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NEWARK, Del. -- During a time-out in the first half of last night's game at the Bob Carpenter Center, the University of Delaware honored its newly crowned national champion cheerleading squad. After that pause, the Penn and Delaware men's basketball teams walked back onto the court, and the Quakers did their best to help the Blue Hens look like national champs in men's hoops as well. It wasn't their intention, but it was at least one area of last night's contest in which they succeeded. Since this 2000-01 season began in North Carolina back in November, there have been some stinkers for Penn. Last night's pathetic performance has to rate right up there at the top. The Blue Hens are not a bad team. But that's not the point. The point is that right now, Penn is. Delaware guard Billy Wells said that Penn was the best team they've beaten this year. And talent-wise, it's tough to argue with him. Penn is a talented team. It's just not a good team. When Blue Hens coach David Henderson was asked to describe Penn, he said they were "peculiar." And there is really not much else to say. No one can figure out these Quakers. At times, they look like nothing can stop them. But more often than that, they look like they don't know what they're doing. There have been flashes this year -- quite a few, in fact -- in which the Quakers have looked great. The Maryland and Seton Hall losses were full of those moments. Even last night, there were isolated incidences of brilliance -- Ugonna Onyekwe driving the lane and flipping the ball into the hoop while drawing a foul or Lamar Plummer taking the ball at the top of the key and slashing to the basket for two points. But those rarities were overshadowed by the defensive miscues, the miscommunication on offense, the ugly three-point attempts and the 39.7 percent shooting. After Penn dropped its second game of the season against Fordham, I asked coach Fran Dunphy when this team would come together. He told me it probably wouldn't be until January. It's January now, and Dunphy, like everyone else, still does not know the answer to that question. "I wish I had it," he said. "I wish I had this crystal ball, and it would say, 'OK, on February 1, we're going to be a very good basketball team." But Dunphy, more than anyone else, knows the type of talent his squad has. It has the type of talent that should prevent it from being manhandled by teams like Delaware. But if the first half of this basketball season has demonstrated anything, it's that talent does not equal success. There are intangibles necessary for team success that Penn sorely lacks. From watching this team, it's obvious the players do not completely trust each other on the court and have little confidence in themselves. Dunphy is ready to take responsibility for that. In his 12 years at Penn, he has had 12 teams with 12 different personalities, and he realizes that this squad might need some extra motivating. "This [team] is one where they just need me to constantly be on their butts," Dunphy said. "I'd rather it come from the group. But if they need me to constantly be on them, that's what I'll do starting [today]." When the season began, Onyekwe and Geoff Owens were supposed to be dominant. After some ugly play last night, both spent considerable time on the bench. Owens knows what the problem is. He knows this team has no confidence; he knows the players do not have complete faith in each other. Geoff Owens is the captain, and no one cares more about the Quakers than he does. Right now, frustration is written all over the face of this battle-scarred veteran, and he feels it's up to him to fix the team's ills. "I take that on myself," he said. "I need to do a better job." Penn has the talent to beat Lafayette on Saturday; it has the talent to run the table in the Ivy League; and it has the talent to win its remaining non-league games. It also has the ability, at times, to make Delaware look like Duke. Fran Dunphy said he will do what he needs to change that. Geoff Owens said he will too. After a half-season of bumbling mediocrity, the problem has not gone away. Whether it's Dunphy or Owens or someone else, it's time somebody does something.

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