2011-12 SEASON REVIEWS
Today’s Penn story and capsule are the first in Philahoops’ seven-day season-ending review. Here is the schedule.
Thursday: Drexel season capsule
Friday: Villanova season capsule
Saturday: Player of Year story/Philahoops honors
– Aaron Bracy
By AARON BRACY
(Ed Note: Read coach Jerome Allen’s take on the season HERE.)
Record: 20-13, 11-3 Ivy League
Final statistics: Leading scorer Zack Rosen (18.2 ppg); leading rebounder Rob Belcore (4.9 rpg); leading assist Rosen (5.2 apg).
The Skinny: With Rosen leading the charge, the Quakers won seven straight league games down the stretch before a heartbreaking 62-52 loss in their season finale against Princeton that denied Penn a share of the Ivy League title with Harvard and a one-game playoff with the Crimson for the right to play in the school’s first NCAA tournament since 2007. Penn settled for the CBI tournament and defeated Quinnipiac 74-63 in the first round before ending its season with a 63-53 loss to Butler on March 19.
Highlight #1: Penn kept alive its chances of an Ivy title and avenged its 56-50 home loss to Harvard on Feb. 10 with a 55-54 win over the Crimson on Feb. 25 at Lavietes Pavilion. Rosen had the final nine Quakers points, including a pair of free throws with 23.2 seconds left that turned a one-point deficit into a one-point advantage that ended as the final score. He finished with 20 points.
Highlight#2: Tyler Bernardini led four Quakers in double-figures with 24 points as Penn downed a good Saint Joseph’s team 84-80 on Jan. 21 at the Palestra. The Quakers led by as many as 23 points in the second half in one of their strongest offensive performances of the season. Rosen chipped in 16 points and eight assists in front of a sold-out Palestra crowd.
Highlight #3: In its best defensive performance of the season, Penn held Yale to 27.5 percent field-goal shooting (14-for-51), including 1-for-12 (8.3 percent) from the arc, in a 68-47 victory over the Bulldogs on March 3 at the Palestra. The win was Penn’s seventh straight and kept alive its chances for an Ivy League title heading into the regular-season finale against Princeton.
Lowlight #1: With the school’s first Ivy League championship since 2007 hanging on a victory, Penn fell short in its regular-season finale versus Princeton in a 62-52 defeat at Jadwin Gym. The Tigers, who avenged an 82-67 loss to Penn on Jan. 30 at the Palestra, raced out to a 23-6 lead and never looked back. Penn got as close as 34-31 with 12 minutes left, but couldn’t get closer. Rosen finished with 19 points, but needed 24 shots to get there. The Tigers shot 58.3 percent (21-for-36) from the field as Penn’s defense failed it for one of the lone times down the stretch. The loss gave Harvard the Ivy title and relegated the Quakers to the CBI.
Lowlight #2: In a game that forced the Quakers to play catch-up down the stretch, Penn lost a golden opportunity in the Ivy race with a 56-50 home loss to Harvard on Feb. 10. Corbin Miller, who entered averaging 3.4 points, netted 17 for the No. 25th-ranked Crimson. Rosen finished with 16 points while shooting 6-for-21, causing him to be highly critical of his play afterward. The game was thought to have eliminated Penn from Ivy contention, but the Quakers were back in it when Harvard followed the win with a defeat at Princeton the next night. Then Penn, of course, drew even with Harvard with the aforementioned victory at Lavietes.
Lowlight #3: The Quakers almost got a signature victory, but came up just short in a 73-67 overtime loss to Temple on Nov. 14 at the Palestra in a game played on the earliest date in Big 5 history. Rosen scored 27 points while shooting 7-for-10 from 3-point range, but the Owls outlasted the Quakers in an extra session that finished strangely with Miles Cartwright being called for a flagrant foul and coach Jerome Allen, who completed his second full season as head coach, hit with a technical in the waning moments. Bernardini could have won it in regulation but his 3-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
Turning point: The Quakers followed their Feb. 10 home loss to Harvard with a forgettable performance against Ivy bottom dweller Dartmouth on Feb. 11, but they did enough to gut out a 58-55 victory that was the first of seven straight that had the Red and Blue on the precipice of an Ivy title. Rosen wasn’t at his best all night, but he made up for it with a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left to send Penn to the win. Bernardini led the Quakers with 15 points in the victory.
