West Long Branch, N.J. — Turnovers, points in the paint and rebounds.
That’s what coach Jerome Allen was focused on following the Quakers’ win over Monmouth, 79-73.
And quite rightly. Penn turned the ball over 22 times, gave up 36 points in the paint and allowed 23 offensive rebounds on the night.
“We got a little lucky,” Allen said. “We can’t win games because of luck. I want to win games because we execute the details.”
While the Quakers surely didn’t win the game because of execution, it wasn’t because of luck either.
It was thanks to effort.
Senior captain Miles Cartwright led the Quakers in scoring, putting in 25 on the night, but he only logged 26 minutes due to foul trouble, leaving him on the bench during those important stretches late in the game when Penn was fighting to hold onto a lead.
The play of the night didn’t come from a captain though. In fact, it didn’t even come from someone who stepped onto the floor last season.
With Penn up four and 18 seconds remaining, sophomore Julian Harrell set himself up in the paint and took a charge. Instead of the Hawks being within one possession of the Quakers, the game was all but sealed.
“That charge means everything,” Cartwright said. “He’s been ready, ever since Saturday. I’m happy for him, especially after he had to sit out last year because of injury.
“He’s still a leader on this team.”
Harrell wasn’t the only one to give those effort plays throughout the night though.
Fellow classmate Jamal Lewis had a tough assignment in Monmouth guard Justin Robinson, who is quick off the dribble. For 23 minutes though, Lewis gave 100 percent effort in staying on Robinson’s hip from the moment Robinson’s hands touched the ball, avoiding being called for the new hand checking rules.
“I did think Jamal Lewis did a pretty good job defending on the ball without using his hands,” Allen said.
Robinson finished the game with just 12 points thanks in part to Lewis.
Effort came through in senior captain Dau Jok, who played just six minutes for the Quakers but provided three rebounds in addition to a three-pointer.
And it came from sophomore Tony Hicks and Cartwright, who each continued driving into the lane knowing they were going to take a beating every time.
Surely, the team has work to do.
While sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry put up 14 points, the onus is on him as one of the premier big men in the Ivy League to fight harder on the defensive glass to prevent teams like Monmouth from hanging around.
In addition, Allen needs to figure out a way to light a fire under his team that will stay lit for an entire contest.
Saturday against Temple, it took being down 15 late for the Quakers to start playing with fire, and on Tuesday, Monmouth jumped out to a 12-2 lead right from the outset.
“I need to do a better job at getting my team engaged,” Allen said.
That’s definitely true, but while he would never say it, these issues can be fixed — especially considering the fact that it’s early in the season and rust still needs to be shaken off.
But Harrell taking that charge or Hicks leaping over a fan to try and save a loose ball — those things can’t be taught.
Those are the types of players that Allen has placed on this roster.
This victory wasn’t about luck. And it wasn’t about offensive rebounds or turnovers or points in the paint.
This win was about effort.
JOHN PHILLIPS is a senior English major from Philadelphia, Pa. and is a sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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