Penn (9-22, 6-8 Ivy) closed out its season tonight with a loss to arch-rival Princeton (17-11, 10-4), 71-58, in a game that mattered little in the standings but plenty to the young men on the floor. In a performance evocative of its entire season, the Quakers hung around at first, before inconsistency took its toll and led to yet another disappointing defeat.
The Good: Tony Hicks (1st Half Edition)
In his final game of the season, the freshman came out like gangbusters, draining shots from all over the floor. Whether it was cutting and spinning to get to the basket, or pump-faking and firing away from the elbow, Hicks simply couldn't miss, dropping in 17 points on 7-9 shooting to energize the Palestra and carry the Quakers to a halftime tie while his struggling teammates combined to shoot 5-15. Even better, Hicks managed to take care of the ball as well, turning the ball over only once in the first period. If Hicks can turn in performances like that on a nightly basis next season, Penn will boast a backcourt that can potentially stand up to even mighty Harvard.
The Bad: Tony Hicks (2nd Half Edition)
But in the 2nd half, the wheels came off. The Tigers' guards tightened up on Hicks the rest of the way, limiting him to only 5 points on an unsightly 2-10 shooting performance. In the blink of a eye, Hicks reminded us all of the inconsistency that plagued this year's Quakers squad during Ivy play: flashes of brilliance at times (a stunning upset over Harvard) cancelled out by moments of sheer futility (losing to Dartmouth at home). Like the rest of his class, Hicks still has a lot to learn.
The Ugly: Penn's Mental Effort in the final 5 minutes
Though there was technically nothing to play for in tonight's game, the reality is that a huge amount of pride is riding on every Penn-Princeton matchup. And in this, the 228th meeting between the two historic rivals, the Quakers showed none of that pride when the chips were down. Down by 2 with just over 5 minutes to play, the early fight that the Red and Blue showed simply disappeared when T.J. Bray hit a 3 from the right elbow to give Princeton a 56-51 lead. As a result, what could have been a nail-biting finish and another classic duel turned decidedly anticlimactic, as the Tigers rolled the rest of the way. If the Quakers want to contend in the Ivy League next year, they simply have to avoid fading after the opposition hits clutch shots.