Jerome Allen rues Penn's defensive lapses

Here are some highlights from the postgame remarks delivered by Penn coach Jerome Allen and Harvard coach Tommy Amaker after the Crimson's 56-50 win over Penn at the Palestra.

There are also some photos from the game above, and a video with game highlights and analysis from The Inquirer's Joe Juliano below.

If you have not yet read my report on the state of media rights in the Ivy League, you can do so here. It helps explain why last night's contest was not on television anywhere.

Jerome Allen

Opening statement:

I thought tonight’s ballgame was going to come down to who was successful in terms of imposing their will. We talked about it at halftime, that we gave up nine offensive rebounds and they scored 13 second-chance points. That can’t be the case.

I thought in the first half we had a couple of looks that went in and out, and I thought in the second half they would go down. But having said that, coming down the stretch, at this level, you can’t expect to not fulfill your job assignment and win.

On defending Harvard’s frontcourt trio of Keith Wright, Kyle Casey and Steve Moundou-Missi:

Our plan was to play it the way we play it, play the way we practice. And that is to fight the post, not give up the middle, box out, hands high, make them shoot over us. For the most part, every time we let up, they made us pay – whether it was on the block or offensive rebounding.

I can’t say it was a function of being overmatched. I think it was just mental lapses on our part. Whether it was fatigue or not, I’m not really sure.

On the lack of offensive output even though the defensive performance was strong:

We always say that we’re going to win games because we defend. Some days the ball is going to go in the basket and some days it’s not, but if we give ourselves opportunities to defend, we’ll give ourselves opportunities to win.

The sad reality is, you know, they scored 56 points tonight, but I can count probably 15 plays where if we had more focus, maybe they don’t score 56. Maybe it looks like 46 or 40, and I think we had the ability to do that. It’s just that we lost focus and didn’t come up with the plays when we needed them to.

On the intensity with which both defenses played:

I would like to say that both teams are sound, half-court, man-to-man defensive teams, and that’s how they try to attack it. I thought that a couple times we got opportunities, we just didn’t convert. A couple times the ball went in and out.

And from their standpoint, every time we had a blown assignment, they made us pay. We had a situation where we had a switch in play, two guys run at the ball and neither one communicates with the other. They throw a skip pass for an open three.

We preach that all the time: five guys in action, you’ve got to communicate and talk. That’s what they teach from day one at the elementary level.

On whether his team had any fatigue during Harvard's first-half run:

I don’t think it was from any physical standpoint. I just think my style of coaching is that I demand the right thing done on every possession. You can’t afford to take a possession off, especially defensively.

For us, the better competition we play, the more we increase our chances of if there’s a blown assignment, the other team converting. I just thought that was the case tonight – we blew assignments and were hoping that they missed. They didn’t miss.

On having two conference losses:

I think there’s still a lot of basketball to be played. The only thing I would say is that we’re going to need some help. But having said that, I still think we control our own destiny. We still have seven or eight games to play in the league, if I’m not mistaken [it’s nine – J.T.], and we’ve just got to focus on doing what we’re capable of doing, one game at a time.

On getting his team re-focused for Saturday night’s game:

It was a similar situation last Friday night. We let one get away from us. We’ve just got say guys, come together, you’ve exhausted yourselves in terms of effort. But the nature of the league is that we play back-to-back. So I gave the guys 15 minutes to go see whoever they want to see, talk to whoever they want to talk to, and then all our focus is on Dartmouth.

On whether this game was any different from others, given the buzz around Harvard and the big crowd at the Palestra, especially the student section:

No, no. This was no different. Tonight was a big game for us because it was the next game on our schedule. I think you’ve heard me say that plenty of times, and I will stick to that. I just think that basketball, you play it one possession at a time, one half at a time, one game at a time, and for us, we want to stay in the moment.

So like I always say, those on the periphery, we allow them to determine what this game means. But to us, it’s important because it was the very next one on the schedule. So for us, Dartmouth is the game of the year, because it’s our next game.

On the job Harvard did defending Zack Rosen (6-for-21 FG, 16 points) and Tyler Bernardini (0-for-5, 2 points):

I thought that in the first half, Zack had about five or six looks that went in and out. The shots that he made were in the rhythm of our offense. So I thought that we got what we wanted in terms of that.

Tyler played maybe two or three minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. If you don’t have him on the floor… In the second half, I just think that a couple of shots still went in and out. I think they did a solid job, but we had opportunities to make plays, and we just didn’t.

Tommy Amaker

Opening statement:

We were certainly pleased with a hard-fought game here tonight. We anticipated that, and Penn played exceptionally hard, and I thought we played exceptionally hard. It’s one of those games where obviously the shooting wasn’t there for either team, but that’s a reflection of how hard both teams played defensively.

