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Mens Basketball vs. Lafayette Credit: Freda Zhao , Freda Zhao

0-3 sure doesn’t look good. But give these Quakers some credit.

Against a more experienced and talented Lafayette squad that was hot from the start, Penn made an impressive comeback effort that put its full potential on display despite ultimately falling short, 83-77.

And the squad did so relying heavily on freshmen Mike Auger and Antonio Woods , both of whom proved able to rise to the occasion.

Auger, who provided a key post presence with Darien Nelson-Henry playing limited minutes, scored a team-high 18 points and was central to the Quakers’ comeback.

The athletic forward scored 10 of his points during the second half run, and his transition dunk that cut the lead to two with 9:28 remaining was the highlight of the game for Penn.

“I thought he was phenomenal,” coach Jerome Allen said of Auger. “He brought us alive in the second half with his relentlessness, whether it was at the top of the press or after we got the ball.”

Auger’s performance not only impressed Allen, but also reflected the style of play the coach wants to see more consistently from his team.

“We have to roll our sleeves up,” Allen said. “That has to be our identity — we have to leave it on the floor. Right now we think we can play a sexy game and that’s just not us.”

Coming off Ivy-League Rookie of the Week recognition, freshman guard Woods continued to put his fair share of work in to help the Red and Blue cause.

Woods poured in 11 points on a team leading three triples in 32 minutes on the floor.

Woods’ poise and ability to step up when defenders are keying on Penn leading scorer Tony Hicks were also on display on Saturday. These qualities explain why he plays more minutes than anyone other than Hicks.

Despite a pair of strong freshmen efforts, Hicks may have had the most impressive night for the Red and Blue.

It wasn’t the flashiest Hicks performance, but it was certainly well rounded.

The junior guard put up 14 points and 13 assists (tying a school record) along with a team-leading four steals — exactly the type of effort Penn needs from the veteran.

The reigning Big 5 Player of the Week’s pinpoint passing and heightened intensity on the defensive end helped fuel the Red and Blue’s comeback bid, although he was unable to take his squad over the top.

Part of that was due to Hicks himself — he missed several game tying attempts — but Penn’s inability to complete the comeback had more to do with the difficulty of the young squad maintaining a high level of play and energy while also remaining disciplined.

Becoming a more consistent and complete team is Penn basketball’s top concern moving forward.

While that process tends to be a difficult and lengthy one for young teams like Penn, the performances of Auger, Woods and Hicks on Saturday provide a glimmer of hope for the slow starting Quakers.

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