quakers move forward into their final five games of the year, it's impossible to predict how this tumultuous season is going to end. Because, as is said in Stevenson's text, "the less I understand of this farrago, the less I was in a position to judge its importance".

So between now and March 11, don't try and explain or gauge Penn basketball, because it's a hell of a task each night to predict whether Jekyll or Hyde will be sporting the Red and Blue.

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