After an embarrassing loss to a Marist team that started the season 0-9, Penn basketball is reeling. And looking at the way this season has gone, it wasn’t surprising.
“At the end of the day that all starts with me,” coach Jerome Allen said, taking responsibility for the loss. “I have to make sure we come ready with the right attitude and that wasn’t the case today.”
At this point in the season, there’s a large enough sample size to actually analyze a basketball team. And looking at the Quakers, it seems as though they haven’t had the right attitude to begin with.
To be fair, the Red and Blue have faced some strong competition, including ranked teams like Iowa and Villanova. And injuries to sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry and others have hampered the Quakers.
But for the most part, Penn’s struggles have been rather inexcusable. In this current four game losing streak, the three losses other than Villanova have been against teams that were a combined 6-19 before playing the Red and Blue.
When it comes down to it, the Quakers have the talent, but never have the attitude conducive to success.
The issues begin with defensive intensity as most teams have been able to dissect the Quakers’ 2-3 zone. The confusion is even more prevalent in transition with opposing players often finding open three-pointers.
Penn lacks a defender that can shut down dominant opposing wing players. And for Marist, Khallid Hart added his name to the long list of guards to put up impressive numbers against the Quakers.
Without any strong perimeter defender and without the effort necessary for effective zone defense, teams have found it possible to score at will against the Red and Blue at times.
The intensity is even more obvious when you watch the Quakers scramble for a defensive rebound. Losing your leading rebounder is no excuse to be out-rebounded by a team whose opponents had outrebounded them by 4.8 rebounds per contest.
Sure, a few loose balls will go one way or another in a game, but Penn was ineffective from start to finish. Rebounding mainly comes down to positioning and boxing out and the Red and Blue were poorly prepared when it came to those fundamentals.
It’s not as if things are any better on offense.
The offense as a whole has struggled to create open shot opportunities, often settling for long jumpers. When sophomore guard Tony Hicks was thriving early in the season, the offense around him was efficient enough to give him opportunities, yet now he is sturggling to create his own shots.
Freshman guard Tony Bagtas has been a bright spot in the passing game, yet still has serious difficulties at times. Against Marist, he managed to find open opportunities for himself on a few plays, yet still lacks the consistent jumper to make him a consistent threat.
Without strong outside shooting this season, the offensive game on the interior has been ultimately – like most of Penn’s play – unreliable. Other than the occasional basket from Nelson-Henry and senior forward Fran Dougherty, the Quakers have been unable to find dominant interior presence.
Most of the time, the offense just looks poorly prepared, unable to effectively execute their sets and create holes in defenses, both man-to-man and zone.
When it comes down to it, most of that is mental. The potential for success, or at the very least mediocrity, is there, but the conviction to match is missing.
As Allen said, the attitude begins and ends with him. If this team is going to be able to find any success in Ivy play, Allen needs to change this team’s mindset and get the team heading in the right direction.
Because right now, Penn basketball is going nowhere.
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