FORT MYERS, Fla. Prior to Saturday night’s game at Florida Gulf Coast, Penn men’s basketball coach Glen Miller knew his team faced a tall order. With the Quakers playing just its second game in 21 days, and injuries keeping several key players out of uniform, they were in a tough position going up against an Eagle team that was 3-9 but boasted a veteran lineup and most recently lost to nationally ranked Butler by just 12.
However, even he could not have predicted what happened at FGCU’s Alico Arena, as the Quakers were humbled by a first half that simply defied description. The result was a 60-30 loss that had reporters scrambling for record books.
It was certainly Penn’s lowest output in a game since the shot-clock was introduced to college basketball in the 1980s; in fact, it was the Quakers’ lowest-scoring game since the 1966-67 season finale, when they lost at Princeton 25-16.
(oh, and talk about turnabout being fair play ... a reminder that last year these very same Quakers dropped 97 on these very same Eagles)
A young and inexperienced Penn team -- already playing without returning veterans Darren Smith and Tommy McMahon for the season because of injuries -- were dealt serious blows Saturday when senior Michael Kach, freshman Harrison Gaines and junior Brennan Votel were all unable to dress with injuries they suffered prior to the trip. That cut the lineup down significantly; not surprisingly, all 12 players who were dressed saw time, with 11 of them getting into the game before halftime.
That said, except for the fact that an announced crowd of 2,315 was there and witnessed it, the numbers that Penn put up in the first half could not be believed. The Quakers took 17 field-goal attempts and made only one of them, a jumper that freshman Tyler Bernardini hit just inside the three-point arc -- it gave Penn its first points of the night with the game 13 minutes and 29 seconds old. The other points came on free throws from Aron Cohen (with 4:22 left in the half) and Remy Cofield (with 3:03 to play).
Penn (4-8) also committed 23 turnovers in the first half-- by comparison, the Quakers have committed that many in an entire game only once this season. For the game Penn had 34 turnovers and just four assists.
Penn’s six-point output in the half actually tied an NCAA Division I record for fewest points in a half; the mark was originallyset Feb. 19, 2000, when Northwestern scored just six points in an eventual 63-30 loss at home against Illinois.
Amazingly, Penn was still in this thing after Cofield’s free throws; the score was only 17-6 at that point, as FGCU had struggled itself offensively. But the Eagles surged in the final three minutes before the break, reeling off 13 straight points to take a 30-6 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In truth, the second half was not much better, except at the end. The Quakers still had only 13 points with eight minutes left in the game, and were down a staggering 60-18 with 3:55 to play. Only a 12-0, game-ending run salvaged anything for the night. In fact, knowledgeable Penn fans were probably breathing a sigh of relief when Kevin Egee drained a trey with 2:35 to play that gave the Quakers 23 points, allowing them to keep rival Princeton in the NCAA record book for fewest points scored in a game in the shot-clock era (the Tigers scored just 21 a few years ago against Monmouth).
Andreas Schreiber ended up as Penn’s leading scorer (7 points) and rebounder (5); however, in a line that typical for this night he had no assists and six turnovers, and went 3-of-9 from the foul line. Bernardini and Cohen had five points apiece, while Kevin Egee and Joe Gill scored four each.
For FGCU, Casey Wohlleb led the way with 17 points, while Adam Liddell filled the box score with 13 points, eight rebounds and six steals. Terike Barrowes had 10 points, six boards, three blocked shots and three thefts. As a team, the Eagles had 21 steals.
Penn will head across Florida tomorrow to get set for the next game, which is Wednesday night at the University of Miami. The Hurricanes are ranked 19th this week in the Associated Press national poll. Tipoff for that game is 8 p.m.