Michael Renahan (@immikerenahan)
After a win against Binghamton, the Penn Quakers head to State College to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions, Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Quakers are coming off a 65-54 win over the Bearcats. The winning effort featured 10 different players scoring for Penn, something they look to continue against the offensively challenged Nittany Lions.
“It’s always good to get a win, and I think we’re at the point right now where we’re trying to really have small victories,” Penn coach Jerome Allen told reporters before a Quaker practice on Thursday. “And what I mean by that is, win the very next possession, not over the course of a 40-minute period but the possession right in front of you.
“Sometimes that’s tough when you have a team that hasn’t been together for a while…I have an appreciation for the process. So with that being said, in spurts and in flashes we’re seeing improvement from individuals and some improvement in overall team philosophies.”
Penn (2-5) has been led by junior forward Fran Doughtery (18.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and junior guard Miles Cartwright (15.6 ppg, 3.4 apg). While the search for a reliable third scoring option still continues, the Quakers got solid production from their role players against the Bearcats.
Seven players contributed five points or more in the win, taking the pressure off Doughtery and Cartwright to constantly produce. Dau Jok had a career high eight points, while Cam Crocker and Darien Nelson-Henry both added seven.
Allen often speaks about the history and prestige of Penn basketball, and as someone who took the program to three straight NCAA tournaments between 1993-1995, he knows what heights the program can reach. With such a young team, though, he admitted that it’s difficult sometimes to balance expectations with inexperience and growing pains.
“You know what, it’s a Catch-22 thing,” he admitted. “Yeah they’re young and they don’t know yet, but also do you allow that to be the criteria you use for them to fail, or not to have an appreciation?
“So that’s something that people go back and forth with, but I refuse to allow it to be the case. We’re young, so what? We play a team sport and the sooner everyone buys in and has an understanding of what’s going on, the sooner we’ll be a pretty good team.”
As a whole, the Quakers shot 34.5 percent (20-58) from the floor, while limiting Binghamton to just 29.3 percent (17-58) on their shot attempts.
The Quakers do not normally rely on their 3-point shooting as the focal point of their offense however, they have proven they aren’t afraid to take the shots they’re given. They connected on 40 percent (10-25) of their attempts from beyond the arc Wednesday night.
Enter the poor-shooting Nittany Lions.
Penn State (3-3) is coming off another lackluster offensive performance against Boston College.
The Nittany Lions shot 35.8 percent from the floor (19-53) while allowing Boston College to connect on 44.4 percent (8-18) of their three point attempts.
Penn State was able to fight back and get within four points of the Eagles with four minutes left, but struggled down the stretch to defend and allowed Boston College to get to the free throw line 10 times, sealing the victory.
The Nittany Lions are shooting 36 percent from the floor through their first six games. With the loss of senior guard Tim Frazier (16.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) to an Achilles rupture 10 days ago, the scoring just has not been there.
“Obviously, it’s documented that he’s a pretty good player for them and that league, but it’s still a team sport,” Allen said.
Junior guard Jermaine Marshall (13.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg), along with sophomore guard D.J. Newbill (15.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg ) will have to pick up the scoring slack, but a young Nittany Lions squad is still learning how to adjust to playing without their best player.
“I think some guys have displayed some things, even when (Frazier) was healthy, that we have to respect and take into account,” Allen said about how to analyze Penn State’s game tapes that include Frazier. “You also look at the body of work, whether it be from style or trend, without him. So it’s kind of like a mix of both because you still have to respect the game and respect the opponent.”
When the two teams meet Saturday afternoon, both need solid production from their role players. Look for Jok and Crocker to continue taking good shots for the Quakers and take some pressure off Cartwright and Doughtery.
The Nittany Lions will rely on junior forward Ross Travis (7.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) to produce more points for the struggling offense. Travis was shut down in the loss against Boston College on Wednesday night, limited to just five points on 2-of-9 shooting. The forward needs to be much more aggressive at the rim if the Nittany Lions are looking to get a win on their home court.