the Quakers hope that No. 8 Auburn continues its cold-shooting ways. "This is not your typical Ivy League team." That was the phrase Auburn coach Cliff Ellis used when describing the Penn men's basketball team to a group of reporters not familiar with the Quakers basketball program. Despite the Red and Blue's 1-3 start, Penn is still getting plenty of respect from the coach of the No. 8 team in the nation. Penn will find out if it deserves that respect when it faces the Tigers tomorrow night in Birmingham, Ala. "Penn is a team that is very dangerous," Ellis said. "They play hard, have a tough schedule and I'm sure we'll see them back in the NCAA [Tournament] in the spring." Although these complimentary words are nice for Penn to hear, the Quakers know that the Auburn program is more deserving of superlatives. "They're quite simply one of the top teams in the country," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "This game is a great challenge for us. It's a wonderful chance to make a mark against a great team." Challenge might be an understatement. After all, the Tigers are a team that started off last year's campaign with 17 straight wins en route to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year, the Tigers are 4-1, with their sole loss coming at the hands of No. 3 Stanford. Auburn features perhaps the nation's best player in senior Chris Porter. The 6'7" power forward leads the Tigers at 12.2 points per game. He is known for his dazzling dunks and ability to make plays from anywhere on the floor. "We've got to pay lots of attention to Chris, but they have so many weapons you can't just concentrate on him," Dunphy said. "You just have to hope he doesn't do too much damage." Porter's talented supporting cast includes Doc Robinson, a point guard averaging almost seven assists per game and Mamadou N'diaye, a seven-foot center scoring close to eight points a game and bringing down 10 rebounds. Scott Pohlman is another key for the Tigers. The senior shooting guard is averaging 11 points per game this season. The Auburn lineup should be bolstered further with the return of forward David Hamilton. Hamilton broke his leg in a pick-up game last Christmas Eve but is set to play on Saturday for the first time since the injury. "We're really excited to have David back," Ellis said. "We're not expecting too much from him yet, but he should provide some depth inside." In spite of the potent offense, the Tigers have struggled this season with their shooting. Auburn's field goal percentage is .403, the worst in the SEC. Porter has not been immune to the poor shooting, as his percentage is at .344, down from .407 last season. "They are certainly not shooting as well as they can," Dunphy said. "Hopefully their breakout game won't be against us." Like their foes, the Quakers have also experienced shooting woes early in the season. Against La Salle on Tuesday night, both Michael Jordan and Matt Langel seemed to break out of their slumps, scoring 22 and 17 points, respectively. "I don't think it's a case of us not shooting that well," Langel said. "We're not as deadly as we have been. We don't have a third shooter like a Jed Ryan or a Garret Krietz" Both guards' shooting percentages are down from last year. Last season, Jordan shot .439 from the field compared to .370 this season, while Langel's field goal average in the first five games is .405, down from .440. Nevertheless, Ellis believes that those numbers are deceiving. "Although Penn hasn't been shooting well early in the season, we know that Jordan is an excellent shooter and that you can't give Langel any daylight," he said. Auburn is the second of a host of national powerhouses the Quakers will battle this season. They lost at No. 22 Kentucky in their season opener and play at No. 4 Kansas on January 4 and at No. 19 Temple o January 20. Dunphy's philosophy about these games is they are more than just preparation for league contests. "These athletes' college careers are so short," he said. "And we have to take advantage of every opportunity to give them experiences that they won't forget." If the Quakers can pull out a victory on Saturday, no player would ever forget beating the eighth-ranked team in the country.Comments powered by Disqus
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