Penn basketball looks to get past elements, injuries vs. Yale and Brown

Just two more obstacles for the Red and Blue to overcome

· February 13, 2014, 5:27 pm   ·  Updated February 13, 2014, 10:59 pm

Isabella Gong | DP

After being limited against Cornell and Columbia due to foul trouble last weekend, Penn sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry will need to have a bigger impact this weekend in road matchups against both Yale and Brown. Nelson-Henry, who scored 10 points in Penn’s last game against Yale, likely will be tasked with stopping Yale’s two-time defending Ivy Player of the Week Justin Sears.


A new string of injuries. An extra night in Connecticut. Practicing in an opponent’s gym.

Throughout this season of inconsistency, nothing seems to be out of the ordinary for the Red and Blue.

Coming off its first sweep of an Ivy weekend doubleheader in nearly two years, Penn men’s basketball hits the road to take on Yale and Brown this weekend, two of the three squads currently ahead of the Quakers in the Ivy League standings.

Entering this weekend’s contests, both the Elis and Bears have put together surprisingly successful Ivy campaigns thus far in 2013-14.

But staunch competition isn’t the only thing Penn will be dealing with on its upcoming road trip.

In order to avoid being stuck in Philadelphia with a winter storm on the way, the Quakers left for New Haven, Conn., on Wednesday night, a day earlier than normal. Penn was also forced to practice in Yale’s gym on Thursday.

Freshman Matt Howard suffered a broken foot earlier in the week and is out for the remainder of the season. The rookie was coming off his two best performances in a Penn uniform last weekend when he went down in practice.

Practicing away from home and Howard’s injury are just two more obstacles for the Quakers to overcome.

“Injuries are part of the game, and unfortunately that’s something we cannot control,” coach Jerome Allen said. “Matt got hurt on a simple play, but this just shows that all guys need to be ready to play at all times.

“We’ve got 10 or 11 bodies now, and that’s enough to get it done, but everybody is one play away from being closer to helping us win.”

Although leaving a day early for Yale disrupted Penn’s normal routine, the Quakers (6-13, 3-2 Ivy) seem to be embracing yet another challenge in this tumultuous season.

“I don’t want to say it’s awkward, but it’s definitely different and it will be a good test for all of us,” sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry said.

Against the Elis (11-9, 5-1), the Red and Blue will be facing a team that has beaten them three times over the past two seasons.

Since losing five of six contests in December and January, the Bulldogs have rebounded. Yale has swept both of its Ivy weekends this season, the latter of which included a road victory over Harvard.

“It really doesn’t matter to me who we are playing the opponent does not matter,” senior captain Fran Dougherty said. “On an Ivy weekend, each game is just as hard and competitive for us.”

Yale is led by sophomore Justin Sears, the two-time defending Ivy League Player of the Week. The second-year forward ranks fifth in scoring and fourth in rebounding in the conference, averaging 15.3 points to go along with 7.0 rebounds per game.

After taking on the Bulldogs, Penn will do battle with Brown (12-8, 4-2) on Saturday night.

The Quakers will not only be forced to deal with Bears senior guard Sean McGonagill, the leading scorer in the Ivy League, but also junior center Rafael Maia, whose 8.5 boards per game are tied for tops in the conference through six games.

Despite the rough conditions surrounding Penn’s second Ivy road trip of the season, the team is hoping that its mental toughness and veteran leadership will help the Quakers sustain the momentum they picked up with their two wins a week ago.

“I guess it’s that time of the season where guys are getting injuries, either minor or major, but we should be used to that,” Dougherty said. “Guys are just going to have to step up this weekend and be ready to get in on the action to help us win.”

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