When Penn basketball took the floor of the Palestra on Saturday night, there were multiple elephants in the room.
First and foremost, there was the case of head coach Jerome Allen. It had just leaked earlier in the day that he would not be returning to the position next season – he had been fired.
"As 'Beast Mode' (NFL running back Marshawn Lynch) said, I'm just here not to get fined," Allen said of his firing after the game.
And then there was his Penn squad, which overpowered Cornell, 79-72, with the force of an elephant banging its head against the wall trying desperately to forget a bad stretch in its life. In the case of Penn basketball, a seven-game losing streak only snapped the night before.
As has been the recent trend, the Quakers (9-18, 4-9 Ivy) started their four standout freshmen – Mike Auger, Antonio Woods, Sam Jones and Darnell Foreman – along with junior guard Tony Hicks. Much like last night, the young squad brought a ton of energy from the start, potentially inspired by the circumstances surrounding their coach.
"We just made it about business [this week in practice]," Allen said. "It's good to see them come out tonight and kinda duplicate that same level of intensity defensively."
Auger in particular played like a man possessed and used some tenacious rebounding to help build an early lead for the Red and Blue. However, his aggressive play would quickly get his in foul trouble.
With Auger off the floor, the Big Red (13-17, 5-9) were able to make a run, cutting Penn’s lead to only two going into halftime.
Whatever Allen said in his penultimate halftime speech for the Red and Blue must have struck a nerve, though, because Penn quickly corrected some of its sloppier first-half tendencies.
Junior center Darien Nelson-Henry was an effective offensive option in the paint throughout the game, catching the ball on the low block and laying the ball in with ease on several occasions for his 12 points. Freshman sharp-shooter also stood out on the offensive end, showcasing his silky stroke en route to 13 points.
Woods was dominant all game, dropping 15 points and 11 assists with only two turnovers.
"Our chemistry is very high," Woods said. "I kinda know where [his teammates] are gonna be before they know where they're gonna be ... It's a lot of fun."
Penn’s offense maintained its pace throughout the second half, opening up a 20-point lead midway through the half and eventually putting the game away. The game wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.
The past two games have showcased some of the best basketball the Quakers have played all season and will certainly feel good for supporters of the program that witnessed so many struggles throughout the season.
However, much like an elephant is said not to be able to un-remember something it witnesses, the Quakers cannot undo their seven game losing streak. And their coach has suffered the consequences.
"We try to make it about what's the next challenge," Allen said about the Quakers' upcoming final game, a statement that also seems relevant to him personally at the moment.
Allen will coach his final game for the Red and Blue on Tuesday when Penn takes on Princeton at home.Comments powered by Disqus
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