Wednesday night’s 76-69 loss against Temple marked the end of the Quakers’ non-conference schedule for the 2012-2013 season. And to say that the last three months have been a struggle is certainly an understatement.
Penn (3-15, 0-1 Ivy) has endured both close losses and absolute blowouts alike, but that hasn’t stopped the Quakers and captain Miles Cartwright from looking at the big picture: sitting atop the Ivy League standings at season’s end.
“We rely on everybody, starting with me and all the way down,” Cartwright said following Wednesday’s loss. “Whenever somebody’s number gets called, all the coaches expect him to be ready and be capable of doing things on the court. We’re going to need performances like Pat’s tonight and I know Tony is going to get back and have a big game in the next one, but we need everybody to contribute and win a championship.”
Despite their record, the Quakers have shown signs of improvement leading up to conference play. Penn gave Temple all they could handle, and even won the turnover battle by a 13-15 count, an area that’s caused concern throughout the year for the young Quakers.
“I feel like we’re capable of winning every game, so I thought we were ready to play,” Cartwright said. “We had a couple of good days of practice, so it’s unfortunate the way the game resulted, we’re going to take the positives out of this game and get better.”
While Cartwright and the rest of the Quakers are encouraged by their progress, it hasn’t been enough to get them over the hill to more victories. And with three wins, by a combined winning margin of 17 points, head coach Jerome Allen knows his team can compete, but wants that competitiveness to translate to the win column.
“We play the game to win, I coach to win,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, we lost the game, that’s a direct function of what we did not do. That has to be our mentality, that we can’t allow the periphery to set the standard. I told them in the locker room, everybody’s going to say ‘good job guys, you played hard because you kept it close or competed’. That’s what we’re supposed to do, we’re supposed to compete, but we’re also supposed to win. No one in this room will be able to tell me how high these guys can fly. I’m pushing them to the sky and that’s something that we have to stay locked in on each possession.
“You have to win basketball games. Nobody will give you games, especially playing on the road, especially playing Division-I basketball. At the end of the day, defense is all about will and desire and determination. It’s five guys’ responsibility. Sometimes, everyone was locked in and sometimes they weren’t.”
It’s been almost a week since the Quakers last played a game, and they don’t return to the court until Friday, February 1st against Columbia at the Palestra. An eight day layoff is certainly a long time between contests, but Allen looks at the break as a means of regrouping and resetting his teams’ focus.
“Sometimes, it’s good to take a deep breath and just focus on the details of how we can get better, as opposed to trying to prepare for the next game, in terms of a scouting aspect,” Allen said. “Time off from games are great for me, I don’t know if it’s great for the players because we get to do what we’re allowed to do as coaches, and that is teach. We’ll regroup, we’ll respond. I think the one thing I can say is that these guys give effort. They might not play the smartest of basketball at times, but they play hard, they give effort. So we’ll try to match some things with that effort and see where we fall.”
Nelson-Henry, Lucas-Perry impress
Wednesday was a good night for Quakers with hyphenated last names, as both center Darien Nelson-Henry and guard Patrick Lucas-Perry showcased their talent. Nelson-Henry, seeing an increased amount of playing time due to the absence of forward Fran Dougherty, was a force in the post, scoring 17 points and grabbing four rebounds.
“Offensively, I know there’s not many people that can stop him when he asserts himself,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, don’t allow anyone on the periphery to set the standard for you. Expect certain results from the work that you put in. I expect for him to have his way inside.”
“That kid, Nelson-Henry, is a load down there,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy added. “He’s going to make some noise over the next couple of years.”
Lucas-Perry, on the other hand, was a force from the perimeter. The sophomore guard took all five shots from beyond the arc, connecting on four of them and ending with 15 points while adding an assist and a steal in a career-high 27 minutes of action.
“Pat stepped up and made shots,” Allen said. “He’s shooting the ball from three-point range probably better than fifty percent on the season. I thought he was locked in, focused and engaged in the defensive scheme and he just made plays.”