PHILADELPHIA — There’s something about Penn-Temple basketball. No matter how good or bad the teams are, you can always count on it being just about the best non-conference game featuring the Quakers all year. Saturday was no exception.
Once again, Penn-Temple went right down to the wire; the Quakers came up just short in the 70-62 game.
There are obvious things to point to in the loss — going scoreless for the first five-and-a-half minutes of the game, Tyler Hamilton’s missed lay-up that turned into an Obi Enechionyia ally-oop at the other end, Penn shooting under 30 percent from the floor in the first half. Penn coach Steve Donahue pointed to his own reason.
“Temple deserved to win the game,” he said. “It was a two-point game with a minute to go, and they won the last minute.”
At the end of the day, Penn is just too young of a team that hasn’t yet figured out exactly what to do with its talent. Ten players saw at least ten minutes at the Liacouras Center, nine of them scored. Frankly, the reason Penn made it close is the same reason it lost. The Quakers just aren’t there yet.
Let that not veil the really important part of the game: things are coming together.
Jake Silpe might be finding his comfort zone, coming up with four assists and three huge steals off the bench. Matt Howard is the guy the Quakers can look to for the key basket at the key moment. Donahue is literally already putting AJ Brodeur in the conversation about being one of the best to ever come through Penn — six games into his college career.
Count Temple coach — and former Penn coach — Fran Dunphy among Brodeur’s fans.
“I think he’s got just about everything he needs. As he gets older he’s going to start having his game away from under the basket a little ... Those guys will be able to get him shooting the occasional three-point jumper, too, and that will help him tremendously. I was very impressed with him.”
This is a better team than the record seems to reflect. Look at Penn’s four losses this season. They dropped a very winnable Navy game, but against Miami and Villanova, it’s not like they were run out of the gym. Villanova’s the defending national champion, they should beat the Quakers. But we saw a young team going up against the very best and not backing down.
After the ‘Nova game, Steve Donahue said they were going to force the Wildcats to win the game from beyond the arc. They were successful, the problem was that Villanova simply converted from range. Penn had one path to victory and did what they could to stay on it — that matters.
Yes, the Red and Blue fell short on Saturday. But the same reason they lost is the same reason the game was even close at all.
This team is doing all the right things, and it’s on the right track. Penn basketball is going to be good again, and soon. We just have to wait a little bit longer.