And you really can't blame them. Penn's first half against Lehigh on Saturday was one of the poorest shooting performances I've ever seen from the Quakers, and the sloppy play throughout the game was really not much of a confidence-booster. So what's the problem with Penn? It is obvious that they are full of talent, but for some reason, things just are not coming together for these Quakers. It's impossible to pinpoint any one reason for Penn's underwhelming performance so far. But one thing is clear -- if the Quakers continue to play as they did Saturday night, getting through the Ivy season and back to the NCAA Tournament will not be easy as previously thought. It's hard to know what to expect from these Quakers any longer. They go to California and play well enough to beat a tough Cal team in the final of the Golden Bear Classic and then go to Kansas, only to have the Jayhawks make them look like the Washington Generals in a 105-59 debacle. It wasn't supposed to be like this. The Quakers were supposed to play tough teams like Kansas down to the wire and then make teams like Lehigh look like high school JV squads -- just as they did for much of last year. Yes, a five-point win over the mediocre Engineers counts just as much in the win column as the Quakers' upset of No. 6 Temple last season. But with the way these Quakers have been playing lately, people have to be worried. Fran Dunphy certainly is. "We're very concerned. I thought we had more mistakes in the second half than the first half [against Lehigh]," Dunphy said. "We shot 8-for-30, so it wouldn't matter what the mistakes looked like. We just didn't shoot the ball well in the first half. We didn't turn the ball over very much in the first half. We had a couple of foolish mistakes in the second half." Dunphy went on to highlight an intentional foul committed by Koko Archibong and a play in which Ugonna Onyekwe saved a ball while falling out of bounds. Onyekwe passed it to a wide-open Jared Hess, who took one dribble and then scored an uncontested layup for the Engineers. "Ugonna made a very foolish mistake by saving the ball under the basket," Dunphy said. "I'd say he's been told that maybe 100 times during the course of the practice settings we've had. "Those things were foolish. I'm very concerned." Archibong and Onyekwe are freshmen, and freshmen make freshman mistakes. But as the two starting forwards on a team that expects to win another Ivy League title, they are making mistakes that need to stop. Eventually these problems will be fixed, but that needs to happen soon. Onyekwe and Archibong have more athletic ability than last year's starting forwards, Paul Romanczuk and Jed Ryan, but then-captains Ryan and Romanczuk did not make foolish mistakes like this. The Quakers' troubles, however, extend beyond the freshmen. When a team tries to work five new players into the rotation -- as the Quakers are doing now -- growing pains are expected. The problem is that by this part of their schedule, the Quakers should be past that point in their development. "It's not just the seven new faces. The alley-oop I threw to Ugonna, I probably should have pulled back," guard Michael Jordan said. "We just gotta buckle down and start playing more fundamentally sound." Well, it's clear they have to do something, especially with Temple next in line on Thursday. The Owls have had their share of difficulties this season as well, but if the Quakers come out on Thursday like they did on Saturday, Penn fans might as well not even make the trip to the Apollo. If you take away the silly mistakes, the Quakers still will not come away with many wins when they shoot 26.7 percent from the field as they did in the first half against Lehigh. You also don't win many games when Matt Langel shoots 1-for-7 from the field. And even though Geoff Owens came through with a monster second half to lead the Quakers to victory on Saturday, his performance -- which has been hampered by shin splints for most of the season -- has been inconsistent. It's not just one thing that has caused the Quakers' troubles thus far. The only thing that is clear now is that they cannot continue to play this way. Those midseason Ivy weekends can be trying anyway. But the possibility of a team like Cornell or Yale upsetting Penn only seems to be growing. "We were lucky to get out of here," Jordan said on Saturday. Yes, they were, but luck will not be enough against Temple. And luck will not carry them to an Ivy title.Comments powered by Disqus
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