The month of December was not kind to the Penn Quakers (2-11), who dropped all four games in the last month.
Dropping the first two of January hasn’t helped either, but a home game against the Lafayette Leopards (6-10) have the Quakers hoping for their first win since a 65-54 victory against Binghamton on November 28th.
However, Penn coach Jerome Allen knows that it will be a tough matchup against a team that he believes has very few faults in their game.
“They’re a well-coached team, they trust the system and they share the ball,” Allen said. “They do an excellent job of changing the rhythm of the game defensively, keeping you off balance. They can space you, really shoot the ball and they’re tough kids, they compete and I didn’t see too many flaws in my assessment of how they’re playing right now.”
The main focus will be slowing down the Leopards top two scorers, 6-foot-7 guard Seth Hinrichs, who averages a team-high 14.6 points, and 6-foot-9 forward Dan Trist, who scores 13.8 points per game. Both also averaged 4.2 rebounds each and are shooting at a high percentage (Hinrichs with 43.3 percent, Trist with 52.1 percent).
“Defensively, it’s pretty much not going to change. We’ll have to make ball reversals tough, close out to their shooters, defend on the defensive backboard in terms of finishing possessions and we can’t get caught off guard by the changing of their defensive calls.”
While Penn has to worry about the visiting Leopards, they also must be concerned with the amount of turnovers they’re committing. In a 74-57 loss to Big 5 rival La Salle on Saturday, the Quakers turned the ball over 15 times in the first half alone and are averaging 17 turnovers per game.
Even with a young team that doesn’t feature a senior on scholarship, Allen knows his team must improve any way possible and is trying to show his players where they go wrong.
“We try to put them in as many game-like situations as we can and we try to show them on film the unforced errors, what they could have done to eliminate that or to just try to avoid dribbling the ball in certain areas,” Allen said. “We’re a fairly young team, obviously starting a freshman at point guard. There’s growing things with it, but we’re 13 games in and it’s almost the middle of January, so I don’t allow the guys to use youth as a cheap crutch.”
Not only has freshman point guard Jamal Lewis been getting the opportunity to start, guard Tony Hicks and center Darien Nelson-Henry have had plenty of con-court experience off the bench this year. On Saturday, it was Hicks that shined the brightest, scoring a team-high 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting in 22 minutes of play.
“I feel like it’s definitely expanding a lot,” Hicks said of his role on the team. “Coaches are trusting me more, especially after winter break, to be more aggressive and assertive offensively. I just have to keep working on my game, continue to get extra shots up. Just anything normal basketball players would do and to just keep working hard.”
“In the grand scheme of things, I think they’re doing a pretty good job of helping out overall,” Allen said of his freshmen. “You try not to put too much pressure on them. In the ideal program, freshmen are freshmen and they learn the way and get spot opportunities to contribute but, having said that, that’s not the case this year and the good thing about it is there’s nothing like getting on-court experience.”
Quakers’ leading scorer Fran Dougherty, who has missed the last three games due to mononucleosis, will sit out again. Dougherty was not at practice on Monday and Allen said that he did not know when the forward would return.