The next two weeks for Penn men’s basketball are just as notable for what the team won’t do as what it will do.
After playing the most minutes of any men’s basketball team in the country in November, the schedule quiets down considerably in December. After dispatching Dayton at their home court on Saturday, the Quakers won’t return to action until December 27. That is a gap of 17 days without a game.
The extended break allows the student-athletes to focus on the first half of that moniker. With finals season in full bloom and the holidays in sight, coach Steve Donahue decided to give his players the time off.
“[Academics] is always our first priority,” Donahue said. “We have such a long window for finals, and it backs up to Christmas.”
Instead of games, Penn will have a chance to catch up on some of the practicing it’s missed out on thus far. While not playing in any games will allow the team to recover from the grueling schedule, Donahue also suggested that practices can be even more tiring than games.
“We’ll be going two hours in practice. There’s a lot more chances to get hurt in practice to be honest with you. There’s a lot more drilling. There’s a lot more stop and ‘let’s go do this’ for twenty minutes really hard,” Donahue said, while acknowledging that, “[The players are] going to get a chance to really just get our bodies back.”
When the Quakers return to campus after the holiday, they will play their first home games since blowing out Penn State Brandywine over a month before. Donahue suggested that playing at home after the break was a deliberate choice.
“I got a couple of home games after Christmas, which I thought was great so the kids that have to travel don’t have to travel again. It just worked out,” Donahue said.
The Red and Blue resume their season with the first three of a nine game home stand. The break will end against Delaware State, who has struggled lately. The Hornets only have two wins all year and lost to Duquesne by 49 points in their last game. Delaware State is the worst Division I team in the country according to Kenpom, a comprehensive statistical measure.
Two days later, Penn will face a much tougher challenge against Toledo. The Rockets managed to beat Saint Joseph's but fell to Cornell, both opponents Penn will face later in the season. Toledo’s greatest threat is senior Tre’Shaun Fletcher who currently leads the team in rebounds, points, and assists. Fletcher is big enough to dominate the boards and has a good enough touch to make 38 percent of his three-point attempts. The Quakers will have to contain Fletcher to be successful.
The following week, Penn kicks off the new year and the Ivy League season against archrival Princeton. The Tigers swept the season series last year, beating the Quakers in all three games for the first time in the illustrious rivalry. Those three wins over the Red and Blue included a win in the Ivy League Tournament semifinals that ended Penn's season. To exact revenge, the Quakers will look to neutralize Princeton's leading scorer Devin Cannaday, who is averaging 19 points per game.
The pivotal Princeton opener isn’t until after the new year starts. Until then, the Quakers have plenty of time to rest and recover before Ivy League play.
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