Four years later, Penn is still clawing its way back.
Entering its first road matchup of the 2013-14 campaign on the heels of a thrilling season opener against Temple, Penn (0-1) travel to New Jersey to take on Monmouth (1-0) today.
Tuesday’s meeting marks the first game between the Quakers and Hawks since 2009, a Hawks victory that immediately preceded the unceremonious firing of Glen Miller and the beginning of the Jerome Allen era at Penn.
Four years later, Saturday’s game against Temple may have provided the program with the jolt it needed though.
Despite trailing by 15 midway through the second half, sophomores Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry led a furious comeback that saw Penn take the lead with just under two minutes to go. Though the Quakers fell, 78-73, the comeback may offer a spark for a program on the rebound.
“What was encouraging is that we’re starting to identify ourselves as a team,” Nelson-Henry said. “We’re figuring out what the steps are that we can take to make us a successful program.
“It was a good first game. It wasn’t the result we had hoped for, but it’ll be good for us in the long run.”
The second-year center was a big reason for Penn’s success on Saturday, scoring a career-high 19 points on eight of 11 shooting while working alongside fellow big man Fran Dougherty.
“Our emphasis from day one has been to play inside-out,” Allen said. “That’s how we want to play, because if we control the paint, that’s how we’re going to win the game.”
“I don’t think there are a lot of teams, out of conference and in-conference, that can guard two post players like me and Fran,” Nelson-Henry added. “If either of us gets a chance to go one-on-one, it should be a bucket every time.”
Nelson-Henry also snared 10 boards for a team that did very little rebounding against the Owls. The Quakers gave up 49 rebounds, including a ghastly 20 offensive rebounds to an unimposing Temple team.
“We cannot afford to give up 20 offensive rebounds and expect to win,” Allen said. “Everybody who played, even if it’s for five seconds, needs to contribute and have the discipline to rebound as a direct function of will and then technique.”
With its Big 5 rival in the rearview mirror, Penn now turns its attention to a Hawks squad still getting acclimated to life in the MAAC.
In its season opener, Monmouth eked out a four-point win over former NEC foe Hofstra, 88-84. Due in large part to junior guard Deon Jones’ 22 points, coach King Rice led the Hawks to their first season-opening road win at the Division I level in school history.
The Red and Blue are 4-1 all time against Monmouth, and the team knows the significance of Tuesday’s game after struggling for so long before catching fire late in its opener.
“We need to come with more intensity to start the game, and we need to assert ourselves early on,” Nelson-Henry said.
“If we keep our feet on their throats from the beginning, there’s no reason for them to even be in the game.”
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