There's no need for plane, train or bus reservations if you want to attend the next Penn men's basketball road game. Penn will "travel" to St. Joseph's tomorrow night when the two teams tip off at the Palestra's familiar confines at 8 p.m. The St. Joe's contest is the last of a four-game hiatus from Ivy League play for Penn. During that stretch, the Quakers lost to Delaware but bounced back with two wins against Patriot League opponents Lafayette and Lehigh. "We're still gelling as a team, as you saw [Wednesday] night," Penn senior guard Lamar Plummer said. "We haven't completed an entire 40 minutes. If we play 40 minutes, I think we have a great chance of winning the game." In its most recent contest, Penn downed Lehigh 87-74. For a majority of the game, Penn was clearly the better team, except for the beginning of the second half when the Engineers went on a 14-0 run. Nevertheless, the Red and Blue put forth a much better performance than they did the week before in their 10-point loss at Delaware. "I think we've progressed a little bit," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "We're going to face a very difficult opponent [tomorrow]. I think St. Joe's is playing as well as anybody in the East." The Quakers (5-10, 0-2 Big 5) can ill afford a lapse of good basketball tomorrow if they are to beat the Hawks. St. Joe's (15-4, 1-1) enters this late January contest having already eclipsed last season's win total of 13. A big reason for St. Joe's turnaround has been the addition of freshman point guard Jameer Nelson. Nelson has started every game in his rookie season and is one of the Hawks' statistical leaders. He averages 11.8 points per game, 6.0 assists per game and is third on the team in defensive rebounds with 52. "If he's making jumpers on the perimeter, we're going to have a real difficult time," Dunphy said. "He can drive it to the basket and make a play. He can also pull up and make a jump shot. There's not much that Jameer doesn't have." The addition of Nelson now gives the Hawks an incredibly balanced roster that includes five players who average in double figures on the scoresheet. St. Joe's leading scorer is junior guard Marvin O'Connor, who averages 20.3 points per game. Junior forward Bill Phillips adds 11.6 points per game and grabs 9.7 boards per game -- four more rebounds than he averaged last year. Phillips is also second on the team in assists with 65. Senior guard Na'im Crenshaw and junior forward Damien Reid round out the quintet of double-figures-scoring Hawks. They average 12.9 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. The well-balanced Hawks are still in contention for a share of the Big 5 title, but they need to defeat both Penn and LaSalle to be dubbed Philadelphia's best basketball team. St. Joe's also needs the Quakers to defeat Villanova at the First Union Center on February 6 to create a tie for first place in the Big 5. "I think in the city of Philadelphia you strive to be extraordinary," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "To be the best in any one year would be a feat for any team, and it would give us a little bragging rights, and for the players, there's no question that that is a big deal." But in order for that to happen, the Hawks must first get by Penn on the Quakers' home court. Or, technically, the Hawks' home court.Comments powered by Disqus
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