As the old cliche goes, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
But when teams dig themselves into big, early holes, there is often no chance to recover, and Penn men’s basketball learned this the hard way on Saturday. On the road against George Mason, the Quakers fell behind early and couldn’t make up the lost ground, culminating in a 63-44 loss.
The Quakers (4-4) found themselves down by a significant margin for the third straight game. With just under four minutes played, the Patriots (4-5), held an 8-0 lead.
The run finally ended when senior Darien Nelson-Henry finished in close to the basket. The Kirkland, Wash., native finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, joining sophomore guard Antonio Woods as the only members of the Red and Blue who finished the game with double-digit points.
Coach Steve Donahue noted that one of the keys to George Mason’s success was its ability to effectively contain Nelson-Henry, who has led the way for Penn’s offense of late.
"[We] just didn’t do a good job of moving the ball properly. They guarded Darien really well, the first time someone’s really guarded him, and they did a terrific job,” he said. “Terrific defensive team on the road, we could have played better, the guys played hard as heck, just one of those games that didn’t fall for us.”
On the other side of Nelson-Henry’s struggles offensively was George Mason senior center Shevon Thompson, who finished the game with seven points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. The 6-foot-11 center blanketed Penn’s leading scorer and held him to just 4-for-13 shooting on the game.
“I think Shevon Thompson is one of the best post defenders in the country,” Donahue said. ”[He’s a] borderline NBA player, 6-11, 7-5 wingspan, just a great, high-level defender and really rebounds the ball. We were having a hard time going through Darien to score, which he had a couple moves he typically makes.”
The Quakers’ offensive struggles continued for the rest of the first half, and they only cut the deficit to single digits just once more before halftime. Going into the break, the Red and Blue had scored only 16 points on 6-for-25 shooting from the field.
If the Quakers had any hopes for a second-half comeback, their opportunity quickly disappeared as the Patriots scored seven straight points to start the second period of play.
Throughout the second half, Penn tried out multiple lineup combinations in hopes of finding a spark and gaining some momentum. By the game’s final buzzer, 13 different players had subbed in for the Red and Blue.
“For such a young team, we’re trying to figure things out. We’ve played really well, we haven’t played as well at times, but I love the effort,” Donahue said. “We’re guarding consistently, game-in-and-game-out.”
Nothing seemingly went the Quakers’ way, however, as they failed to ever make a substantial cut into into the Patriot’s lead.
For the rest of the game, Penn’s could only muster enough scoring to come within 17, and by the end of the game, the Quakers had faded away, losing by 19.
In a game with very few positives for Penn, there was one significant moment for a fresh face in the program. Down by 23 with less than four minutes left, freshman center Collin McManus tipped in Jake Silpe’s miss for his first points as a member of the Red and Blue.
“I think it’s a group that’s willing to progress and get more consistent, work hard at practice and make sure the program continues to get growth,” Donahue noted.
After several consecutive slow starts, Penn will look to come out stronger when it takes on fellow Philadelphia rival Temple on Wednesday night at the Palestra.Comments powered by Disqus
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