It’s hard to measure experience.
But this upcoming weekend will serve as a measuring stick for Penn.
As the Quakers travel to New York this weekend to take on Cornell (13-12, 5-3 Ivy) and Columbia (10-12, 2-6), Penn begins its second go-round through the Ivy League.
The Red and Blue (6-18, 3-4) enters the latter half of the Ancient Eight schedule with the opportunity to atone for previous mistakes.
“I expect them to play the best they possibly can,” coach Jerome Allen said. “A complete game.”
That completeness was elusive for the Quakers their last time out against Cornell. A late turnover and a five-second violation after sophomore guard Cam Crocker failed to inbound the ball doomed the Quakers in the game’s final moments resulting in a 71-69 loss.
Penn’s defense has been a weak link at times and freshman center Darien Nelson-Henry sees his team’s ability to challenge the Big Red offense as a key to victory.
“We allowed them to score a lot of easy baskets last time out,” Nelson-Henry said. “We need to take the defensive end more personally.”
Just as the Quakers lacked aggression against Cornell, they came out flat last weekend on what was the first Ivy road trip for many.
“The travel time in between games, the travel time up there, the travel time back. Balancing all of that was hard,” Nelson-Henry said. “It’s no easy task.”
At least Penn can take solace in the fact that its most difficult road trip of the season may already be in its rearview mirror. The trip to Harvard, who took the Ancient Eight by the horns after a sweep of Penn and Princeton last weekend, is history.
The Quakers now know what kind of energy they need to bring in enemy territory, which will be plenty against a surging Cornell squad that has won four of its last five Ivy contests, three of them being on the road.
Despite getting handled by Harvard and finding themselves in a 30-18 halftime hole at Dartmouth the following night, the Quakers still salvaged another Ivy weekend split.
“We got beaten by Harvard pretty badly,” Nelson-Henry said. “But we were able to stay positive throughout against Dartmouth. Each game is separate.”
This weekend sets up similarly for Penn, who will take on the Big Red before traveling to face Columbia, which got swept by Brown and Yale last weekend.
While it could be easy to overlook Columbia with the way the Lions have played of late, the Quakers’ poor first half at Dartmouth taught them a lesson.
After all, Columbia and Cornell rank first and second respectively in turnover margin in the Ivy League, while Penn ranks dead last. And the Lions still boast the conference’s second-ranked defense.
“You can’t dismiss anybody in the Ivy League,” Nelson-Henry said. “You look at Dartmouth, who’s seventh in the league, and we went into the half down 12 to them.”
Penn expects close games against Columbia as well as Cornell, especially since it took junior guard Miles Cartwright coming up big in the clutch for the Quakers to solidify a 62-58 victory over the Lions earlier this month.
The Quakers have experienced all of the bumps in the road that can throw an Ivy League weekend off-kilter.
Now they’ll take that knowledge and try to turn it into wins.
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