What’s the cure for a hangover?
Whatever it may be, Penn basketball is in need of some relief after following up the instant gratification of big Friday victories on its first two Ivy weekends of the season with equally deflating letdowns in losses the day after.
The Quakers (7-12, 2-3 Ivy) will take a crack at finding a cure on their own floor when they host Yale and Brown for a back-to-back at the Palestra.
Last Friday, the Quakers took advantage of a second-half rally to stun Cornell in Ithaca, winning, 71-69, on a floater by junior guard Tony Hicks with only four seconds left.
Saturday, though, Hicks and pretty much all of his teammates — save for freshman forward Sam Jones — went MIA. Columbia held the Quakers to just 17 made field goals in an 83-56 domination.
It was an eerily similar story to the Red and Blue’s first Ivy weekend of the season, in which they outfought Dartmouth before being run out of their own gym by Harvard — and one they can’t afford to repeat.
“We’re yet to figure out what is leading to our slow Saturday night starts,” junior center Darien Nelson-Henry said. “But we just have to keep the mindset that it’s the next game every time. We have to go into the Yale game prepared for that.
“We’re gonna let the cards fall [where they may] on Saturday night [against Brown] but I can tell you that we’re going to come out with a lot more energy than previous Saturday nights, because this isn’t a trend that we hope continues.”
The Quakers will likely enter Saturday night’s contest a bit on the battered side, considering the physicality of their opponent the night before.
Yale (16-7, 5-1) comes to Philadelphia tied for first in the Ancient Eight in large part due to its willingness to do the dirty work down low. The Bulldogs lead the Ivy League in offensive rebounds per game (12.0).
Most of that dirty work is done by star forward Justin Sears. Per , the junior grabs 11.9 percent of available offensive boards, the best mark on the team.
“We have to come with our hard hat and workman-like attitude [against Sears],” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “He’s so active. He’s athletic. He’s strong. He’s patient. He’s relentless. We cannot afford to take a play off on either end.”
Sears is supplemented by senior point guard Javier Duren, who leads Yale in scoring (14.6 ppg) and has an equally strong case for Ivy Player of the Year.
Brown (10-13, 1-5), though, has been forced to say goodbye to its best player —permanently.
Sophomore forward Leland King, the Bears’ scoring and rebounding leader, quit the team on Jan. 29 for personal reasons, leaving a hole in the lineup that coach Mike Martin has thus far been unable to fill.
The loss of King means that Brown has one less player who can box out Penn’s Greg Louis, or close out on shooters like Hicks and Jones.
Hicks scored 20 points in the second half in Penn’s comeback over the Big Red on Friday, while Jones hit seven three-pointers in the Quakers’ loss to the Lions on Saturday.
The Bears have size on the inside — two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Cedric Kuakumensah is no slouch — but have allowed opponents to connect on 33.3 percent of their three-pointers this year.
Perhaps for Penn the arc is a more trustworthy Saturday hangover cure than a little hair of the dog.
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