DAVIDSON, N.C. - Jerome Allen didn't emerge from the visitors' locker room until 3 minutes before tipoff of his first game as Penn's head coach. He couldn't help but remember the pregame excitement and nervousness he experienced before every game when he was a star player for the Quakers.
"Anticipation. Hating to wait, anxious to get started. I had all those same emotions," he said.
Then, he experienced something he encountered seldom as a player: a lopsided loss.
Thrust into the coaching duties after the Quakers fired Glen Miller 2 weeks ago, Allen fell into a perfect storm of chaos in his debut last night. His team was harassed by a swarming Davidson defense and picked apart by the Wildcats' offense as Penn fell, 79-50.
Allen stood, hands in pockets, helpless for much of the game. His team turned the ball over on four of its first five possession while Davidson (5-8) was connecting on four straight in-the-lane shots.
Allen used three timeouts in the first half, trying to slow down the pace, the first one coming less than 2 minutes into the contest. He sprinkled zones with a man-to-man defense as he engaged in the coaching chess match that often goes on in college basketball.
By halftime, the Quakers trailed, 46-19.
But Allen didn't hang his head. And he wouldn't allow his players to, either.
"The major difference between this game and the first seven was attitude," said sophomore guard Zack Rosen, who had a team-high 14 points for the Quakers (0-8).
"Be upbeat and be positive. That's what coach says," Rosen said. "Respect. That's what he brings. He's been there, done it, he's seen it. His word is golden. Nobody questions what he does. We know he has our back."
The large deficit that existed most of the game gave Allen little opportunity to display much in the way of strategic philosophies. But there was one character trait shown by his team that Allen mentioned when he was giving his "glass half full" postgame analysis.
"There were some spurts in the game when we gave the effort that was needed," he said. "We got down big early, and it could have been demoralizing. But we didn't give up."
Davidson coach Bob McKillop credited Allen with bringing a team with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
"We're 3 months into our season, and we don't run our offense perfectly," McKillop said. "They're in their second week. Jerome has put in some wrinkles. Once they become familiar with things, they're going to be much better than what we saw tonight."
Allen - who was in his first year as an assistant when Miller was fired Dec. 14 after the Quakers' 0-7 start - hoped that soon there would be noticeable changes in the team's style of play, especially on defense.
"We wanted to try to change the rhythm of the game, to dictate," he said. "We want to play an attacking style."
Davidson's veteran players, many of whom were part of a team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight 2 years ago, made controlling the tempo almost impossible.
Four Wildcats reached double figures in scoring, led by Brendan McKillop (19), and 12 from 6-10 freshman Jake Cohen, a Conestoga High product.
Cohen grew up cheering for Penn and was heavily recruited by the school.
"I give Penn credit," Cohen said. "They didn't give up at all. I think they worked really hard tonight in a tough situation." *