For Penn basketball, two double-digit scorers were better than one.
Er, make that five. No, six.
Spurred on by their most balanced attack of the season, the Quakers (2-5) built an early lead on the road against Binghamton and never looked back in a 79-70 triumph.
Almost from the opening tip, the Quakers were faced with serious foul trouble. Junior guard Tony Hicks picked up two quick personals and wound up playing for only 1:55 in the first half.
Despite relying on three freshmen to play more than 23 minutes apiece, Penn’s offense didn’t fold.
Instead, it thrived.
Penn shot 16-for-31 from the field in the first half thanks to six three-pointers, three of them from freshman forward Sam Jones. Even better for coach Jerome Allen, his 2-3 zone worked wonders, holding the bricklaying Bearcats (1-8) to 31.3 percent shooting from the floor as the Quakers built a 40-34 halftime lead.
“It was just an overall solid team effort,” Allen said. “They shared the ball, they looked for one another. ... I was more so pleased by their chemistry and service to one another.”
Hicks was limited to 16 minutes on the afternoon, but made the most of his limited time on the floor. The captain scored all 18 of his points in the second half, including a pair of dagger three-pointers to keep Binghamton at bay after the Bearcats had pulled to within two points with less than nine minutes to play.
“He stayed poised, stayed into the game on the bench,” Allen said. “[When] he got in the game, he made the right plays.”
Though the turnover numbers remained less than pretty (18 total), many of the problems that plagued Penn in its loss to Wagner last Saturday appeared resolved. The Quakers easily broke out of Binghamton’s full-court press in the second half.
Most importantly, the Red and Blue dominated the game on the glass. They won the rebounding margin by 13 boards and got key contributions from both junior center Darien Nelson-Henry (nine rebounds) and freshman guard Darnell Foreman (eight rebounds).
With all five players on the floor alert and engaged, Penn’s defense ensured that there would be no letdown after Wednesday’s 57-46 win over Navy.
“Hopefully it’s a sign that we’re continuing to improve,” Allen said of the rebounding margin. “I just thought, collectively, just because one of the bigs didn’t get a rebound on that particular possession, that ‘that’s it.’ Darnell comes up with it, for example.”
Penn has now won consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 7-8, when the Quakers swept Cornell and Columbia at the Palestra.
But as the Red and Blue return to the Palestra for a home date with Marist before finals, why not do something that hasn’t been done since 2006-07: win a third straight nonconference game?
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