For Penn basketball, it seems that for every step forward, there is a subsequent step back.
And after beating Cornell and Columbia last weekend to stay in the Ivy chase, Penn’s new step backward came in the form of yet another injury.
Freshman guard Matt Howard, who broke out with 15 points combined versus the Big Red and Light Blue, broke his foot at practice on Tuesday and is now out for the season.
But Howard’s is just one in a series of injuries that has limited coach Jerome Allen’s bench this year. Junior guards Patrick Lucas-Perry and Camryn Crocker are both out for the year with leg injuries while freshman guard Preston Troutt is also done for the season.
That doesn’t factor in the ongoing injuries that have plagued sophomore guard Julian Harrell and junior forward Greg Louis, both of whom missed Penn’s games last weekend.
So where does this leave the Red and Blue? Hobbled to say the least.
It’s not like any of these five were expected to carry the Quakers this season. Crocker came into the year as one of many backup point guards. Lucas-Perry was a three-point specialist last year while Harrell and Louis each showed promise in 2013-14, but ultimately were inconsistent.
But all of that adds up to a lot of missing pieces and minutes that Penn could recieve from its bench.
So when Penn takes the court in New Haven on Friday to face Yale, the starting lineup will likely not be any different from this past weekend. But when the Elis go to the bench and give a breather to their top starters, the Quakers will not be afforded the same luxury.
That means another weekend of 35-plus minutes from Fran Dougherty at forward. And another 70 combined minutes from Miles Jackson-Cartwright and Tony Hicks in the backcourt.
It also means pushing Darien Nelson-Henry and Steve Rennard to their limits.
And that’s just Friday night.
Unless Allen can find a magic concoction of bench minutes to give his guys a chance to catch their collective breath, Yale’s high-powered offense will leave the Red and Blue in the dust by the second half.
Don’t believe it? Just look at last year’s matchup at the Palestra.
Penn took a lead into halftime before the Elis’ offense kicked into second gear. Then-sophomore guard Armani Cotton led the charge as Yale overtook the Red and Blue late before beating Penn a second time up in New Haven.
And after facing Yale, there is still another full-length faceoff with Brown.
Sure, Penn has six straight wins against the Bears and has won the last five matchups in Providence.
But we already saw what happens when a shorthanded squad comes into the second half of an Ivy weekend when Columbia lost to Penn without sophomore point guard Grant Mullins. And that wasn’t pretty.
When you look at the combo of Jackson-Cartwright, Nelson-Henry, Dougherty and Hicks, you know that the Quakers have the star power to excel in Ivy play.
But without a bench to support them, stars mean nothing.