Most revealing: Penn showed its fight down the stretch, scratching out one win after another without playing its best offensive basketball. That fight was revealed early in the season in a 73-65 loss at Villanova on Dec. 3. This was before the Wildcats went into a tailspin and when they looked like a decent, if not great, team. The Pavilion is never easy on opponents and when Penn trailed 38-20 at the half, it had all the makings of a blowout. But Rosen came alive with 15 second-half points and the Quakers burst out of the locker room on a 14-4 run that made an upset a possibility. They didn’t win but the Quakers showed their resilience that would be apparent all season.
Area of strength #1: The Quakers were a very good free-throw shooting team, ranking 50th in the country at 72.9 percent. Rosen’s 88.2 percent mark helped that number.
Area of strength #2: Penn was second in the Ivy and 46th in the country in 3-point percentage at a very good 37.4 percent.
Area of improvement #1: Allen preaches defense, but the Quakers are overaggressive at times and give opponents easy points at the free-throw line. Penn was last in the Ivy and 264th in the country by allowing opponents to get 700 free-throw attempts, which resulted in 500 points.
Area of improvement #2: Rebounding was a weakness of the Quakers all season – almost across the board – and they were particularly poor on the defensive glass. Opponents grabbed 341 offensive rebounds, placing Penn last in the Ivy and 142nd in the country in that category.
Biggest surprise: Honestly, I didn’t even know there was a Steve Rennard on the Penn roster when he entered the game against Delaware on Dec. 7. He hadn’t played in the first nine games and had just four minutes in his career, but played 25 minutes and scored six points on two big 3-pointers to help the Quakers beat the Blue Hens 69-60. Rennard wound up averaging 3.7 points in 23 games.
Overall review: The Quakers, picked to finish fourth in the Ivy, exceeded outsiders’ expectations although one look at Rosen play and you knew they’d be in just about any game against somewhat equal level competition. Losing at Princeton was a disappointing end to a very good season, but not all that surprising considering that nature of that rivalry. The Quakers put together 20 wins on the back of Rosen. Cartwright and Bernardini showed scoring potential on some nights, but there wasn’t much scoring punch after that. That Penn had a shot at the Ivy title is a testament to Rosen, Allen and the hard work of a group of players willing to take a back seat to Rosen and play their roles well.
Did you know: Following the March 6 loss to Princeton, a dejected Rosen sat inside the Palestra until 4:30 a.m.
Key players returning: Cartwright is the highest-scoring returnee as the junior-to-be finished the season averaging 10.8 points. A 6-3 guard, Cartwright showed flashes of brilliance. He scored a career-high 27 points at Rider on Nov. 17 in a 78-72 overtime win, one of three games in which he eclipsed 20 points. He played well in Penn’s two postseason games, averaging 17.5 points and showing the type of aggressiveness that he’ll need next season. Another junior-to-be, Fran Dougherty hit double-figures in scoring three times, including a season-high 14 points in a 68-57 win over La Salle on Jan. 10. Both Dougherty, a 6-8 forward, and Cartwright likely will be asked to carry a larger burden next season.
Key players lost: Rosen (18.2 ppg, 5.2 apg) will be next to impossible to replace. Bernardini (12.2 ppg) was second in scoring and Belcore (7.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg) was the team’s third-leading scorer and co-leader along with Rosen. The latter two also will be hard to make up for.
Looking ahead: It looks like there will be a talent void next season, but much of the roster took a back seat to Rosen. It will be interesting to see what they can do now that they’ll be needed.
Final thought: With Allen’s demanding style, it’s hard to believe Penn won’t be right back in the thick of Ivy contention year after year.
Click HERE for all of Philahoops’ Penn coverage from the 2011-12 season.