Whoever said that "defense wins championships" forgot to mention that you've got to make baskets, too. The Penn men's basketball team exemplified this oversight Saturday night as it fell to the bottom of the Big 5 with a 67-61 loss to St. Joseph's in front of a packed and noisy Palestra. Despite many impressive defensive stands against a talented Hawks (16-4, 2-1 Big 5) squad, the Quakers (5-11, 0-3) couldn't seem to find the bottom of the net on the offensive side of the floor. The Red and Blue came into the game with a 44.7 percent field goal average. They walked off the floor having shot just 37.9 percent. "I think the defensive presence was good for us, but just offensively, shots just weren't going down," said Penn guard Lamar Plummer, who led the Quakers with 18 points. "That's unfortunate for us because we lost the game because of things like that." The place where the Quakers' cold shooting hurt them the most was the second half, when a Penn comeback attempt came up short because of missed shots. The Red and Blue went into halftime trailing 33-25, but they came out of the locker room with renewed intensity, as guards David Klatsky and Plummer forced an early jumpball and previously docile forward Ugonna Onyekwe made two big blocks in a following defensive stand. Through the next four minutes, though, Penn saw its deficit grow to 17 points as bricked shots and turnovers plagued the Quakers' offense, while athletic drives and precision three-pointers by the Hawks kept the Red and Blue's defense on its heels. The Quakers managed to get themselves back in the game midway through the half by forging a 12-0 offensive rally over a span of 2:56. The Hawks, though, ended the Penn run with three quick baskets. Guard Jameer Nelson forced a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup, while Marvin O'Connor - who led all scorers with 19 points - hit back-to-back three-pointers to give St. Joe's a 59-47 lead with 6:23 remaining. "It's a real good basketball team, St. Joe's, and they came up big at certain times," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "O'Connor, he was huge with those two threes late in the game." A 7-0 Quakers run closed the gap to only four points with 2:13 left on the clock, but then the Red and Blue's offensive woes began again. On the following defensive play, Plummer stole the ball from St. Joe's guard Na'im Crenshaw to spark a Penn transition, but Onyekwe - who shot a dismal 3-for-15 from the floor on the night - failed to convert on an ensuing fade-away in the key. The Quakers regained possession on the next play when a hurried Crenshaw took too many steps, and Dunphy immediately called a timeout with 1:15 remaining to prepare his team for the final offensive attack. But Plummer, who had been 3-for-9 from three-point range at that point, threw up an airball from behind the arc. "If I had hit that shot, it would have been a big shot - that's why I took it," Plummer said. "I had a lot of open looks tonight, [but] I didn't have the best shooting that I possibly could have had." On the next Penn possession, with the Quakers down 63-58, Onyekwe unadvisedly tried his luck from outside the three-point line. He missed, and St. Joe's came up with the rebound. "If he had pulled through and gotten to the basket - maybe he gets a dunk - [then maybe] we can call timeout or stop play a little bit, maybe set our defense," Dunphy said. "But instead he chose to shoot that three. He's just learning to play the game and he's got to study it much, much more." Plummer kept the game interesting when he hit a clutch three-pointer with 11 seconds left to close the gap to 64-61, but Nelson answered by making 3-of-4 shots from the free-throw line to cap the St. Joe's win. Adding insult to the poor shooting performance were the rebounding stats. The Hawks had a 10-3 edge on offensive boards and overall, the quakers were outrebounded, 44-26. "They got 10 offensive rebounds, which is too many," Dunphy said. "For us to get only three offensive rebounds didn't put us in very good shape."Comments powered by Disqus
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