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Sophomore guard Tony Hicks breaks away to score on a goaltending layup to give Penn a 73-71 lead with 1:39 remaining in the game. It was the Quakers’ first lead since they led 9-8 less than four minutes into the contest. But Penn wouldn’t score again.

Credit: Nathaniel Chan

Sophomore Tony Hicks said before the season began that Penn would get out and run more than the Quakers did last season.

The Red and Blue came through on that promise, as the game’s pace was certainly dictated by the Quakers, but Penn forgot its defensive principles in its season opener against Temple, ultimately falling, 78-73.

Once down 15, Penn took a lead with less than two minutes remaining but couldn’t come up with the necessary stops to hold it for the victory.

In front of a loud Palestra crowd, the Quakers capitalized on the Owls’ miscues late, forcing turnover after turnover. That’s when Penn’s commitment to getting out and running truly began to pay off.

But it still wasn’t enough for Penn to handle the Owls.

“We don’t pride ourselves in putting up a good fight,” Allen said.

Penn had an opportunity to tie the game up again with 12 seconds left, down three. Senior Miles Cartwright corralled the inbounds pass and tried to find an open Hicks, who was running off a few screens.

But Temple switched defensive assignments following the screens, leaving Hicks more covered than he expected. He still got off a three, but with a few hands in his face. It didn’t fall, and Penn didn’t come out on top.

All of the defensive woes from last year arose again. The Owls soared to victory thanks to Penn’s poor interior defense.

“I know we can’t guard the ball,” coach Jerome Allen said.

The rebounding margin was almost laughable — 49-to-35 in Temple’s favor, including 20 offensive boards for the Owls.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy expected to grab a few offensive boards, but not as many as they did.

“We thought we’d be able to get a few of them,” Dunphy said, “but not like this.”

In addition, Penn only played with a sense of urgency once the scoreboard forced the Quakers to step their game up.

The Quakers’ lack of energy was partially responsible for their difficulty dealing with Temple’s big men. Allen smartly switched to zone in the second half, spurring on the run that allowed Penn to get back into the game.

Once Temple was forced into shooting threes, Penn finally took advantage.

Offensively, Penn’s sophomore studs showed up. Hicks got his points, putting up 28 on 12-for-24 shooting, and Darien Nelson-Henry supported the Quakers with 19 points in 28 minutes.

Allen wasn’t ready to praise Hicks’ efforts.

“What do you want me to say?” Allen said. “[Hicks] made a few shots down the stretch. It’s my job not necessarily to praise him. I know he’s capable of making shots, I know he can attack the basket.

“It’s our jobs to not get caught up in the numbers, because there’s only one number that matters, and we are 0-1.”

Cartwright put in 12 points, but he struggled immensely from the floor. He made just three field goals on the night.

Still, Cartwright’s effort couldn’t be questioned. In a play that really captured the entire game, with Penn down three, Cartwright missed a three-pointer, sprinted to get the board and kicked it to Hicks, who drained a three.

“It’s always about us,” Allen said, “not who we play against. It’s our ability to go out and show what we’re capable of.”

If the Quakers can learn to play with the energy they had while on the comeback trail for an entire game, they may be capable of quite a lot.

“We got to come out with that same fire,” Hicks said.

And Allen knows that ultimately falls on his shoulders.

“We didn’t play that way from the opening tip,” Allen said. “And I guess that’s on me.”


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