The season is halfway over, but at this point, it seems as though the Penn men's basketball team will have to settle for what it can get. If the Quakers are going to make progress as they prepare for their remaining schedule, it will have to come in steps. Last night was a step. It may have been a tiny one, but it was there. When Penn lost to Delaware last Wednesday night, the Quakers hit one of the lowest points of their disappointing season. Players slumped defeated into a somber locker room, and Fran Dunphy was left scratching his head at how to fix the situation. Last night was better. First of all, it was a win, and in the end, that is really the only thing that matters. And unlike last week against the Blue Hens, the Red and Blue rallied when they fell behind. Lamar Plummer wounded the Engineers with three crucial three-pointers, and Geoff Owens finished them off when he took control, scoring 11 consecutive points for Penn. When a listless Quakers squad lost in Newark, Del., Plummer's shots did not fall and an ineffective Owens spent a lot of time sitting next to Dunphy. When that game ended, Owens took the blame squarely on his shoulders, and he said that he -- as well as Penn's other upperclassmen -- needed to start leading this team. And in that one stretch in the second half at the Palestra last evening, that's exactly what he and Plummer, Penn's only significant upperclassmen contributors, did. "It was a great stretch for Lamar," Dunphy said. "But to be a good team, we have to do that in the first half too." That's exactly why last night was a step -- yes, a small step -- in the right direction. When Delaware had Penn down, they stayed down. When Lehigh had Penn down, Plummer, Owens and the rest of the Quakers responded. The Red and Blue have been horribly inconsistent this season, and last night was no different in that regard. The Quakers suffered through stages of abysmal play, as they have all year long. The difference is that when they needed to be, Penn was a better team than they were a week ago. It does not matter that Delaware may be more talented than Lehigh; it matters that Penn responded the way it did. After coming out of halftime with a 10-point advantage, Penn watched as Lehigh went on a 16-2 run to take a 43-39 lead. Penn and Lehigh traded baskets and leads for awhile, but the Quakers finally charged back behind Plummer. His key threes, followed by Owens' stretch of offensive dominance, are what killed Lehigh. The Engineers, who seemed to be out of it by halftime but then found their way back, were finally deflated. "That just knocked us out," Lehigh coach Sal Mentesana said of Plummer's threes. "They were just like a dagger in our heart." Mentesana's choice of metaphor is by no means original, but in this situation, it is striking. When asked to describe the way his team approached Penn last week, Delaware guard Billy Wells said, "Just keep stabbing 'em in the heart, try to keep stabbing 'em." That's why Owens and his teammates were so upset last week -- they stood there and got stabbed repeatedly without retaliating. It's also why last night's win should not excite the Quakers. Sure, they stabbed when Lehigh had them down. They didn't let themselves get buried by an inferior foe. But they didn't stab from the start, and even against weak teams like Lehigh, that is unacceptable at this point in the year. After the game, both Dunphy and Owens spoke of playing hard for 40 minutes. It's the talk we've been hearing all season, but are still waiting to see enacted. For a team that has been suffering through so many inconsistencies and difficulties, an 87-74 over a mediocre Patriot League opponent is a step. Now, the Quakers desperately need to take more steps -- and to take them quickly.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.