So Penn basketball almost came back. Valiantly even. Doesn’t matter.
That 23-6 run finishing with 1:39 left to go in the game? Very impressive, yes.
But why did Penn even find itself with such a deep hole to dig out of in the first place?
You’ll find the answer in the paint, where Penn allowed Temple a shocking 20 offensive and 49 overall rebounds. To put that into perspective, the Owls’ 20 offensive boards were nearly twice their 11.2 per game average from a year ago.
Possession after possession, Penn would play solid defense and Temple would get bailed out by an offensive board anyway.
Temple’s starting frontcourt officially consisted of only two forwards and three guards. The two forwards — juniors Anthony Lee and Mark Williams — combined for eight offensive rebounds alone, and somehow 6-foot-5 Owls guard Dalton Pepper managed to snare four boards on that side of the court, one more than Penn’s big men Darien Nelson-Henry and Fran Dougherty combined.
“We offensive rebounded the ball a little bit last year too, but I wasn’t expecting this,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “Our offensive rebounding was great. We thought we’d be able to get a few of them, but not like this.”
No, not like this. Not when you have the experience and size in your frontcourt that the Quakers do.
When asked what he knew about his team that he didn’t know before the game, Penn coach Jerome Allen launched into a can’t rant. “I know we can’t guard the ball. I know we cannot rebound,” Allen said. “If we can’t do those two things, we’re gonna lose more than once.”
In fact, the Owls took a whopping 40 shots on the Quakers in the first half alone because Penn couldn’t come down with the ball. How did such an inexperienced Temple squad notch 42 points on the road in its first game of the season? That’s how.
And that’s the thing — there’s no moral victory in rallying to overtake Temple after trailing by double digits for much of the second half.
Why? Because Temple’s so much more inexperienced than Penn. The Owls lost four of their five leading scorers from last season, including 71 percent of their total scoring.
Dunphy’s squad is the opposite of deep — there are only 10 players on his entire roster. Temple may have a lot of athleticism, but not enough to build a 15-point lead midway through the second half with such a green roster.
Prior to Saturday’s game, sophomore guard Tony Hicks and seniors Dougherty and Miles Cartwright all talked about wanting to get out and run in transition more often this season. Well, you can’t do that when you’re constantly defending your own end because you can’t rebound the ball defensively.
These are the can’ts right now for Allen and his team. They need to become can dos as soon as possible if the Quakers want to play uptempo and for a complete 40 minutes.
No comeback, no matter how rousing, can mask that reality.
MIKE TONY is a senior English and history major from Uniontown, Pa. and is senior sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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