After struggling down the stretch against Delaware State, junior center Darien Nelson-Henry got going right away against Rider.
One possession into the game, Nelson-Henry made a nice move and got an easy two. A few possessions later, it was Nelson-Henry scoring again for Penn.
And five minutes into the game, the Quakers were down, 9-6, and DNH had all six points.
But then he picked up his second foul, a legitimate foul — unlike the call that gave him his first. Three minutes later, senior forward Greg Louis, the Red and Blue’s only other upperclassman big, picked up his second foul.
These events exposed what might be Penn’s biggest Achilles’ heel: frontcourt depth, or lack thereof.
Fans can hate on Nelson-Henry and Louis for their lack of consistency all they want but at the end of the day, they are what keeps Penn from having to go to a frontcourt of only freshmen with sophomore forward Dylan Jones out for the game in street clothes.
“It was pretty difficult,” coach Jerome Allen said about dealing with foul trouble. “You don’t want to put some of the younger guys in the position to have to maintain a certain standard for that amount of time, but that’s basketball.”
Freshman forward Mike Auger held his own. Playing just his second game, Auger exhibited his propensity for the offensive rebound and displayed a ton of fight in the paint, notching 10 points.
“After the game in the locker room, we tried to highlight the effort Mike Auger had tonight,” Allen said. “Regardless of what the scoreboard said, he left nothing on the floor.”
Fellow freshman Sam Jones put together a solid effort as well, with three triples in the first half.
But those two alone couldn’t stop Rider in the slightest.
While Penn actually won the points in the paint battle, the Quakers’ turnovers in the post and lack of help for those helping on defense led to open jump shots.
Rider’s main forwards — sophomore Kahlil Thomas, senior Matt Lopez and junior Shawn Valentine — shot a combined 6-for-9 from the field, playing efficient ball while the Broncs’ guards put Penn away.
There were plenty of other flaws in this game for Penn: 11 second half turnovers, 26.3 percent shooting from three-point range and more.
Yet all those factors can be overcome during a game. However, if Penn’s top bigs get into early foul trouble against a team more adept in the post than Rider (Temple next Tuesday?), it will be more of the same and there isn’t an easy solution.
So while dealing with the inevitable growing pains from the freshmen class, the upperclassmen need to take the lead. And if those juniors and seniors can avoid fouls, that shouldn’t be too impossible to do.Comments powered by Disqus
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