Every game matters. That doesn’t always mean that winning every game matters, but for the Penn basketball team, improving every game matters.
Obviously the team wants to win games, but the Quakers also understand they are all working on something much bigger right now.
After a 65-54 victory on Wednesday against Binghamton, coach Jerome Allen delivered what he called a “soliloquy,” mentioning how the team is working through a long-term vision to bring in the younger players.
“A lot of times, expectations can supersede the process,” Allen said. “I’m not lowering the standard, we still have the same expectations. But as coaches, in particular this coaching staff, we are all about the process.”
Allen gave 11 players key minutes Wednesday. And with 12:26 to play in the second half, Allen showed his commitment to the process and to his young players. Binghamton’s Jimmy Gray had just nailed a three-pointer to trim Penn’s lead to 51-46, forcing Allen to call a timeout.
Strains of anxiety could be felt around the Palestra, as the Bearcats finally, despite the game’s slow tempo, had found some momentum. The young Quakers’ chances of ending their five-game losing streak against a Binghamton team they were widely expected to beat at home were now in jeopardy.
Many coaches in Allen’s position would have made sure their star players were on the court for the next possession, but Allen did just the opposite. Miles Cartwright was kept on the bench, and Henry Brooks was subbed in for Fran Dougherty.
It was a risky call, but the players on the court stepped up. Allen stuck to his guns, and he should be praised for his commitment to the plan.
“Our team has no real drop-off. I feel that any one of my teammates can go out there and get the job done if necessary,” freshman guard Jamal Lewis said. “In practice, knowing that 11 players played and 11 players have experience in games, that helps us to get better.”
The Quakers held the Bearcats scoreless for the next four minutes, while Dougherty and Cartwright took a breather and were kept out of foul trouble in a tightly-called game. Once Dougherty and Cartwright came back in, Penn went on a 9-2 run that crushed any momentum Binghamton had.
“We get to really spend our cash on the court, really exhaust ourselves,” freshman guard Tony Hicks said. “We know that we won’t lose anything if we have to come out of the game.”
The experience and playing time the young Quakers are getting now is invaluable. That may not result in many immediate victories, but it could pay big dividends at the end of the season.
“Hopefully they will continue to learn, and we will get to learn from one another as coaches and a team,” Allen said. “That will be the formula for why we are playing the best basketball by the time the season ends.”
MARS JACOBSON is a junior political science major from Salem, Ore. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.
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