STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — For 37 minutes, Penn basketball clung to a lead, holding off Wagner whenever the game got close.
But in the final few minutes, the Quakers came undone, unable to come away from the road tilt with their first win of the year as the Seahawks took the victory, 64-61. Penn committed 22 turnovers, including a key giveaway in the final minute of the game.
The Red and Blue (0-5) led from the opening tip, taking a 14-2 lead in the first five minutes. And until the very end, it seemed like Penn would keep Wagner (2-3) at arm’s length, pulling out a road win.
Yet with 3:31 to go, Penn lost control of the game.
Leading 58-54, senior forward Greg Louis drew the fifth foul on Wagner forward Nolan Long . But Louis would miss four free throws in the next two minutes, unable to make good on the opportunities despite Penn’s relative efficiency at the line earlier in the game.
And a freshman, JoJo Cooper , capitalized for the Seahawks on the other end. With three minutes left, Cooper converted a layup while drawing a foul, cutting Penn’s lead to one for the first time all game.
Cooper soon handed Wagner its first lead of the game, 59-58, making a banked-in floater from eight feet out with under two minutes to go.
“Their guards were getting in the paint. They were driving the ball,” coach Jerome Allen said. “To their credit, Cooper got in the paint. [Senior guard Marcus] Burton got in the paint. And when they did miss it down the stretch, they got every 50-50 ball. They got every offensive rebound.”
Penn’s attempts to answer were fumbled away as sophomore guard Matt Howard missed a shot and freshman guard Antonio Woods lost a ball out of bounds.
“It is not necessarily his fault,” Allen said of Woods’ turnover. “He was put in that position on the road ... [as a] freshman. He’ll get better, he’ll learn from it, but I do believe we let one get away.”
Wagner added a jumper with 13 seconds to go and a late three-pointer from Penn freshman Sam Jones would not be nearly enough.
Over the course of the game, the Quakers spread the wealth offensively, shooting 57.6 percent from the field on 19-for-33 shooting. Junior center Darien Nelson-Henry led the way with 11 points and eight rebounds, both team highs. Penn’s forwards were able to find success in the post against an undersized Wagner frontcourt in foul trouble.
“We talked about it before the game that we should be able to score the ball inside if we were patient and poised,” Allen said. “I thought for the most part, whether it was side-ball screen actions or direct post-ups, Darien and Greg did a good job.”
Penn led at halftime, 31-26, missing just seven times from the field while getting five offensive rebounds. However, 14 turnovers kept Wagner in the game despite the Seahawks shooting 41.7 percent in the first half.
“If we have 40 percent less turnovers in the first half and score on 20-30 percent of those [possessions], it would be a different ball game,” Allen said. “We may be going into halftime with a double-digit lead and stretch it out from there.”
But it was not enough. Junior captain Tony Hicks struggled throughout the game, scoring just eight points after leading the team in scoring average during its first four games. He also committed seven of Penn’s 22 turnovers — easily a season high for both Hicks and the squad — before fouling out late.
Cooper led the way for Wagner even with the Quakers outrebounding the Seahawks, 29-23. Cooper and Burton each had 15, combining to lead the late comeback.
After the game, Allen admitted that he and his squad need to show something more in order to pick up their first win.
“Everything starts with me, but we’re just not tough enough,” he said. “We’re just not ready. We don’t have that poise about us to compete on the road, let alone at the collegiate level.”
Penn will look for that toughness and its first victory when the Red and Blue travel to Navy on Wednesday.Comments powered by Disqus
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