The Quakers entered the break losers in eight of their last 10 contests, and the road ahead wasn’t easy either, with a four-game road swing.
After a nearly two-week layoff, the Red and Blue were set for a rematch with Delaware, which beat them handily in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament.
They then continued on the road to face Wagner, which handed them a loss last year; Butler, one of the nation’s hottest teams after taking down No. 1 Indiana on Dec. 15; and Big 5 foe La Salle, which boasted a five-game winning streak in the annual series.
Dec. 21: Delaware 83, Penn 60
Despite a roster just seven men deep — Miles Cartwright, Henry Brooks, Steve Rennard, Darien Nelson-Henry and Tony Hicks were all suspended by the team for undisclosed reasons — the Quakers jumped out to a 12-2 lead just three minutes in.
But the Blue Hens battled back, taking their first lead at the 3:49 mark before going into the break with a 32-26 advantage. They made their first eight shots of the second frame and built a 21-point lead with a 50-19 run. The game’s most telling stat? Delaware secured 24 offensive boards and outrebounded the Quakers, 51-35.
Penn’s lone bright spot was Greg Louis, who in his first career start recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Dec. 29: Wagner 68, Penn 63 (OT)
With their suspended players back in action, the Red and Blue appeared primed for their first win in over a month, especially when they built a 10-point lead late in the first half. Wagner, though, knocked the Quakers off for a second straight season behind 23 points and 10 boards from junior guard Kenneth Ortiz.
Penn was without its top scorer and rebounder, Fran Dougherty, who was sidelined with mononucleosis. Cartwright, Brooks and Jamal Lewis all reached double figures in points. Once again, the Quakers lost the rebounding battle, this time by a 39-32 margin.
Jan. 2: No. 17 Butler 70, Penn 57
The contest was closer than the final score made it seem, as the Quakers were within one possession at 52-49 with 8:42 remaining before the No. 17 Bulldogs attained their first double-digit lead with a 10-0 run spanning three minutes.
Butler’s Roosevelt Jones earned star of the game with a career-high 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting, and the Bulldogs won the rebounding battle, 36-21. Cartwright scored a team-high 15 points. Dougherty missed a second straight game.
Jan. 5: La Salle 74, Penn 57
The Quakers’ sixth loss to the Explorers in as many years was easily their worst of the break. La Salle led by 10 at the half and jumped ahead 18 not even five minutes into the second half.
With Dougherty out again, Cartwright struggled to score 11 points on just 3-for-11 shooting. Hicks led the way with 14, and Dau Jok added eight to go along with 11 rebounds. Four Explorers reached double-digits.
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