BEING 1-6 is never a good feeling. Being 1-6 with 24 days to think about it makes a difficult situation that much worse.
That is Penn's deal after the Quakers lost, 76-65, to Navy last night at the Palestra. That the teams that beat Penn are a combined 37-5 might be solace in some wider universe, but losing is losing.
Penn hung in this game for much of the first half, looking as if this could be the night for a breakthrough. Those thoughts ended in the final few minutes of the first half and the first few minutes of the second, when Penn scored two points over 14 possessions and Navy (7-1) took full advantage, opening up an 18-point lead that was never threatened to the finish line.
If one moment could sum up the game and Penn's season so far, it was when the Quakers missed two free throws, got the rebound, missed an open trey and then missed an easy tap.
Navy, under former Villanova assistant Billy Lange, of the South Jersey basketball Langes, is off to its best start since 1983-84. That would be about the time of David Robinson's freshman growth spurt at the Academy.
"Not team specific, but program general, this is just a monumental win for us to come in here in this historic building and get this done against a great program," Lange said. "Just the way we did it, grinding it out, playing solid basketball."
Before the game, it was no secret where Navy got its points. Kaleo Kina and Chris Harris were averaging 38.5 points between them. Penn knew it, but could do nothing about it. Kina had 28, Harris 18.
"We identified them, but they made plays off the dribble," Penn coach Glen Miller said. "They had the playmakers tonight, and we didn't. I don't think that they ran anything that baffled us."
Two years ago, Miller had those kinds of players.
Meanwhile, Penn's leading scorer, Tyler Bernardini, was 2-for-12 and had six points. More than half of his 10 misses came even though he had wide-open looks.
"It's extremely frustrating," Bernardini said. "You can't really do much if they're not going to fall for you . . . I'm open . . . I'm still going to try to shoot them."
Penn's motion offense, especially in the second half, was creating very good opportunities. In fact, in one stretch, the Quakers scored on seven consecutive possessions - when they got a shot off. It was an incredible eight offensive fouls in the game - charges, illegal screens, something - that helped kill them.
Penn does not play again until Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla., against Central Florida.
"Although the guys are in exams, we'll practice, and we really need to make some progress here, clean up some things," Miller said.
Meanwhile, the winners smile.
"The cheesesteak is going to taste a lot better on that bus ride back to Annapolis than it did the last time we were in here," Lange said.
The last time any Navy team won in the Palestra was nearly half a century ago. Navy won six straight Patriot League games down the stretch last season, so this start is not a total surprise for Navy.
Given the schedule, this record isn't a complete shock for the Quakers, either. The bigger issue is there have been too many games when they have not been competitive. The next 24 days will be about that, too.
"Any time a team is struggling like we are from a coaching standpoint, from a teaching standpoint, you look forward to an extended period where you have a chance to really work on some things and improve," Miller said.
Gov. Rendell and Phillies president Dave Montgomery were in the house. Apparently, the karma of the election and the World Series has not rubbed off on their Quakers. Penn needs something. It has 24 days to find it. *