If you’ve watched the news over the past few days, you have
invariably heard political pundits discuss the fiscal cliff.
And despite their politics, almost all talking heads agree that the U.S. is suffering from a lack of decisive leaders willing to step up when their country needs them.
Penn basketball is suffering from a similar lack of strong leadership.
Call it “the leadership cliff,” because if nobody steps up soon as the leader of this team in clutch situations, the Quakers will fall even further into a downward spiral.
For the past three years, we all watched Zack Rosen master the role of floor general for the Quakers. His teammates and the fans felt confident when the ball was in his hands.
In the final seconds of the game, his opponents knew he would take
the last shot but they still couldn’t stop him. Not surprisingly, the Quakers were 8-2 in games decided by fewer than five points last season.
This season, Penn is 0-2 in games decided by fewer than five points with an additional overtime loss by five at Wagner on Saturday.
So why do the Quakers keep capitalizing in the clutch?
Because none of them have established themselves as the go-to guy when the pressure is on.
With no seniors on this year’s roster, junior captain Miles
Cartwright seemed the likely candidate to fill Zack Rosen’s large
shoes. In the second half at Wagner, Cartwright looked like a
star, scoring 10 of the team’s 23 points in the stanza.
“In the second half, my teammates instilled a lot of trust in me,” Cartwright said.
But with the score tied at 54 and 36.8 seconds left, Cartwright froze up like a deer in the headlights. He held the ball too long and heaved up a desperation three as the shot clock expired. After the game, Cartwright admitted that he would have driven to the hoop earlier if he could do the play over again.
Earlier in the season, junior captain Fran Dougherty looked like a
potential leader after scoring 20 or more points in four of Penn’s
first five games. But he has disappeared in the past few games, averaging just 11 points per contest over the last five games.
On top of the Quakers’ on-the-court struggles, there has been
controversy off the court. The suspensions of five players, including four who have started multiple games this season, reflects a lack of discipline and leadership on this squad.
But what has been most frustrating about the Quakers’ struggles this season is that they keep repeating the same mistakes.
“It’s the same things. Turnovers, rebounds down the stretch, free throws, bad shots,” freshman guard Jamal Lewis said after the Wagner game. “All that stuff can be corrected, we can learn from it.”
But if the Red and Blue couldn’t solve these issues after each of
their first eight losses, what should make us confident that anything will change in 2013?
If once is a mistake, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern, then what do you call it when the Quakers have suffered the same problems in all of their nine losses?
For the Red and Blue to turn their season around before Ivy League
play begins, they will need someone to lead by example and inspire the team like Zack Rosen did last season.
But who will step up now is anyone’s guess.
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