Following a disappointing 76-49 home loss to Seton Hall (14-6, 2-5 Big East), Penn coach Pat Knapp gave a very candid and animated interview, in which he seemed to call out his team several times. Since not everything can fit into the paper, here are a few highlights, along with my analysis, below:
On Carrie Biemer’s losing her streak of 27 straight double-digit games: “Not to give people scouting reports, but [the Pirates] are quick, they’re athletic and they’re long, and they got out there on her. The thing is this isn’t all about Carrie scoring points. You saw us miss a lot of inside shots, layups, lobs, fast-breaks. That’s not the point of the night. The point of the night is we need to rededicate ourselves to a team defensive effort because, particularly in the second half, we were, to put it mildly, not very good… These are things we preach and talk about all the time. To me it makes no difference - I don’t care if Seton Hall is in the Big East or the NBA; get out there, play with focus, play with purpose, play with heart.”
Penn is in dire need of consistent second and third options outside of Biemer. The senior captain has tallied roughly 32 percent of Penn's field goal attempts and accounts for 34.7 percent of its scoring. Fellow senior Kelly Scott has been a solid threat on the outside, and she is the only player besides Biemer to average in double-figures with 11.1 points per game. Sarah Bucar's perimeter shooting is sorely missing as she battles a foot injury, and the Quakers could sure use sharpshooter Kim Adams - who left the team after the season opener - to spread opposing defenses for Biemer on the inside.
On the importance of non-conference games: “I’ve never believed that the season begins and ends on February 1 [about when the Ivy League starts in full swing]. There’s a lot of things you can do up to February 1 that can cumulatively make you better ... and get you on track. At one point we were on track, and we need to get back on track right now. We work hard every day in practice to work on combinations, to take care of the ball, to rebound, to run good stuff. I’m certainly not critical of every player that played tonight. We had some that played pretty sharply and with a lot of heart. But when you’re asked to rebound and you just don’t flat-out box somebody out, you didn’t do the right thing. And I don’t care what uniform or number you have, or whether you start or whether you don’t. Answer back. Penn needs to answer back: ‘What are my basic responsiblities?’ I’m not very happy with this effort at all, and I could care less what is read or not read because I’m going to say the same things to the team.”
Non-conference games have been a weakness for Penn (3-11, 0-1 Ivy) in the last few years, but then again the Ivy League is relatively weak, especially compared to the major conferences like the Big East. The team's seniors were unable to record a Big 5 victory over four years, though to be fair, Penn played its Philadelphia rivals much tougher this season. And when the Quakers don't represent well in Philadelphia, it certainly can't help in Knapp's efforts to recruit local-area kids.
As for rebounding, Penn struggled mightily early on with its small lineup, but had appeared to bounce back over winter break with encouraging efforts on the boards, even against big teams like Temple.
On Sarah Bucar’s absence: “We miss everybody. We miss Jess Knapp; we miss Jourdan Banks. Nobody has any idea what they would have done to our depth, or to our competition or to our scoring. It’s just not Sarah Bucar. Do we miss Sarah? Of course we miss Sarah. But it’s Anca [Popovici’s], and Tyler [Cumbo’s] and Erin [Power’s] job to lead the team. Having said that, I think two people who played really hard … and stayed focused and tried to do what we asked them to do, certainly tonight I would put Anca and Erin at the top of that list. I’m not going to go down the whole list. It’s a team effort, and I would be shocked if Anca and Erin were satisfied with their games. I’d be shocked because the bottom line is [that] Penn plays well and Penn wins.”
Like all coaches, Knapp wants to emphasize the players he has on the floor, but Bucar is especially missed for her maturity and leadership as a floor marshall on offense. Bucar is also tenacious in ball pressure on defense and has recorded a team-high 1.3 steals per game.
On Big East teams being of a higher caliber than Ivy League teams: “It doesn’t matter. Here’s why…. Harvard’s a pretty big team, [and there were] a couple big girls on that team out there today, right? We didn’t box them out, and we can. We can. [There are] a couple pretty quick players on the Dartmouth team. Well, same thing tonight. It doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t matter. What we don’t want to be here is ordinary. This is very important. If you print anything, print this. We don’t want to be ordinary. That we just show up, and when the uniform says a different league, we’re supposed to lose. That’s not my makeup. I hate that. So we do everything we can to get these kids ready to pull the upset, get the big win, put in the great effort. Prior to this, what does it matter that we lost to Villanova by two, St. Joe’s was a close game [along] with La Salle [and] Temple. It doesn’t matter. Now is now. The last two weeks is the last two weeks. If we can transfer those lessons, bring them to the table. And all those teams had different strengths… So I thought we had a shot [tonight]."
Knapp is certainly right that Penn's effort against Seton Hall won't get it done against the Ivy League, as was evident in the opener at Princeton, which Penn lost 64-49. The Quakers have been quite inconsistent this season and need to regain the tenacity they showed against the Big 5, even though they couldn't quite come away with victories. Led of course by Biemer, Penn has certainly shown flashes of the talent necessary to have a decent showing in the Ivy League.
On Penn’s offense: “At halftime, 11 assists and 11 turnovers, you don’t want to turn the ball over like that. We can’t have 16 [turnovers] against these guys, but yeah, you’re right, that was a little better… Offensively, how many backdoors or drives or post-ups or offensive rebounds did we make? And you said, rightly so, 15 assists to 16 turnovers. So offensively we did our share of good things. I went on a 10 minute rant here about what? [Rebounding, boxing out] and defense. Toughness is necessary, focus is necessary, and defense as a team is necessary.”
Penn's offensive flow has improved drastically over the course of the season, though there is still quite a long way to go. The offensive execution wasn't particularly bad against Seton Hall, though the Pirates did contain Biemer and Scott. Sophomore guard Erin Power continues to be the unsung hero on offense. Even though she doesn't score a lot of points, she facilitates much of what Penn does offensively and has stepped up even more recently. Power has 46 assists - 29 more than anyone else on the team - to only 21 turnovers. To put it another way, Power is +25 in assist-to-turnover ratio while the rest of the team is a combined -63.
Knapp will certainly lay into his team in practice in the next few days, and Penn will look to be a different team in the Ivy League slate this weekend. As Knapp said:
“I have no idea how this effort gets us ready for Harvard and Dartmouth, but I’ll tell you something: we’re going to bust our butts the next three days to get ready.”
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