STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The past two seasons, Penn basketball has come up short against Wagner when it mattered most, failing to execute with the game on the line and then coming up short in overtime.
But this year’s 64-61 loss to the Seahawks hurts so much more.
The Quakers came out like gangbusters in this one, shooting 11-for-18 in the first half. Five players had scored at least five points, putting to bed the notion that this team was going to flow offensively solely through Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry.
However, it’s hard to describe the Quakers’ offensive performance in the stretch run of the second half as anything but an unmitigated disaster.
After turning the ball over 14 times before halftime, the Quakers added eight more giveaways, including one by Antonio Woods when the Red and Blue had the ball in their hands down two points with 40.3 seconds to go.
But the Quakers know they can’t pin this loss on one play, after squandering so many opportunities beforehand.
“When games are decided by one or two possessions at the end, I really don’t go crazy over how the last play was played out,” coach Jerome Allen said. “I try to look at the summation of our errors. It’s unfortunate. I’m disappointed because I thought we had an opportunity to win the game, and we didn’t close it.”
Following a Greg Louis bucket off a missed foul shot with 11:10 remaining, the Quakers made only two field goals the rest of the way, and one of those was a Sam Jones trey with the outcome essentially decided.
At the free throw line, Penn struggled. The Red and Blue missed seven foul shots coming down the stretch, not counting a Louis miss off left iron that was waved off for a lane violation with 3:31 left.
Given a second chance, Louis missed again in the exact same spot. It was that kind of day for the Red and Blue.
Wagner pressed Penn all afternoon, but the Quakers wilted in the face of that full court pressure, a failure that Allen placed squarely on himself.
“At the end of the day, I’ve just got to do a better job of simulating that in a practice setting,” he said.
Penn is entering a soft portion of its nonconference schedule — its next three opponents are a combined 4-14 — but today’s game was one it simply had to have, for the sake of giving its young players some confidence that they could close out a game on the road.
But it’s apparent this team isn’t done experiencing growing pains yet.
“We didn’t play with any poise,” Allen said.
The Quakers are better than they were last year. The atmosphere around the program is completely different from last year.
But this loss is reminiscent of last year.
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