Two Big 5 teams are currently riding the crests of 13-game winning streaks. But only one of those teams is garnering the lion's share of national attention. The No. 7 Temple Owls (22-4) have been on a remarkable roll of late. John Chaney's squad has not dropped a contest since St. Bonaventure shocked Temple, 57-56, on January 15. In the course of this 13-game-long run of luck, the Owls have beaten Penn, 44-40, and most notably, then-No.1 Cincinnati, 77-69. The nation is abuzz with word of Temple's near invincibility with Pepe Sanchez in the lineup. Meanwhile, since falling to the Owls on January 20, Fran Dunphy's Quakers have put together a 13-game run of their own. The fanfare directed at Penn has been considerably more subdued, however. With the possible exception of the two votes that Penn just received in the AP poll released yesterday, the Quakers (18-7), who sit comfortably atop the Ivy League at 11-0, seem to have justifiably slipped below the national media radar. Still, the Quakers, who will likely get at least a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they win two of their three remaining Ivy League games, have the ability to make waves in the postseason. On the other hand, that possibility will get infinitely more remote if the Quakers continue to turn over the ball as much as they have this season. This past weekend, the Red and Blue lacked cohesion on offense, and their offensive miscues almost cost them dearly at Dartmouth and Harvard. Penn needs to be more careful with the basketball, or else the Quakers don't have a shot at going anywhere in the tournament. All the weapons are there. The execution just needs to improve. This past Saturday, the Quakers took the court against a Dartmouth squad that was just 8-15 heading into the game. In the early going at Leede Arena, the Quakers were sluggish and gave the lowly Big Green reason for optimism. After Dartmouth's Shaun Gee sent the opening tip out of bounds, Penn inbounded the ball and brought it up the court. Matt Langel then took a pass at the top of the key. He looked left; then he looked right; then he passed the ball right -- right out of bounds with no other Quaker in sight. On the next Penn trip down the floor, Michael Jordan's errant pass intended for center Geoff Owens gave Dartmouth possession on a second-straight turnover. The Penn mishaps invigorated the Dartmouth crowd and, more importantly, spurred the Big Green on to a vigorous 12-7 start. "I think we were a little careless with the basketball early," Dunphy said after the Dartmouth game. In the first half, Penn gave up nine turnovers to a Dartmouth squad not known for its defensive prowess. On the night, Penn yielded 14 turnovers to Dartmouth's eight. It took 44 combined points from the Jordan-Langel backcourt to secure the 69-55 victory. The Quakers are currently averaging 12.9 give-aways per game, the 13th-worst clip in Division I. This problem played an even bigger role the next night against Harvard. Penn had a carbon copy of its first half against Dartmouth, except that the turnover barrage came after halftime at Lavietes Pavilion. The Quakers had nine miscues in the second half, compared to only two for Harvard. Those Penn turnovers were most damaging down the stretch. Penn looked golden with a 10-point lead with 6:06 left to play, but three Penn turnovers and three minutes later, the lead was down to a scant three points. Owens, whose ill-advised and seemingly rushed pass was intercepted by Harvard's Elliott Prasse-Freeman to begin the turnover run, was not pleased. "I think we were just a little bit passive on offense. We can't really ever do that," he said. Owens is right. No matter how many stellar individual performances the Quakers get out of their roster -- his 17-rebound night at Harvard included -- they need to be more careful with the basketball if they want this to be a finish to remember.Comments powered by Disqus
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