Unlike two years ago, when the Penn men’s basketball team lost to Drexel by 21 points, this season’s Battle for 33rd Street was just that: a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire battle.
While Penn lost to the Dragons, 61-59, the defeat has to be seen as a step in the right direction. The Quakers’ young players helped keep them in the game against a team that was last year’s regular season champion of the Colonial Athletic Association and nearly made it to the NCAA Tournament.
It’s hard to make any generalizations about the Quakers four games into the season — no one can know how the young players are going to develop or how the team will gel.
Coach Jerome Allen continues to experiment with his lineup as he feels out what his players can do in real-game situations.
For some of the rookies, the experience so far has been positive. Tony Hicks, for example, is averaging 21.3 minutes and 6.3 points per game.
But for others, the start to their college careers has not been so easy. Darien Nelson-Henry has 10 turnovers but just eight points and five rebounds in his 47 minutes of play this year.
While Allen is feeling out his younger players, he has also had to adjust his game plan based on the play of his veterans.
Fran Dougherty continued his scoring spree Saturday with 21 points and added 10 rebounds for his second-straight double-double.
On the other hand, sophomore Henry Brooks fouled out after scoring just one point in 14 minutes on Saturday. Cartwright put up 18 points but turned the ball over six times.
The Quakers have to continue to work out these kinks, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Seven of the 11 players to take the floor for Penn on Saturday have had limited minutes in their Penn careers. This team is still learning how to play together, and it is going to take a while to figure out what it is capable of.
Allen will get his next chance to play around with his lineup tonight against Fordham (0-3) in the consolation bracket of the NIT Tip-Off Tournament.
The Quakers fell twice last week in the tournament to Delaware and Fairfield.
Penn and Fordham haven’t met since 2006, but the Rams have won the last four meetings with the Quakers.
The Red and Blue have struggled on the glass this season, with an overall rebounding margin of minus eight. However, Fordham’s margin is minus nine, and the Rams are without senior Chris Gaston, who has led them in rebounding for the past three seasons. Dougherty’s 10 boards led the way for Penn Saturday, but no other player had more than three. That will have to change tonight.
“For us, we use [Saturday’s loss] as a tool to try to get better, to prepare us for Monday,” Allen said. “Even though it’s the nature of the game, a quick turnaround, we can’t use it as a cheap crutch to not be prepared for Monday night.”
The Quakers will have another quick turnaround following the Fordham game, as they face Lehigh on Tuesday in the final game of the tournament. But Allen is only focused on tonight.
“Monday comes before Tuesday, every time I look at the calendar. That’s really all I’m focused on.”
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