So far this season, when the Quakers have come into town, their four league opponents have disappeared into a drowsy fog, cowering in trembling awe at their Red and Blue-clad foes. "Their talent overwhelmed us," Brown coach Glen Miller said after his orchestra of Bears played to a less-than-melodious 83-48 defeat at the hands of the Quakers on Saturday. "They're the best team we've played this year, easily -- talent-wise and execution-wise." That is extremely high, although certainly deserved, praise for a team that Miller will have to face againEin less than a month. But the Quakers made this weekend such a nightmare that Miller isn't even focused on immediate revenge. "We're not at a point where we're going to take away their strengths," Miller said. "We want to work on our system and come into next year a better team." The Bears are not even halfway through their Ivy campaign, yet next year is what Miller wants to think about. After Penn's dominance, it would certainly be difficult for Brown -- or for any other Ivy team -- to pick out one aspect of the Quakers to focus on exploiting. Penn shot 48 percent from the field against Yale on Friday, then 45 percent against Brown. And the Quakers made up for that "drop" by shooting 52 percent from three-point range against the Bears. But Penn truly shined on defense, as it has throughout its current six-game winning streak. The Elis shot 23 percent from the floor in the face of the Quakers, while Brown managed just a 36-percent night from the field. The Quakers beat Yale by 25 points and Brown by 35. Yet Matt Langel, who scored 24 points against the Bears, does not "think everything's clicking." Penn's stellar shooting this weekend did hide some of its problems -- problems like committing more turnovers than the Elis on Friday night and shooting 68 percent from the foul line at Brown on Saturday. But what's definitely clicking for the Quakers is the defense. Over the course of its six-game run, Penn has allowed a grand total of 112 first-half points, a scant average of just 18.6. The Quakers held Columbia to nine points in the first 20 minutes on January 28, then kept the Elis to just 13 points in the first frame on Friday. The only team to have more than 22 points at the intermission against Penn during the streak so far was St. Joseph's, which scored 28 on January 31. "[Penn's defense] was very good," Yale coach James Jones said. "I thought they did a great job at understanding what we were trying to create offensively and contesting just about every shot." Even more than their good perimeter shooting, the Quakers' defense has carried them to these six wins, and they know it. "When you can do that defensively, it allows you to not have a perfect night offensively," Langel said. Nowhere was that more evident than at Yale, where the Quakers shot 30 percent from downtown and Jones felt that his squad represented itself well on defense. Onaje Woodbine led the Elis with 10 points, but only managed that on 4-for-18 shooting. Every time he touched the ball, Michael Jordan was right there to get in his face. On the inside, Geoff Owens and Ugonna Onyekwe combined to swat six shots. At the other end of the floor, the Elis had no answer to what Penn could offer, as every defensive shift they made backfired. "Once you try to focus on that one guy, Langel jumps up and bites you, or Owens jumps up and bites you, or somebody else does," Jones said. Brown had the same problems the next night, as the Bears' zone opened the perimeter for Langel's big night. "You pick your poison," Miller said. "You let them go one-on-one, the post guys score at will. You double down, and then you have to have quick, hard rotations. And this team had more than one guy that could shoot the three-pointer." But offense is not even half the story for these Quakers. If an opposing offensive player gets past Owens, then Onyekwe or Oggie Kapetanovic is right there for a defensive stop. The same is true in the backcourt. The Quakers can afford to help on defense because Ivy League teams do not have the same offensive versatility that they have. "That's why they'll probably win the conference and go to the NCAA Tournament," Miller said. "They have a lot of answers, whereas if you concentrate on [shutting down Brown's two top players] Earl Hunt and Alai [Nuualiitia], where's the offense coming from?" Until somebody comes up with an answer to that question, Penn will keep riding its defense to victory.Comments powered by Disqus
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