Ten days after the end of its last trip to the Tar Heel State, the Penn men's basketball team will once again play the role of carpetbagger by squaring off against Davidson tonight in the sleepy town of Davidson, N.C. The Quakers (0-2), fresh off two less-than-stellar games at the CoSIDA Classic at N.C. State two weekends ago, will look to settle into something closer to midseason form tonight against a young Wildcats squad (1-3). In their first two games, the Quakers have shown definite signs of the talent that will be necessary for a third straight Ivy League title, but consistent, optimal performance is still a long way down the road. "We're a work in progress," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said after the second CoSIDA loss, an 81-78 squeaker that went to the Fordham Rams. Bob McKillop's Wildcats are similarly in flux. Coming off a season in which Davidson went 15-13 and finished second in the North Division of the Southern Conference, expectations were for more of the same. Most preseason pundits picked the 'Cats to finish in the same spot. Just four games into this still fledgling season, however, Davidson -- a team without a senior on the roster -- is showing signs of its immaturity. In the Wildcats' three losses thus far, opponents have outscored Davidson by a knee-knocking average of 86-61. At the same time, the perennial Southern Conference power turned the ball over an average of nearly 20 times per contest. These losses all came against solid Division I programs, but they weren't exactly against the Dukes and Arizonas of the world. An opening loss to Conference USA would-be sleeper South Florida at the Top of the World Classic at Alaska-Fairbanks didn't look too bad at the time. But since then, South Florida has fallen hard to Utah State and Colorado -- which doesn't bode well for a team that many thought would turn heads in 2000-01. Davidson's inability to hang with either Santa Clara or Georgia Tech also has to dishearten McKillop and his staff. Unlike the Wildcats, the Quakers have basically hung tough in their two games this season. In the opener against N.C. State, Penn came flying out of the gates, building a quick 8-2 lead. The Wolfpack charged back and led, 33-28, at the half. The Red and Blue had a rough time containing N.C. State's frontcourt down the stretch, and they eventually succumbed, 77-64. Sophomore power forward Ugonna Onyekwe led Penn scorers with 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting in a game where the Quakers were close to or even with the Wolfpack in every statistical category but free-throw shooting. Dunphy's starting frontcourt duo of Onyekwe and Owens had trouble the next night in a see-saw battle with Fordham. Both fouled out, and they netted only 17 points among them as the Quakers went down in defeat, 81-78. Penn guards David Klatsky and Lamar Plummer scored 15 points apiece against the Rams from Rose Hill. "I think we're getting exactly what we deserved," Dunphy said after the Fordham loss. "We didn't play well and we didn't deserve to win the game." Given their defensive troubles in Raleigh -- Penn let both N.C. State and Fordham take control of games after building an early lead -- the Quakers will certainly look to shut down a potentially explosive Davidson team tonight. The Wildcats pack a prodigious punch with a trio of scorers at forward. Fourth-year junior forward Emeka Erege is the focal point of the Davidson offense. Erege has an interesting pedigree. Having called both Nigeria and Germany his home, the 6'5" scorer came to Davidson via Long Island Lutheran, the high school where McKillop coached before making his trip south. He has been in double figures in every game this season and is averaging 13.8 points per contest. Joining Erege down low will be 6'9" Chris Pearson and 6'8" Jason Dickens, who are both averaging about 10 points and five rebounds per game. Center Martin Ides, a 7'2" Czech big man who is one of six Wildcats from overseas, will be a key to the 'Cats defense. A main focus for both these teams has to be taking care of the basketball. With Davidson averaging 20 turnovers and the Quakers yielding 16 to Fordham in their last game, give-aways must be a prime concern for both coaching staffs. The ballhandling and defense of guards Fern Tonella, Wayne Bernard and Michael Bree will be the Wildcats' answer to their sub-par turnover numbers. Although he won't be a prime offensive target for the Quakers, Penn senior forward Josh Sanger is certainly a focus of today's trip. The Charlotte, N.C., native will be able to play in front of family and friends at the nearby 5,700-seat Belk Arena. A happy homecoming for Sanger may very well mean a move in the right direction for Penn's work in progress.Comments powered by Disqus
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