PROVIDENCE, R.I. —
It was good to finally see a win.
For just the second time in nearly 11 months, the Quakers gave me and my Penn Band colleagues something to cheer about.
Penn entered Rhode Island 1-14, coming off a 13-point loss to Yale the night before. Yet after Dan Monckton’s last second heroics, the Quakers came out with their first Ivy win and are technically tied for fourth in the conference with a 1-1 record.
Controversy surrounding the final play caused the Quakers to rush to the locker room after briefly swarming Monckton and doling out a few high fives and fist pumps.
But if the program wants to prolong its celebration and stay in the top half of the league, three things must be addressed — and fortunately for the Quakers, there is potential for improvement.
First off, there needs to be some changes to the lineup. With Penn averaging a mere 61.4 points per game and giving up 77.2, something must be done in order to boost offensive production. The fact is that Rob Belcore and Darren Smith have underperformed.
Belcore might be a good defender — he certainly helped limit Yale’s Alex Zampier to about half of his scoring average — but when a starter scores a combined two points over the course of two Ivy games, something’s got to change.
The sophomore also had a lane violation on a missed Brown foul shot that was sunk on the reshot. While it’s impossible to know how the rest of the game would have played out, in a one-point win with a controversial ending, Belcore made a critical mental mistake.
On the other hand, you have to feel bad for Darren Smith. The senior guard had such promise as a freshman, starting in the 2006-07 NCAA tournament. But a knee injury his sophomore year knocked him out for two seasons, and now as a senior he’s only shooting 31.1 percent. In the first weekend of Ivy play, Smith was held scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting from the field.
While Smith and Belcore have played poorly on offense, Monckton has been effective off the bench. He scored 11 points in both games this weekend and brings a wealth of athleticism that can lead to some strong, momentum-giving dunks.
Though I don’t think the junior should get 30 to 35 minutes a night, Monckton should get into the rotation more than Belcore — and especially more than Smith. That’s not to say those two should be relegated to scrub minutes, but two points in a combined 109 minutes just isn’t acceptable.
In addition, something needs to be done to prevent the Quakers from coming out flat at the beginning of games. Friday’s contest against Yale started with an 11-0 deficit, effectively dooming Penn.
Sure, Zack Rosen didn’t start due to a team rule violation. But it was only 6-0 when he entered — so it seems clear that interim head coach Jerome Allen’s decision wasn’t the only factor.
“We’ve got to do a better job of having a sense of urgency about the things we want to accomplish,” Allen said Friday.
Something Allen said must have gotten through to his players, as they ended the first 10 minutes against Brown down just 13-9. Entering halftime down four, Penn eventually won for the first time after trailing at the break.
Finally, the Quakers must shoot fewer three-pointers. Overall, the team went 4-for-33 this weekend, including 1-for-18 Friday. For the season they have shot .292 from deep, ranking them 274 out of the 280 Division I teams that have made at least five threes per game.
But despite 29 missed shots from behind the arc, at least the Quakers have started to realize that they must penetrate the paint. There was a new emphasis Saturday on going down low, as evidenced by forward Jack Eggleston’s 18 points, including five of Penn’s first seven.
“We wanted to establish inside tonight,” co-captain Zack Rosen said Saturday. “We thought we could get inside.”
So in the end, Penn still has flaws — whether in its roster, sluggish starts or poor shooting. However, the Quakers seem to be steadily improving, so it’s likely that I won’t have to wait another 11 months for the next Ivy victory.
ZACH KLITZMAN is a senior history major from Bethesda, Md., and is a former Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Online Managing Editor Noah Rosenstein contributed reporting to this column.Comments powered by Disqus
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