I went to many Penn basketball games before attending Penn yet one game sticks in my mind more than any other.
I distinctly remember Ibrahim Jaaber sitting on top of the Palestra rim, victorious after leading the Quakers past Yale to clinch the Ivy League title.
But that was more than six years ago.
And after yet another defeat – this time via a blown lead at Rider – it seems like another Ivy title for Penn basketball is getting farther and farther away.
Because since Jaaber and the 2006-07 Quakers ran through the Ivy League all the way to the NCAA Tournament, the Red and Blue have seen just one winning season.
That’s right. Just one winning season.
And while that winning season came just two years ago under coach Jerome Allen, the Quakers have won just 11 of their last 41 games in the two seasons since Zack Rosen led Penn to the doorstep of an Ivy title.
When asked how he will try to get Penn basketball back to a winning mentality, Allen responded defiantly.
“If I had an answer to that, I’d put it in a bottle and sell it,” he said.
The sad thing about today’s loss is that the Quakers arguably played their best game of the year. Senior captain Miles Cartwright looked like a man possessed, dishing out assists in droves in the second half, enough to earn a high-five from Allen during the Red and Blue’s big run.
And sophomore guard Julian Harrell played the best offensive game of his career, scoring a game-high 23 points while going 8-for-10 shooting.
But on top of standout performances by Cartwright, Harrell, Fran Dougherty, Jamal Lewis and even Cameron Gunter, it wasn’t enough.
You can chalk it up to injuries. The team gave up 21 offensive rebounds to Rider and surely that number shrinks some if sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry wasn’t out with a concussion.
And you can chalk it up to strong competition. Rider is 6-5 on the year and look to be a formidable opponents for any of its opponents in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
But that doesn’t cut it.
It is time to hold this Quakers team accountable. It is time to hold this entire program accountable.
Because in a year when Penn was projected to finish second in the Ivy League, the team looks like the second-worst team instead.
Quite frankly, this isn’t Penn basketball. This is what you get when you combine poor coaching and an uninspired squad.
This is the result of years of being outrecruited by Harvard and Princeton. This is the result of accepting second place finishes like two years ago as good enough.
But it isn’t good enough.
Sure, this team could turn it around. After all, Ivy League play hasn’t even started yet and Penn could be just 14 games from another Ivy title.
But it is much more likely that Penn’s Ivy title drought will continue in 2014.
And as a New Year’s Resolution, Penn needs to find a replacement for Athletic Director Steve Bilsky who will hold Allen, his staff and his players accountable for trying to get Penn basketball back to a time where Ivy titles aren’t just the goal but the expectation.
While Penn’s last Ivy title will always be etched in the minds of Penn basketball fans, there is a new image that defines this Penn team.
That image is the moment after the clock goes to zero. It is the moment where half the team walks off in silent sadness and the other players, like Harrell today, express their frustration as they move towards the locker room.
Because over the last six years, Penn basketball has been defined by losing. And that needs to change in 2014.
STEVEN TYDINGS is a Wharton sophomore from Hopewell, N.J. and is senior sports editor-elect of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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