Dec. 29, 2013 – Rider 89, Penn 88. Coach Jerome Allen on Penn surrendering 21 offensive rebounds: “At the end of the day, rebounding is a function of effort. Effort and determination.”
Dec. 22, 2013 – Marist 76, Penn 62 – Allen: “I didn’t think we competed.”
Senior forward Fran Dougherty on falling behind 47-24 at halftime: “We weren’t mentally prepared in the first half … Today, they had more effort than us.”
Nov. 30, 2013 – Lafayette 79, Penn 76. Dougherty: “We just didn’t have the mentality for [rebounding] today,” Dougherty said. “They imposed their will and we didn’t really show up.”
Nov. 16, 2013 – Penn State 83, Penn 71. Dougherty: “It was just about playing harder than the other guy, and they played harder than us.”
Nov. 9, 2013 – Temple 78, Penn 73. Allen: “We didn’t play with the right sense of urgency for the first — I’ll say roughly — 33 minutes … I need to do a better job at getting my team engaged.”
March 9, 2013 – Yale 79, Penn 65. Allen: “They just play harder than us. They play hard, they get all the loose balls, they fight, they’re physical. We always expect things to fall right into our lap.”
Nov. 13, 2012 – Fairfield 62, Penn 53. Allen: “We play okay in certain stretches, and then we just allow guys to come up with offensive rebounds, take the ball in the middle, put us in rotation situations, and that’s what undisciplined teams do.”
Nov. 12, 2012 – Delaware 84, Penn 69. Allen: “For the most part, I just think we didn’t play with a certain sense of desperation right from the start.”
Effort. Determination. Discipline. In Penn basketball’s own words, those necessities have been lacking in game situations on an all too consistent basis for the past two seasons. Why?
A team with everyone returning from a year ago plus new offensive focal points Julian Harrell and Tony Bagtas is still sorely lacking in discipline. Sizable second-half leads are almost always inexplicably blown and possessions with the game on the line are botched just as routinely. Why?
Nov. 8, 2013 – I wrote the following: “Now Penn basketball has changed immeasurably for the better by staying the same. Fran is back. Miles [Cartwright] is back. Sophomores Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry are a year older and wiser after coming on strong late in their rookie campaigns last season … What a difference a year makes.”
Except there’s been no difference. Another year, another fumbled away last possession of regulation in an overtime loss to Wagner. Another topsy-turvy loss devoid of defense to Lafayette. Another team that turns the ball over more than 16 times a game and regularly allows way too many offensive rebounds. Another team that keeps telling us it came up short on effort.
That’s Allen’s fault, plain and simple, as he has admitted after nearly all of his 73 losses as Penn basketball’s head coach. Because this devastating déjà vu should not be happening with a team as well-rounded as his.
In Dougherty, you have a tireless worker, one who does the dirty work at both ends. Dougherty willed himself to be a better basketball player each of the past two summers with rigorous training, the first in anticipation of a greater offensive role and the second in recovery from a season-ending dislocated elbow.
“I wish I could have played with him,” two-time honorable mention All-Ivy forward and 2007 Penn grad Steve Danley told me last month after having observed Dougherty embark on his 2012 offseason training regimen.
In fellow senior captain Dau Jok, you have one of the greatest character guys the Ivy League has ever seen.
In Nelson-Henry, you have a 6-foot-11 behemoth with fantastic footwork and the athleticism to post a double-double in every contest he plays.
In Hicks, you have an ultra-athletic speedster who could easily drop 20 points a night if he was – wait for it – disciplined enough. But he’s gone completely AWOL this month, averaging just six points in the last four games and playing so little that it’s clear Allen has never been more frustrated with him than he is now. A single basket from Hicks would have been enough to put Penn over the top at Rider, but in just 12 minutes of play, he didn’t score any of Penn’s 88 points. He didn’t sign up to play 12 minutes per game for a 2-8 program.
And in Cartwright, you have the fiercest competitor I’ve witnessed in four years of watching Penn basketball. You can see in his eyes how badly he wants to be a winner. He may have always been one anyway.
Yet somehow, when Allen and his coaching staff puts them all together for the second straight year, they get 2-8.
Soon enough, Jok, Doc and Miles will be gone. So will I. So will the rest of the Class of 2014, most likely the fourth straight graduating class at Penn to never watch its basketball team win an Ivy League championship.
Quakers fans can’t be patient much longer. What if 2-8 becomes 2-9 at George Mason? 2-10 at La Salle? What if the Quakers, in their perpetual déjà vu mode, have a win total in single digits for the second consecutive season, even after being projected to finish second in the Ivy League preseason media poll?
Then all the aforementioned Quakers, especially Cartwright, Jok and Dougherty, will be forever associated with a dark era of Penn basketball. And changes will be made.
Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky will retire effective June 30, but his successor – depending on who it is – may want to make a change in the John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Penn Basketball. Every loss the Quakers suffer this season brings them that much closer to that change.
It’s not too late for these Quakers to turn it around. A full Ivy slate awaits and redemption remains possible. But it won’t happen if we keep hearing about lack of discipline and determination.
Everyone’s tired of hearing that the effort isn’t there. If the effort doesn’t get there, Allen will have to get going, especially since the Penn basketball which Quakers fans once knew and loved is long gone.
MIKE TONY is a senior English and history major from Uniontown, Pa. and senior sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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