NIT Round 2 at Lehigh Men's basketball Tournament Credit: Amanda Suarez , Amanda Suarez

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — When junior forward Fran Dougherty says he’s not worried about the five losses in Penn’s record, believe him.

When he says the freshmen are still learning Jerome Allen’s offensive and defensive schemes, believe him on that, too.

“It’s going to come along,” Dougherty said after Tuesday’s loss to Lehigh. “It’s just a process.”

It may seem like the Quakers are destined for doom this year, but this team is just finding its identity.

In last week’s losses to Fordham and Lehigh — both winnable games — Penn’s freshmen looked out of place. Jamal Lewis and Tony Hicks, especially, played with confidence but lacked execution.

Penn’s early season has not been pretty. The key word, though, is early.

That’s what happens with a young team. Freshmen are relied upon early in the season to take the place of stars.

Replacing a Zack Rosen isn’t easy. But in Rosen’s first year, when he averaged 31 minutes per game, he had the second-worst assist-to-turnover ratio of his career (1.99) and shot just 35 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc.

Everyone knows how the story goes: Rosen went on to shoot a combined 45 percent from the field and 41 percent from three in his remaining three years at Penn.

Still worried about the play of Penn’s freshmen and team as a whole?

The Red and Blue know the issues: start stronger, play focused, stop fouling and clean up the defense.

“It was a lack of defensive effort … which really got us,” Dougherty said of the Quakers’ second-half effort Tuesday. “Just the overall focus in general.”

Penn’s weaknesses are fixable. But the problem is that it’s not easy to fix focus or effort.

The Quakers could remedy the situation sooner rather than later. They could come out of the gate quickly on Wednesday against Binghamton, build a lead based on staunch defense and infrequent fouling, and ride that lead to a victory. They could play focused and execute the game plan just as they were meant to.

Or everything could come together much, much later in the season.

Focus and effort aren’t tangible goals, and Penn’s biggest challenge will be figuring out how to find that focus and create that effort.

When that happens, we’ll see a different Quakers squad. Until then, Dougherty and the rest of the team aren’t worried. They don’t have to be.

Allen will continue preaching defense and execution as he’s done for the last three seasons. He’ll stick to his guns as long as he has to until everything falls into place.

It’ll happen, just in due time.

MEGAN SOISSON is a senior health and societies major from Mechanicsburg, Pa., and is senior sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. Her e-mail address is soisson@theDP.com.


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