Penn men’s basketball has been on a streak recently, and not the good kind.
Dropping their last four games, two in overtime, the Quakers have a lot of figuring out to do before they face Big 5 opponent Temple on the road this Saturday.
Temple (14-3, 2-1 Big 5) has experienced a strikingly dissimilar string of results in its past four games, winning all of its recent matchups. Slowing the Owls’ momentum will certainly be a tough task for the Quakers (10-6, 2-0), but it will be much-needed.
Many of Penn’s struggles can be attributed to an inability to generate consistent offense. This problem was most obvious during the Quakers’ matchup against Toledo, when they put up a measly 45 points and lost by 32.
Two of the Quakers’ most consistent options on offense, junior forward AJ Brodeur and senior guard Antonio Woods, haven't had trouble putting up their normal numbers during this losing streak, but they understand that it’s their job to create opportunities for others on the team.
“We really don’t want to put all of our eggs in the same basket,” Brodeur said. “We’re going to look to share it a little more this coming weekend and going forward.”
Facing a Temple team that has averaged almost 76 points per game, Penn must find a way to put the ball in basket at a more consistent clip. A likely solution will be getting everyone involved, especially considering the return of both freshman forward Michael Wang and senior forward Max Rothschild, key pieces of the Quakers’ scoring attack who were absent for a stretch due to injuries.
“We have a next-man-up mentality,” Woods said in regard to the team’s injury woes.
Not only have field goals evaded Penn at key moments, but the charity stripe has been anything but charitable to the Red and Blue. Over these four games Penn has averaged an abysmal 53 percent from the line and has failed to capitalize on free throw opportunities in overtime. Brodeur, despite his offensive prominence, has faced adversity at the line throughout his career and has been working on syncing his performance in practice to his game-time ability.
“It’s a lot of mental reps for sure,” Brodeur said.
Other than turning their season around, another aspect of this next matchup for the Quakers involves Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who was Penn’s head man from 1989 to 2006. Dunphy announced in 2018 that this season would be his last at the helm, so — for both programs — this game will be an emotional one.
“He’s just a great human being to be around, so for me there will be a little bit of emotion,” Woods said.
Although the result of this game for Penn won’t be season-changing in terms of making the NCAA Tournament, its outcome will undoubtedly have an impact on the trajectory of the remainder of the season, and a win would clinch the Red and Blue at least a share of the Big 5 title.
It's time for a turnaround, and Saturday is a great time to start it.
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