The Quakers look to hold on to first place in the Ivy League with two wins on their New England road swing. After dispatching Cornell and Columbia at the Palestra last weekend, the Penn men's basketball team stands in a very exciting position with March Madness approaching. If the Quakers can tack on another 11 wins to their current 11-game winning streak -- which dates to January 25 -- they can bring home the national title. Penn has just six regular season contests left, and a 5-0 run through the NCAA Tournament would take them straight to the top. "I can't say that I've pictured in my mind winning the next 11 games and being national champions," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. OK, so back to reality. Before they can even imagine cutting down the nets in Indianapolis, the Quakers must first clinch the Ivy League title with four more victories. Their first chance is this weekend at Dartmouth and Harvard. "I think we realized after the Temple game -- that was a tough loss -- that if we won our next 16 games we were going to be in the tournament and we were going to be happy," Penn center Geoff Owens said. While neither the Big Green nor the Crimson can share Penn's postseason aspirations, an upset for either Dartmouth or Harvard would significantly help its Ivy standing. At this point, just one game separates the third- through seventh-place teams. Harvard (10-13, 5-5 Ivy League), which is in third place, just ahead of the Big Green (8-15, 4-6), has two streaks going. Penn has reason to be wary of both. For starters, the Crimson swept Brown and Yale last weekend. Junior forward Dan Clemente lead with 22 points against the Bears and 19 the following night. Despite scoring just three points in Harvard's 79-52 loss at the Palestra just weeks ago, Clemente has racked up a 19.1 points per game average for the season. This figure would place him first among Ivy scoring leaders, but he is ineligible for the honor since he missed 11 games while recovering from eye surgery. Second, the Crimson have won five straight home finales, including an overtime win over Princeton in '98-'99 and an upset over Penn the previous year. "I think we lost to them at their place my freshman year," Owens said. "It's their home, and Penn is coming to town, so we're going to expect a hell of a game from them." Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher recognized that his team could beat Penn tonight, but knows that it will take a top performance from his sixth-place squad. "We're expecting Penn to play well, and they usually do," Faucher said. "They're leading the league in both offensive and defensive field goal percentage, so that's a double-edged sword that we have reason to be concerned about. We have to be at our best -- our very best." According to Faucher, Dartmouth's best usually comes in transition. The ninth-year coach said that his guards, Greg Buth and Flinder Boyd, will have to push the pace if they hope to compete with Penn. Buth is second on the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game, while Boyd's 8.6 points per contest is good for third. Boyd also leads the Big Green in assists at seven per contest. Penn has won its last five meetings with Dartmouth, including a 75-61 victory on February 12, but Faucher said that loss was actually a turning point for his team. Despite falling to the Quakers, Dartmouth's strong second-half play was enough to please Faucher. Buth scored 18 against Penn that night. "I'm proud of my guys," Faucher said. "We played a good second half against Penn, and we've carried it through the last four games. There's a lot of fighting in the Big Green." Dartmouth, like the Crimson, swept Yale and Brown last weekend to double its league wins and up its overall record to 8-15. But the Quakers learned their lesson in the last game versus Dartmouth and will be ready for its second-half antics tonight. "Last time toward the end we let them back in the game a little bit, so I think we're just going to try to go out there and knock them out real quick -- get it over with -- and then stay tough," Penn forward Frank Brown said. Most likely, Dartmouth's squad also learned a lesson on February 12 -- to beware of Michael Jordan. The senior guard scored 24 points on an 8-for-12 shooting performance that night. Of course, the Big Green probably did not need first-hand experience to make this discovery. Jordan is Penn's leading scorer at 15.9 points per game, and the tri-captain also leads the team in assists with 4.9 per game. "[Boyd] is going to roll up his sleeves and defend [Jordan]," Faucher said. "He's short, but he's really quick. We could try to play a bigger person on him, but Langel is 6'5'' and Brown is 6'8", so then we would have a problem defending them." Dunphy understood Faucher's predicament. "There's no question that Mike is our leader and he's been our leading scorer and really has carried us a lot, but we need to be a good basketball team. Matt Langel can step up and hopefully make some shots? and now that Frank has started to play well and make some shots on the perimeter, he gives us another weapon." Brown was certainly a weapon in the Quakers' last game against Harvard. He scored a season-high 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and connected on all three of his attempts from beyond the arc. "Everything feels good now and I've been starting on a consistent basis," Brown said. "I was hoping that my senior year would be like this." Since Brown entered the starting lineup on January 28, the Quakers are a perfect 10-0. The senior is shooting 51.3 percent from the field and averaging 6.6 points. "He got hurt on December 29, and it really took him a good six weeks to really get himself back together," Dunphy said. "But when given another opportunity, he's made the most of it."Comments powered by Disqus
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