Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)
For Penn, it truly was a tale of two halves.
After a bad first half, the Quakers put on a display for the last 20 minutes, outscoring the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers 46-27 after intermission to pull out a 80-75 win.
In the first half, Penn put together a sloppy display, committing 15 turnovers and grabbing only 11 team rebounds. Penn trailed 48-34 at the half and was looking for leadership that seemingly wasn’t there.
Fran Dougherty, Miles Cartwright and Camryn Crocker accounted for nine combined turnovers while the team went 9-for-17 from the floor as they turned ball over nearly as many times (15) as they shot it. The Retrievers went 20-for-40 from the floor and outrebounded the Quakers by eight over that same span.
UMBC guards Ryan Cook and Brian Neller combined for 24 first-half points and constantly had open 3-point shots due to bad defense by Penn.
The only bright spot for the Quakers in the first half was the play of guard Patrick Lucas-Perry, who scored 10 points in six minutes of action before intermission and finished with 15 and five steals in 17 minutes overall.
(See Also: For Josh Verlin’s sidebar on Lucas-Perry, click here)
“With a young team, it’s a fine line you walk between trying to encourage and motivate them and giving them hope and instilling discipline and attention to details,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said after the game. “At halftime, we just talked about the good and the bad. The good was that we scored 34 points, the bad was that we turned the ball over 15 times and gave up 11 offensive rebounds. If we defended better and took care of the ball, I don’t think we would have been in that position. I just tried to present that information in a positive setting, but also with a sense of urgency.”
Allen’s success in walking that line at the half led to a second-half charge by his team.
The Quakers came out hot in the second half and pulled off a 23-2 run in under six minutes, led by Cartwright’s 12 points in that span. Cartwright finished with a team-high 21 points, while Dougherty fought through a poor 4-of-12 shooting performance from the field to score nine points and grab 11 rebounds.
Freshman Tony Hicks contributed 13 points, four assists and four rebounds, hitting three from beyond the arc in his starting debut.
(Photo Gallery: Check out the game through staff photographer Julie Smith’s lens here)
“The only thing I tried to tell Tony was to calm his nerves and come out and be confident.” Cartwright said. “I thought he played well, so there wasn’t much I had to tell him and I think he did pretty well.”
Penn only hit nine shots in the first half, but started to chip away at the deficit they created and hit 18 of their 36 shots in the second half.
“I appreciate their effort that they gave in the second half tonight,” Allen said. “They battled back when they could have easily folded, especially being a team with no seniors and four freshmen and five sophomores, but they kept balanced and I tip my hat to them.”
“We went in at halftime, talking about tightening up our defensive principles and I thought we came out in the second half and really played hard and tried to execute to our fullest ability,” Cartwright added. “That’s really good for our confidence. We shouldn’t have been in that situation, but when the time came, we just buckled down and played as hard as we could.”
After losing three seniors last year, the Penn starting five looked very different than what the Quakers brought out last year in the opening game against UMBC. Allen went with a group of Hicks, Steve Rennard, Cartwright, Henry Brooks and Dougherty, with freshman Darien Nelson-Henry and sophomore Lucas-Perry getting plenty of playing time.
Nelson-Henry logged 11 minutes in his college debut, scoring 2 points off of 1 of 3 shooting and 2 rebounds. After a big first half, Lucas-Perry contributed 15 points off 5 of 8 shooting in 17 minutes of action.
The defense for Penn, a point of emphasis for Allen and his team coming into the season, held the Retrievers to 37.5% shooting in the second half and forced 24 turnovers, 16 in the second half. UMBC, after hitting 5 of 11 from beyond the arc, only shot five 3-pointers, hitting only two, because of the better play on the defensive side of the ball from the Quakers.
After a half where Penn struggled to hold onto the ball, the Quakers did a much better job of securing the ball and making smarter passes, only turning the ball over 6 times in the second half.
Guard Dau Jok, who was named co-captain along with Cartwright and Dougherty, only played three minutes while only putting one rebound on the stat sheet.
Penn will travel to Charlottesville, Va. for the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament to play against Delaware in the opening round on Monday, November 12th at 9:30 PM.