We had to work our you-know-whats off to guard them, especially Rosen off the dribble. He’s so creative and crafty, and I think he’s a special player. I was so pleased with the way that our team responded, especially our bench.

We’ve talked all season about our bench and our balance being the keys for our ballclub, and they made me look good in that regard again tonight with Moundou-Missi and certainly Corbin Miller. Those two kids coming off the bench gave us incredible production.

On the poise shown by Miller, a freshman, in hitting big free throws late in the game to help seal the win:

I don’t want to be over-dramatic about anything, but I was surprised he missed the first one. I realize I’m saying that because I have that kind of confidence in him, especially after he started making a few shots.

He’s beyond his years. He’s got a very incredible sense of balance about who he is, and doesn’t get rattled and affected by a lot of things. We’ve seen that before with this kid. So I was very surprised that he missed the first one. And then obviously I was very hopeful that he would make the second one, which gave us a four-point lead and a two-possession game.

But he’s been that way for us. He’s been injured – his thumb is taped up a little bit and he’s been out, I think, two or three games this season because of that. We have confidence in him, and we have confidence in our bench. Depending on who’s going to give us production, we stick with it and go with those particular guys.

I thought Corbin and Steve were sensational for us as first-year players coming into this environment.

On assigning Miller the task of defending Zack Rosen:

Well, you know, he’s impossible to stop. I’m convinced of that after having dealt with him for four years. But I thought Corbin did as well as anyone on our team. He moves his feet very well, and I think he has good awareness of what’s around him to anticipate different ball screens and angles.

So we weren’t worried in that regard. No one has been able to stop Rosen in this league that I’ve seen in four years, so I’m not thinking that we’re going to stop him. But if we can just make him work for it, which I thought he did – I thought he missed some shots which he is ordinarily going to make.

On the challenge of playing another game Saturday night:

It’s a huge challenge. This is one of the somewhat drawbacks of our conference, and how challenging and difficult it can be to win our league. Certainly, we know how hard it’s going to be tomorrow night. Whether as a second night’s game or a first night’s game, going at Princeton is no easy task.

So we know what’s in front of us, and certainly after a hard-fought and emotional win here tonight, we have our hands full. But I think the energy in our locker room, the way these kids are performing, I think we’ll answer the bell and see what these kids will do tomorrow.

On whether his team did anything specific to limit Tyler Bernardini:

Well, he got in foul trouble. I thought that certainly was a factor. He missed some time in the first half, and sometimes that can throw you off-rhythm and out of sync. He’s an outstanding senior player in this league, and we tried not to give him any open looks as they tried not to give any to Rivard.

We know each other. We know them and they know us, and we’d like to think we know them fairly well. You’re hopeful that you can make some shots, and they can miss, and I think we were fortunate in that regard. 

On the significance of winning yet another close game at the Palestra:

[Harvard has now won four straight over Penn at the Palestra, with all four games being decided by at most six points. Prior to the current stretch, Penn had never lost consecutive home games to Harvard at any point in the Ivy League era. The last time it happened was in 1941 and 1942, and that was the only time it ever happened.]

Well, it’s very meaningful. The journey that we’ve been on with our team, and certainly with our older players and our seniors in particular – they’ve led us. No question about it.

You can’t come in here and have any kind of success in this kind of environment with a mark to gain. And I think this was certainly, thus far in the Ivy League, one of the games that is a marquee kind of game. There will probably be others, and hopefully we’ll be playing them.

But you need leadership, and you need veteran players to guide you through. I thought [Oliver] McNally, his leadership and his presence is amazing. That’s the credit, I think, where it goes, in order to come through this game, with this crowd, with the game being built up the way that it was.

On whether he and his team are ready to take up the mantle of past Ivy League powerhouses that have dominated the conference for multiple years in succession, such as Princeton in the 1990’s, Penn after that, and Cornell in the late 2000’s:

Well, we’re hopeful that we can play well tomorrow night. I appreciate the question, but we have a long way to go to think of ourselves as anything along those lines. It would be neat, and certainly we’re working toward becoming a contender on a consistent basis. But right now, we’re full steam ahead with what’s right in front of us this season.

And certainly, that begins with getting rest tonight and being ready for tomorrow.

On whether or not his team needs any motivation to face Princeton, since it’s the first meeting between the teams since the Ivy League championship playoff last March:

I’m not sure that we’re thinking along those lines, and if we are – we have a lot to play for this season. It was a sensational year for us last season, and an outstanding year for Princeton.

I said it before, and I said it right after that game: I just thought it was a sensational moment for our league to have two teams play a great game like that in a great environment, with a national kind of flavor and audience. That’s what we want our league to represent, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

But that was then. We’re hopeful that we can muster up enough effort and energy to play another tough game on the road, at Princeton.