Fran Dougherty wore a black shirt and a blue sling. Steve Rennard wore a gray shirt and a black boot.
Sitting near them on the Penn bench were two other players in street clothes, freshman Julian Harrell and sophomore Simeon Esprit, as well as at least one hobbled player in uniform, freshman Darius Nelson-Henry.
Such is the way it’s gone for the Penn basketball team over the past few years: lots of injuries, lots of bad luck, and now, it appears, a sixth straight season without an
Ivy League championship.
Days after Penn head coach Jerome Allen revealed to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia that key junior starters Dougherty (dislocated elbow) and Rennard (plantar fascia tear) were likely done for the year, Penn fell to Yale on Friday at the Palestra for its third Ivy League loss.
Despite responding with an impressive 23-pount rout of Brown the next night, the loss to Yale effectively eliminated Penn (5-17 overall, 2-3 Ivy League) from Ivy
title contention. Only four times before (in 2001-02, 1986-87, 1984-85 and 1979-80) has Penn still captured an Ivy title with three or more league losses, and the league is a lot more top-heavy now than it was in those years.
There’s an interesting post on the Penn message boards that lays out all of the injuries, as well as players transferring, quitting or being ruled ineligible, since the title drought began in 2007-08. Of course there have been other problems – but it’s hard not to look at that long list and wonder if the state of the program might be better if not for some bad luck.
Few players have had as much bad luck as Dougherty, who was enjoying a breakout junior campaign this year before getting sick with mononucleosis and missing eight straight games. And then after smiling from ear-to-ear after returning for last Friday’s game vs. Columbia, he dislocated his elbow the next night vs. Cornell.
And then there’s Darien Nelson-Henry, one of the most exciting freshman prospects in years. The burly center didn’t play during crunch time in Friday’s game vs. Yale – certainly a contributing factor to the loss – and then sat out the whole game vs. Brown with his left knee heavily bandaged.
Nelson-Henry’s status for the rest of the season is uncertain at this point. But if recent history is any indication, luck won’t be on the Quakers’ side.