DAY 7: Men's Basketball in Italy

ROMA – Bongiorno, Penn fans!

It was another busy day for the Penn men’s basketball contingent on Wednesday, including the final game of our trip which was another solid victory for the Quakers, 72-41 over RomaStella Azzurra, a second-division Italian professional team.

Before our game this evening, we had an early wakeup call so that we could get a tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Our tour guide, Amelia, was waiting for us in the hotel lobby at 8:15 a.m., rode with us the 10 or so minutes to the Vatican’s walls, and then gave us a great tour of the Vatican museum including the Rafael Rooms and of course the Sistine Chapel.

For those who have been there, you know -- the Sistine Chapel is absolutely awe-inspiring. The art itself, the Biblical stories they tell, and the sheer size of everything leaves you speechless. That can also be said of the Rafael Rooms, for that matter; in some ways, it was too bad that they served as mere prelude to the Chapel itself.

After the Chapel, we went into St. Peter’s Basilica, which is the largest church in the world. Again, it was just amazing to see the art and the sheer size of the building, which took 120 years to build. (It puts a little perspective on the many construction projects we’ve had in recent years at Penn Athletics!)

From the Basilica we went out to St. Peter’s Square, where Amelia pointed out the spots where the Pope performs his various functions during the year. We then had a few minutes to get photos -- including a great one with one of the Vatican’s Swiss Guards -- and left to catch the bus back to the hotel for lunch.

Even though today's opponent is set in Rome, the game was actually played at Roccaporena Di Cascia, which is an amazing little town set in the mountains about three hours from Rome. In fact, we passed quite a few of these types of towns on our drive to the game -- some of them defying description, set as they were on the mountain walls.

Penn’s opponent today had some solid players, including a few Italian national team members and a few other national-level players from other European countries. With that in mind, it was good to see our guys get up on them early and never lift the foot off the gas. The court was a little smaller than the Palestra’s dimensions, which threw us off at times when the opponent pressed, but we were up big after one period and never really threatened after that.

For the third time in as many games, the teams played four 10-minute quarters. Penn led 21-10 after the first period, 41-26 at the half, and 57-35 after three.

Five players scored in double figures – Simeon Esprit (who had a good start to the fourth quarter) led the way with 11, while Miles Cartwright, Tony Hicks, Greg Louis and Darien Nelson-Henry had 10 each. Darien also had eight rebounds, while Greg had six boards. Miles filled the box score with four rebounds, three assists and five steals. Fran Dougherty scored eight points, six of them in the first period.

After the game ended and the teams traded jerseys, Coach Allen made sure we got on the bus quickly so we could get through this one major tunnel out of the mountains before it closed for the night at 9 p.m. (If we didn’t make it, it would have been a two-hour detour to get back to Rome.) We made it with about a half-hour to spare, then stopped for dinner at an Autogrill along the Autostrade. The bus pulled back in front of the Hotel Cicerone at about 11:15.

We have one final day here in Rome, and it is a complete day off from team activities. Coach Allen has given the guys total freedom. We’ll see how good an idea that is, but I’m confident that the guys will be there when the bus pulls out Friday morning for the airport!

Penn Statistics
Player – FG-A (3FG-A), FT-A, Points, Rebounds, Assists, Turnovers, Steals
Miles Cartwright – 4-8 (0-2), 2-2, 10, 4, 3, 2, 5
Tony Hicks – 4-5 (0-0), 2-3, 10, 1, 4, 5, 2
Henry Brooks – 1-1 (0-0), 0-0, 2, 0, 1, 0, 1
Jamal Lewis – 2-5 (1-2), 0-0, 5, 0, 1, 1, 1
Simeon Esprit – 4-7 (1-3), 2-3, 11, 3, 0, 1, 2
Fran Dougherty – 4-8 (0-1), 0-0, 8, 4, 0, 2, 3 (2 blocked shots)
Keelan Cairns – 0-0 (0-0), 0-0, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0
Camryn Crocker – 2-2 (0-0), 0-1, 4, 2, 3, 0, 3
Cameron Gunter – 1-2 (0-0), 0-0, 2, 1, 0, 0, 0
Greg Louis – 1-2 (0-0), 8-10, 10, 6, 0, 0, 0
Darien Nelson-Henry – 4-8 (0-0), 2-2, 10, 8, 2, 2, 0
PENN – 27-48 (2-8), 16-21,72 points, 30 rebounds, 14 assists, 14 turnovers, 17 steals, 2 blocked shots