Against Temple on Wednesday night, Penn hung around and hung around despite a raft of turnovers and some occasionally spotty defense. The Owls finally pulled away to a 73-56 win that made the game look easier than it was.
They shook hands when it was over, with Temple coach Fran Dunphy congratulating Allen, his former player, for his team's tenacity. And with that, the teams went their separate ways.
Penn has one more chance to win a City Series game, on Saturday in the Palestra against St. Joseph's. If that doesn't happen, the four-year players on the team will finish 0-16 in Big Five matchups. Tradition isn't quite as attractive when it plays out that way.
While Penn slides into the anonymity of the Ivy League schedule, Temple is headed in another direction, although what that might be isn't apparent yet. The Owls fell out of the national rankings with a loss at Duquesne and they need to play a lot better against their Atlantic Ten competition that they did against Penn to pull out wins.
"I don't think we played as well as Penn," Dunphy said. "We were lucky Khalif [Wyatt] had the game he did."
Wyatt, a sophomore guard, had been averaging 6.5 points per game when he went off for 27 against the Quakers. That covered up a lot of other issues and kept the Owls from lurching when the rest of the offense shut down.
It's an interesting Temple team, but at times it doesn't seem to mesh. Point guard Juan Fernandez isn't playing as well this season as he did a year ago, and is operating with painful bone bruise on his right knee. Shooting guard Ramone Moore has been a bright spot, and the team's leading scorer, but he can occasionally have games like Wednesday night when the shots don't want to fall.
And then there is senior forward Lavoy Allen, whose size and athleticism had pro scouts coming around last season when he averaged 11.5 rebounds, which ranked him 13th in the nation, to go with 10.7 points per game. This season has been at least a statistical step back for Allen, who came into the Penn game averaging just 6.2 rebounds per game.
"He's under a lot of pressure and he's handling it as good as he can. I yell at him and wish he would do some things better, be more assertive and aggressive, but Lavoy is who he is and we need to take a step back and appreciate that about him," Dunphy said. "I don't know where we'd be without him the last three years. He's that good."
Allen found a way to contribute against Penn, although his 10 points and six rebounds stayed true to his season thus far. He had six blocked shots and helped force the Quakers to live from the outside.
"A lot of the pluses he brings to the table don't show up in the box score. Like never being out of position defensively, covering up for everybody, not turning it over. Everybody wants him to be this crazed guy on the court with a high, high motor and he's not. He is who he is and I'll take him."
Dunphy, like all good coaches, will take every one of them and try to make them better and - perhaps not always on game days - accept what they can be and what they cannot.
He has a slightly mismatched collection this season, one that has to be solid on defense to make up for its other deficiencies. The Owls don't shoot the ball that well, but better than their opponents. They don't rebound tremendously, but better than their opponents. They don't force all that many turnovers, but give it up fewer times than they get it back.
It is what makes the difference in basketball games, although those statistics during their 13-4 start will be harder to come by in the crucible of league play.
"We're in a stretch where we're going to have to grind out every game," Dunphy said. "Every game has to be a grind."
That process won't be pretty, but the payoff is supposed to arrive in March. Temple has a chance for that to happen. The other team that shook hands on Wednesday night doesn't have as much to look forward to, at least not on paper. For Penn, this was just another night learning about the history and tradition of the Big Five, and the Quakers have probably enjoyed as much of that as they can stand.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.