Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Penn got their best effort yet from players not named Fran Dougherty and Miles Cartwright, with 10 different players scoring against Binghamton–not that Dougherty or Cartwright didn’t play well, either.
The Quakers used solid defense and 3-point shooting to put away the Bearcats, 65-54, snapping a five-game losing streak and giving them something to feel good about as they enter a difficult stretch.
Seven different players scored more than five points for the home squad, led by Cartwright’s 15, as the Penn bench outscoring Binghamton’s 32-13. Dau Jok had a career-high eight points, hitting all three of his attempts from the court and both of his 3-pointers, while Cam Crocker and Darien Nelson-Henry added seven points each.
“I think for us as a team, and our standard is so high, and our sense of normalcy as far as the brand that we represent in Penn Basketball, a lot of times extra expectations can kind of supercede the process,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “Having said that…I have an appreciation for forward progress and I think tonight we showed some sense of progress, and it may not necessarily be where we would all like to be but we showed some sense of progress.”
Penn played their best defense of the season, holding an opponent below 40 percent from the floor for the first time this season. Binghamton shot just 29.3 percent (17-of-58) from the field, their worst mark of the season, while the Quakers shot just 20-of-58 (34.5 percent) overall but did make 10-of-25 (40.0 percent) from beyond the arc, which was a season-high in 3-pointers made.
“We try not to rely on 3s or outside shooting, we try to play inside-out,” said Cartwright, who was right on his team’s pace, hitting 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. “So when they went zone we still tried to get the ball inside. We did get some open looks from outside, and I’m just happy they went in tonight.”
The Quakers had eight days to prepare for the Bearcats after playing six games in 11 days to begin the season, getting a chance to really work on themselves for the first time this season after a rapid-fire start to the year.
“I think anytime you have an opportunity to practice, you get a chance to take a deep breath and really discect your team and try to better your position,” Allen said. “For us, we tried to take the previous eight days and just talk about us. You get so caught up in just trying to prepare for the next game you talk so little about yourself.”
It took until the second half for Penn to put Binghamton away in a game they led from start to finish, leading by single-digits for the vast majority of the game until a Henry Brook free-throw put them up 58-48 with 5:26 remaining. A Dougherty layup extended that lead to 13 with under three minutes to play and the Bearcats finished the game hitting one of their final 10 shots.
The most impressive all-around player for Penn continues to be Dougherty, who’s enjoying a breakout start to his junior season. The 6-foot-8 picked up his fourth double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 rebounds; he came into the game averaging 19.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in 31.8 minutes so far this year.
The first half was a foul-plagued affair, with 24 combined between the two teams over the opening 20 minutes. Bearcat starters Roland Brown and Jimmy Gray were each limited to fewer than five first-half minutes, picking up three fouls each before halftime, forcing Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey to go to his bench earlier than he would have liked. Brown ended up fouling out in a season-low 11 minutes; he’d been averaging three fouls in 24.4 mpg on the year.
By the end of the game, the teams had a total of 45 fouls and 36 turnovers–certainly not the cleanest game of the season, but that’s to be expected with two young teams who are still figuring themselves out.
“As we spend more time together, we’ll get better; as Penn’s kids spend more time together, they’ll get better. They just have a little bit of a leg up right now because they have some guys that have already been in the system,” said Tommy Dempsey, in his first year at the helm of Binghamton after running the Rider program for the last eight years.
“I don’t want to say this is an ugly win or a bad win,” Allen said. “Any win in my book is a good win…we have a really talented team, a good group of guys who like playing with one another.”
Wissahickon grad and Ambler native Jordan Reed led the Bearcats with 17 points and 11 rebounds, landing right around his very impressive season averages for a 6-4 freshman guard.
Penn’s next game is Saturday, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. when they travel up to Happy Valley to take on Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center.