Against Lions, Penn men's basketball hopes to conjure old magic
Dougherty’s return sparks memories of last year’s miracle win, but Columbia is much-improved
January 31, 2013, 11:06 pm·
Melanie Lei | DP
The last time Columbia took on the Penn men’s basketball team, Fran Dougherty drove a dagger in the Lions’ hearts by scoring with half a second remaining in overtime, giving the Quakers the victory and keeping their Ivy League title hopes alive.
When the Lions (9-7, 1-1 Ivy) match up against the Quakers (3-15, 0-1) Friday night at the Palestra, they will not have forgotten Dougherty’s late-game heroics, especially with the junior forward returning to the Quakers’ lineup for the first time in nine games following a bout with mononucleosis.
However, its a different Dougherty this time around, one looking to “not rush things” in his first game back.
“Getting back into shape and everything — it’s tough,” Dougherty said. “Sitting out a month really does a lot of stuff to your body you don’t really expect until you try to come back.”
With “Fran the Man” back in the lineup, it’s coach Jerome Allen’s task to balance Dougherty’s return to the court with the emergence of other players.
During Dougherty’s absence, freshman center Darien Nelson-Henry has come into his own, tallying 11.8 points per game. Before Dougherty went out, the 6-foot-11 rookie was averaging just 3.6 points per contest.
Now, Allen has the challenge of easing Dougherty back into the mix while maintaining Nelson-Henry’s momentum. That said, Nelson-Henry’s play also means Penn’s opponents have one more offensive threat to stop.
“Some of the other guys have really stepped up, and I think it’s my responsibility to just try to fuse everything together,” Allen said.
Nelson-Henry and Dougherty will have to go toe-to-toe with Columbia senior center Mark Cisco, who recently earned Ivy League Co-Player of the Week honors after an 18-point, nine-rebound performance in the Lions’ opener against Cornell.
Cisco is one of five Lions averaging at least nine points per game, including senior guard Brian Barbour, who leads the way with 13.6 points a contest.
Allen expects the long list of Columbia’s role players to play cohesively and share the ball effectively on Friday.
“I think for the most part all of the guys that play for them do an excellent of just embracing their role, whether it’s [Steve] Frankoski, [John] Daniels, [Alex] Rosenberg, [Grant] Mullins or [Maodo] Lo — all those guys play through one another, and that’s really key to their success,” Allen said.
Penn will need to run Columbia off the perimeter, as the Lions are particularly deadly from distance. Three Columbia players shoot better than 40 percent from three-point range.
Frankoski has been especially hot lately, shooting 56.1 percent from deep over his past seven games.
Five treys from the sophomore guard played a crucial role in Columbia’s surprise 75-57 rout of Villanova back in November. With the Wildcats’ recent shockers against Syracuse and Louisville, the victory is a reminder of the Lions’ potential.
In their last matchup, Columbia was looking to play spoiler against a Penn team with Ivy title hopes. Now, if anything, the two squads’ roles are reversed. And as Dougherty notes, his game-winner only exists in the history books now.
“It was a high note last season, but this is a totally different season,” he said.