The third installment of our “Remembering Penn basketball” series features former DP sports editor Brian Kotloff (C’12).
When I think of covering Penn basketball, I think of Zack Rosen and Jerome Allen sitting at a table in the bowels of the Palestra, staring at a score sheet, dejected. This is not fair to either of them — they did come one game short of forcing an Ivy League tiebreaker game with Harvard during my senior year — but the reality is, the era of Penn basketball I witnessed (2008-12) was defined by the painful process of rebuilding the program. The payoff for all the pent-up frustration and countless hours of preparation never came; “the process,” as coach Allen liked to reference, remained a perpetual climb until I — and Rosen — left campus. And every time it seemed like they were ready for the next step, a gut punch always lurked around the corner.
There was Dec. 8, 2010, when they could have beaten No. 12 Villanova … if Corey Stokes hadn’t scored 34 points on 11 for 15 from the floor. Then Jan. 12, 2011, when they made an out-of-nowhere 17-4 run in the final 3:30 to force overtime at La Salle … only to get blown away in OT. Then Feb. 8, 2011, when the best inbounds play I’ve ever seen allowed Tyler Bernardini to tie the game on a three-pointer in the last three seconds … yet only led to more heartbreak after more excruciating overtime mistakes. And the best (or worst) of them all: Nov. 14, 2011 against Temple, when Rosen made seven threes from what seemed like every spot in the gym, but a blown call in (of course) overtime robbed the game of the ending it deserved.
They all ended with two of the most stubborn men I’ve ever encountered telling a room full of outsiders that they don’t care about the opponent or the score — just the result. On second thought, maybe it is fair to remember the bad over the good; that’s the standard coach Allen set, and everything I saw told me he won’t stop until it’s reached.
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