Penn men's basketball faces Harvard at the Palestra
Penn controls its fate as the Crimson come to town
February 9, 2012, 11:58 pm·
The last time a nationally ranked Ivy League basketball team walked into the Palestra, it walked out with a loss.
That was February 12, 2010, and the Ithaca Journal’s Brian Delaney called Penn’s 79-64 upset the work of the “ghosts of the Palestra.”
Friday, a new ranked team will come to town: the No. 25 Harvard Crimson.
To the Quakers, though, memories of the past matter little.
“When I think about that,” senior Rob Belcore said, “honestly I think about how great it was to beat Cornell, and then we lost to Columbia the next night.”
This weekend, the Red and Blue have a chance to change their recent fate. If Penn upsets the Crimson and finishes the weekend with a win against Dartmouth on Saturday, its title hopes stay alive for another week.
The Quakers are looking ahead to Friday’s game, rather than looking back at the Cornell upset and last year’s double-overtime loss to Harvard that sent them into a season-ruining tailspin.
“The past doesn’t dictate the future,” Belcore said.
Still, the core of the Crimson’s squad is virtually the same as it was last year — Harvard lost zero players to graduation and added a solid group of freshmen contributors.
Much like the personnel of the two teams has not changed significantly since their last meeting, Penn and Harvard match up nearly identically in every offensive metric.
The Red and Blue have averaged 67.8 points per game to the Crimson’s 65.7, a 44.6 field-goal percentage to Harvard’s 46.2 and a 37.3 three-point shooting percentage to the Crimson’s 36.4.
The statistics are incredibly even on the shooting front, but Harvard’s silver bullet is its ability to force opponents into taking tough, contested shots.
This season, the Crimson have held their opponents to 40-percent shooting from the field.
If Harvard shuts down Penn’s game plan early — and last Friday’s loss to Yale indicated how the Quakers respond to slow starts — Belcore said his team has a plan to readjust.
“We seem to be predominantly a jump-shooting team, but when our jump shots aren’t falling, we’re going to be making more of a concerted effort to drive the ball to the basket and pound it into our post players, try to get easy buckets and foul shots.
“If we come out and we’re not shooting 75 percent from three at halftime, we’re going to keep trying to get the easy ones,” he said.
Though pounding the paint might prove difficult against the likes of 6-foot-7 Kyle Casey and 6-foot-8 Keith Wright, Belcore and coach Jerome Allen said Penn’s game plan will be the same as it is every game.
As always, the strategy is to “impose our will defensively, hold onto our principles and try to make them take as many tough shots as we possibly can,” Allen said.
“At the end of the day … [it] comes down to how well we execute, on both ends of the floor,” he added.
If anything has plagued the Quakers this season, it’s been their inability to compile an entire team effort.
In last season’s double overtime loss at the Palestra, four of Penn’s starters scored in double-digits. On Friday, Penn will need contributions from every spot on the floor.
“We always need five guys in the action,” Allen said.
“Whether it be on the perimeter, whether it be guarding pick and rolls or whether it be low post defense … all five guys have to be in tune and play the possession.”
Above all, five players must show up both Friday and Saturday nights.