Penn hit 64.3 percent of its shots in the second half against Maryland on Saturday night. "They shot 62 percent," Maryland coach Gary Williams noted. "And that one guy made the pass that went in." With a little more than 13 minutes left in the game, Quakers guard Lamar Plummer didn't intend for his alley-oop pass to fall through the net. He was waiting for a wide-open Koko Archibong to leap into the air and slam it home. But instead of a rim-rattling jam that would have riled up the rowdy Palestra fans even more, Plummer wound up with a three-pointer that had a similar effect on the sold-out crowd of 8,722. "They say the Palestra has magic," Plummer said. "I guess that was some of that magic." On a weekend in which new displays capturing the magic were opened in the concourse, it was almost perfect for Penn. If not for the hot hand of Maryland guard Steve Blake down the stretch, maybe the Quakers could have done it. Perhaps Athletic Director Steve Bilsky would have cleared some wall space in a future display to remember the night the Quakers erased a 22-point halftime deficit to topple the nationally ranked team with three preseason candidates for National Player of the Year. Instead, Penn is 0-6 -- its worst start since 1984-85. And the next two teams on the schedule -- Seton Hall and Temple -- also happen to be nationally ranked (although the Owls have lost five straight and should fall out of the polls this week). Penn is 0-6. Oh-and-seven is possible, as is 0-8. And if the Quakers play as they did in Saturday night's first half, losing the next two would probably be unavoidable. But the most important thing right now is not that Penn fell to the Terrapins on Saturday. The most important thing is that this team may finally be coming together. In the second half, Ugonna Onyekwe, who seemed to be sleep-walking through some of the earlier games, took charge. Everything Plummer threw up at the basket seemed to go in. Archibong and Geoff Owens played well in the frontcourt, and David Klatsky showed poise in trying to break the press. Of course, this is all based on one half -- a half that saw the Quakers play at a level they cannot sustain throughout the season. It was a half in which everything went right for Penn. Look to Plummer's botched alley-oop attempt for proof. Nights like this just don't happen very often. Even the free throws were falling, which is a huge cause for celebration on this team. The Quakers were 17-of-20 on foul shots, with Onyekwe, a man who had been putting up Shaq-like numbers from the line, going an unbelievable 8-of-9. And, of course, Maryland played nowhere near as well after halftime as they did in the first 20 minutes. Terence Morris and Lonnie Baxter, two of those Player of the Year candidates, were both in foul trouble, and defensive miscues by the Terrapins allowed the Quakers to close the gap. According to Williams, his squad is just not tough enough. "One of the things that we haven't learned yet is how to be killers," he said. "We get [the lead] to 20, we've got to try to get it to 40. I guess Penn had something to do with that, but we did, too." Penn certainly did have something to do with it, and that's the point here. No one should expect the Quakers to continue playing like they did in the second half Saturday. But after uninspiring performances in their opening losses, perhaps Saturday night was the night they turned the corner. Fran Dunphy has said that this team will not totally come together until January, and with Penn playing one of the toughest non-league schedules in the country, it's impossible to judge how good the Quakers will be from what we've seen so far. Who knows what happened at halftime on Saturday, what finally flipped the switch? But maybe in the long run, this game won't be remembered as the night Penn got buried in the first half and then nearly climbed entirely out of that hole. Instead, just maybe, it will be remembered as the night the 2000-01 Penn Quakers showed, for the first time, just what they are really capable of.Comments powered by Disqus
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