At the onset, the Battle of 33rd Street looked like it might live up to the hype.
Penn and University City-rival Drexel traded baskets for most of the first half, and at the break, the Quakers trailed by just five.
And then Penn watched the game slip away.
Drexel scored the first 11 points of the second frame, and cruised to a 77-56 victory Saturday night at the Palestra.
“We knew that this game was going to be a tough game,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “Just Drexel’s style of play — they play a solid man-to-man defense and really get after it. They executed all their stuff both ends of the floor and we struggled.”
Penn (1-2) held its own for the majority of the first half in front of a riled-up crowd in which Drexel’s DAC Pack and Penn’s Red and Blue Crew were both well represented.
“It was a great atmosphere,” freshman Fran Dougherty said. “I wish for a better outcome. If we won in this place with all our fans there, it would have been awesome, but it’s still a good environment.”
Senior forward Jack Eggleston put on a show for the crowd of 6,879 with two first-half dunks. Center Andreas Schreiber also stood out in the first frame, earning seven points and two rebounds in just 11 minutes.
But neither player could negate the performance of Drexel freshman Chris Fouch, who came off the bench to lead the Dragons with 16 points in the first half. Fouch went on to lead his team with 26 points on the night.
While the Quakers came out of the gate strong and built a 25-19 lead twelve minutes in, they did not sustain that same energy throughout the contest.
Penn entered the locker room down 38-33, and Drexel (2-0) extended its lead to 16 points after the first six minutes of second half action as the Quakers went cold from the field.
Dragons sophomore guard Derrick Thomas led the effort with 13 points in the second frame and ended the night with 23.
“They executed their stuff, they got penetration, they got offensive rebounds, guys made shots for them,” Allen said of the Dragons. “And when you play against good teams, you have a small margin to make mistakes, and we made mistakes from boxouts to defensive slides and that’s the result.”
Though the Quakers picked up their effort, they could not make up the lost ground and never cut the deficit to less than 14 points.
The Red and Blue shot 52 percent from the field in the first half but made just 27 percent of their attempts after the break.
After two disappointing losses, the Quakers will have a short time to turn things around before Tuesday night’s contest against Lafayette and Saturday’s showdown with No. 5 Pittsburgh.
“We got a lot of games coming up and there’s no number here that’s the answer to our problem here, I don’t think,” junior captain Zack Rosen said.
“We got to get back to the basics, practice a little harder and figure it out.”
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