Live by the three, die by the three.
Tuesday night, both Penn basketball and Marist found themselves embodying opposite clauses of that basketball cliché.
While Sam Jones’ five treys lifted the Quakers to a 59-42 victory, the Red Foxes were done in by a near-incomprehensibly bad performance beyond the arc, shooting 4-for-28 on the evening.
The Red and Blue (3-5) forced bad shots, rushed shots and everything in between. And yes, they got lucky when Marist (1-8) flat out blew wide-open looks.
“I thought a couple of them just didn’t go in tonight. We talked about not helping from the strong side ... I want to win not because we’re lucky defensively, I want to win because we execute the gameplan,” coach Jerome Allen said. “But with that being said, I thought we were locked in. We got to shooters, we made them shoot challenged shots.”
Jones, in contrast, was hardly challenged at all.
The freshman forward spotted up from the right elbow, the left corner and straightaway. No matter where he was on the floor, Jones made the Red Foxes pay dearly for leaving him open. Two Jones corner threes between 10:26 and 8:46 in the first half — sandwiched around a Tony Hicks trey — extended Penn’s lead from 10-4 to 19-4 and brought the Palestra crowd to its feet.
“I had some quick, easy looks at the beginning of the game and it got me locked in,” said Jones, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “And [my teammates] just kept giving me the ball in great spots, it was nothing I did. I just got to the spots and they hit me when I was open.”
With both guard Tony Hicks (1-for-8 from the field, fouled out in the second half) and center Darien Nelson-Henry (five points, none in the first half) struggling, the Quakers relied on their secondary scoring options to pick up their third straight win. Senior forward Greg Louis displayed nice range with a pair of early elbow jumpers and finished with 13 points and nine boards.
While the Red and Blue have seemingly left their rebounding woes from the past behind (Penn won the battle on the glass, 45-31), unforced errors continue to be an issue. After committing only six giveaways in the first half, the Quakers wound up finishing with 20 turnovers.
Allen was less than pleased with his team’s mistakes after the contest.
“It’s my responsibility to challenge these guys to play a perfect game,” he said. “So with that, having six turnovers at halftime and ending up with 20 for the game is unacceptable.
“I think it’s three out of our last four games we’ve had 14 turnovers in a half and it’s not what good basketball teams do.”
Though certainly a work in progress, the Quakers have shown plenty of improvement in other aspects of the game. It’s become apparent that the offense can survive when Hicks and/or Nelson-Henry, the team’s two primary scorers, have an off night.
Most importantly, Penn has shown that it can close out a weaker opponent, putting the clamps on Navy, Binghamton and now Marist after dropping its first five.
“I said to [the team] in the locker room, I can’t remember the last time we won three games in a row [the Quakers won seven straight between Feb. 11 and Mar. 3 in 2012],” Allen said. “I don’t want to diminish that accomplishment, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
“We’ve got to get better.”
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