The Penn men’s basketball team is headed to Los Angeles looking to make it big.
But they’ll be trading Hollywood for Westwood — actually Anaheim — when they face UCLA (2-5) at the Honda Center Saturday evening.
The Quakers (5-5) know the Bruins will be tough inside, boasting four players who stand at 6-foot-10.
And one of the towers is fortified: sophomore Joshua Smith tips the scales at 305 pounds.
“They have size, and they have weight,” Penn sophomore center Cameron Gunter said. “But it’s just about what we do.”
Perhaps a bit of a cavalier attitude, considering Smith has him outsized by one inch and 100 pounds, and he’s just the beginning.
The Bruins also have identical twin forwards David and Travis Wear, redshirt sophomores, who transferred from North Carolina.
Still, Gunter — as well as fellow underclassmen big men Henry Brooks and Fran Dougherty — has been showing significant improvement lately.
“We know that if [coach Jerome Allen] is putting us on the floor, he has confidence in us,” Gunter said. “We just have to have the same confidence in ourselves.”
Confidence or not, UCLA’s size inside may force the Quakers to rely heavily on their guard play — especially senior point guard Zack Rosen — to produce offense.
Rosen racked up 29 points, eight assists and two rebounds Wednesday night in a 69-60 win over Delaware, as well as 21, three and six in the Quakers’ 73-65 loss at Villanova.
Despite this wizardry from his fiery-haired floor general, Allen expects a collective effort in the back court.
Rosen may put up the big numbers, but solid production from the other guards will be just as vital.
“If you look back at [Wednesday] night’s game, I think Steve Rennard’s effort primarily on the defensive end, and two big threes that he made,” Allen said, “were just as important as the 29 points that Zack had.”
Rennard saw his first 25 minutes of the year against Delaware with starter Miles Cartwright out with an injury, and it remains to be seen what role Rennard will play in the future.
One thing that is certain is that the team will continue to develop.
“[There’s] a process to everything,” Allen said. “I think our guys are coming along okay.”
A win at UCLA would move them past ‘okay’ territory, but it may be hard to come by.
That’s just how Allen likes it.
“It doesn’t get any easier for us,” Allen said. “But we don’t want it to be easy.”