PROVIDENCE, R.I— Staring at the ultimate humiliation of a 20+ point loss to Brown, Penn basketball relied on an unlikely group of characters to give itself a chance.
It still wasn’t enough.
Despite one Tony Hicks’ all-time best games and Dan Dwyer’s sudden emergence, the Quakers (7-17, 2-8 Ivy) fell to the Bears (13-15, 4-7), 75-69, as their losing stretch reached six games.
In the early going, it appeared that the Red and Blue would be run out of the gym by Bears guard J.R. Hobbie…again.
The sophomore — who scored 21 points in Brown’s 71-55 win at the Palestra two weeks ago — dropped the same number on Penn the second time around, nailing five threes in the first half alone.
At the same time, Penn found itself betrayed by an inefficient frontcourt. Starting forwards Darien Nelson-Henry and Greg Louis combined to go 2-for-7 from the field and grabbed only six rebounds.
Unwilling to watch Bears forwards Cedric Kuakumensah and Rafael Maia punish his team continually, coach Jerome Allen turned to the end of his bench.
Enter forward Dan Dwyer. Dwyer had received more than three minutes of action only twice entering Friday’s contest, but the freshman played 16 minutes down the stretch, grabbing four rebounds and keeping Maia in check.
“I’m not necessarily frustrated with the guys who played ahead of [Dwyer],” Allen said. “But they just didn’t resemble the right approach, and I said: ‘Let’s see what Dan can give us.’
“And to his credit, he did a tremendous job.”
Nelson-Henry and Louis combined to play five minutes in the second half, while Dwyer made crisp passes out of the post to none other than junior guard Tony Hicks.
Hicks, playing for the first time since a one-week suspension related to a postgame incident in Penn’s initial matchup vs. Brown, scored 23 points off the bench. He passed the 1000-point mark for his career on a line-drive 2-point jumper with 14:44 to play.
The captain, though, had little time for individual praise.
“It doesn’t matter, because we’re not winning games,” Hicks said. “That’s what most important.”
Winning games is something Penn hasn’t done much of recently. The Quakers’ last win came back on Feb. 6, a 71-69 defeat of Cornell.
And self-inflicted errors put the Quakers in too big of a hole for their second-half rally to matter in the standings.
Penn shot 8-for-26 in the first half. Its starters combined to score 22 points, 15 of which came from guard Antonio Woods. Penn continually left Hobbie open for catch-and-shoot opportunities until freshman guard Darnell Foreman locked down the perimeter after the halftime break.
Despite the comeback, the Red and Blue couldn’t cut what was at one point a 19-point deficit to anything less than four.
With a losing season in the Ivy League now assured, Allen will need to shut his locker room out from the criticism that is sure to follow as the Quakers head south to take on Yale Saturday.
“We don’t discuss the losing streak at all,” he said. “We just try to talk about the next opportunity that’s in front of us, try to make it about that… I try not to give it too much thought.”
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