The Quakers visit Harvard and Ivy upstart Dartmouth in their drive to the NCAAs. After spending the past week reflecting on this season's ups and downs, the Penn men's basketball team continues its road to the NCAA tournament this weekend with a stop in New England. The Quakers' weekend set against Harvard and Dartmouth kicks off a hectic stretch of the season -- six games in the next 12 days. For senior forwards Jed Ryan and Paul Romanczuk, this will be their last Ivy weekend road trip. Thanks to Ryan's hot shooting last weekend against Brown and Yale after a disappointing showing against Princeton 10 days ago, the Quakers find themselves in the heat of the Ivy League championship race. "People think that we have lost a sense of urgency, which isn't the truth," Ryan said. "When we lost to Princeton, we knew that we would have to win the rest of the games this season to stay alive. We are going to do everything in our power to win these next six games so that we can go to the NCAA Tournament." Against Brown and Yale this past weekend, Ryan took advantage of the new beginning, and gave the Quakers the needed offensive support they lacked in the second half against Princeton. In the second half against the Bears and the Elis Ryan came up big, finishing the weekend with 37 points on 11of 16 shooting from behind the arc. "In the first half of the Brown game we weren't making many shots," Romanczuk said. "Jed came in the second half and did really well and that carried over into the Yale game. When you have a guy like that in the zone, guys start looking for him." Ryan, with a higher shooting percentage from three-point range than inside the half oval, feels being able to take more shots from beyond the perimeter this season has helped the team and credits Penn's unselfish character that has enabled him to take so many shots. "It's nice to have guys on the team who find you when you are open and shooting the ball well," Ryan said. "Last year playing on the baseline with Paul, he would drive to the basket, and I would hit these 10 or 12-foot jump shots. Now I spread out and take myself behind the line, where I am more productive for the team." The Quakers (16-4, 8-1 Ivy League) first face the Crimson (10-12, 4-6), who are playing without starting senior center Paul Fisher. It will mark Harvard's fifth game with the 6'8" big man out of the lineup because of his season-ending bout with mononucleosis. With Fisher out of the line-up, the Quakers will try to feed the ball inside to Romanczuk and junior center Geoff Owens. Against Harvard on February 6, the duo teamed up for 28 points and 21 rebounds en route to an 81-56 victory at the Palestra. Penn's defense will have its eyes set on last season's second-team All-Ivy selection Tim Hill, who is averaging 15.5 points and leading the Ivy League with 6.3 assists per game. They will also have to contest with 1997-98 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Dan Clemente, who is averaging 13.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Following their game at Harvard, the Quakers head to Hanover, N.H., to face Dartmouth, currently the third-place team in the Ivies. Like a fly that won't go away, the Big Green have shown their desire to take home their first Ivy League crown since 1959. A sweep this weekend would set Dartmouth alone in first place with Penn and Princeton one victory behind. "It's our last home weekend," Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher said. "I just told the kids that it is a great credit to them that we have a weekend that has such significance. The place is sold out. We are capable of picking it up a notch." For the Big Green to edge the Quakers, they will have to look to their bench. In Penn's 79-67 victory over Dartmouth on February 5, the Quakers allowed Dartmouth starters Shaun Gee, Ian McGinnis and Greg Buth to score their season averages but gave up only 15 points to the rest of the team. "We are going to do the same thing that we did at the Palestra," Romanczuk said. "I am probably going to match up with Shaun Gee. He will get his points. I am just going to try to limit the amount of touches he gets. We will just try to keep McGinnis off the boards." This past week, Gee -- Dartmouth's leading scorer at 18.3 points per game -- reaggravated his injured knee, while McGinnis -- the nation's leading rebounder at 12.3 per game -- is now sporting a few stitches on his head after a rough day of practice on Wednesday. For a team with four starters averaging more than 34 minutes per game, the Big Green will find themselves under the crunch in their do-or-die weekend. Using the "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" model, the Quakers will try to go back to what they used to win those games two weeks ago -- a balanced offense and an aggressive defense. It paid off then as each Penn starter averaged double digits in scoring and the Quakers out-rebounded the two teams 79-48 collectively. "Both games we have to focus on getting the ball inside," Romanczuk said. "That's usually our philosophy. Get it inside to Geoff and me. See what we can do with the ball inside and then open up our perimeter game. In the end that is where our strength is." While Penn waits for its true test on March 2 at Jadwin Gym against Princeton, the Quakers are trying to keep focused and take care of business one game at a time. Princeton's 60-58 double overtime loss to Yale last weekend shows that when one is not paying attention, anything can happen. The Quakers just hope that "anything" doesn't happen to them.Comments powered by Disqus
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