When the Penn men's basketball team looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year, the Quakers (5-11, 2-0 Ivy League) probably thought tomorrow's game against Brown (7-9, 1-2) would be much tougher than tonight's contest versus Yale (6-10, 3-0). They were mistaken. Instead, it is the upstart Elis who come into the Palestra undefeated in the Ivy League, threatening to end Penn's 23-game Ancient Eight winning streak. This is the same Yale team the Quakers pounded last season, 61-36 and 69-52, en route to an Ivy League championship. And it is the same Yale team that lost its best player, Onaje Woodbine. Woodbine left the team for personal reasons at the beginning of the season. But the Elis have pulled together to become the surprise team of the Ivy League in the early going. Their 3-0 conference record puts them in first place, a half game ahead of Penn and Princeton. "You wonder what playing Yale would be like if Woodbine had decided to stay with them," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "But I think they've gotten over that." Helping the Elis get over the loss of Woodbine is Yale's solid 1-2 punch of sophomore guard Chris Leanza and senior center Neil Yanke. Leanza is averaging 15.8 points per game and is only the second player in Yale history to make over 50 three-pointers in a season. Yanke, meanwhile, is averaging 11.1 points per contest, while pulling down 6.1 rebounds. "Most of the time, when teams would double-team me, I would throw it out and no one would be there to hit the shot," Yanke said. "Now, teams can't let Chris get the ball there, because it's a high percentage shot." Leanza and Yanke are not the only reasons for Yale's recent success. Many of the younger players on the team have also contributed. Freshmen Paul Vitelli and Matt Minoff have had some big games for Yale, as has sophomore Ime Archibong. Archibong is averaging 7.9 points per game and has 18 steals on the season. Minoff also has 18 steals, to go along with 11 blocks and 4.2 points per game. Vitelli is averaging 5.9 points per contest and has compiled 16 steals on the season. "This year, our depth has been one of our greatest strengths," Yanke said. "We're a lot deeper than we have been in the past. When one of our starters gets in foul trouble, we can bring someone in and not lose much. It makes it a lot easier." After Friday's contest against the Elis, the Quakers will welcome Brown to the Palestra. Despite boasting two of the best players in the Ancient Eight in Earl Hunt and Alai Nuualiitia, the Bears are in the middle of the Ivy League pack. Hunt is leading the Ivies with 20.3 points per game,and has pulled down an average of 6.2 boards per game. If Hunt can maintain that pace through March, he will become the first Ivy League player to ever score his 1,000th career point as a sophomore. "He's a real big concern," Dunphy said. "Earl is a real good scorer. He has a knack for playing the game." Nuualiitia has also been a dominant scoring threat. He's hit on over 55 percent of his field goals -- the best mark in the Ivies. Nuualiitia has also scored 11.9 points and averaged 7.3 rebounds per game. The Bears recently snapped a three-game losing streak with an 81-73 win against Northeastern on Tuesday. In that contest, Nuualiitia scored 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting and grabbed 11 boards, while Hunt netted 21 points. Conversely, the Quakers snapped a two-game winning streak with a loss to St. Joseph's on Saturday. The Hawks, one of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 this season, were simply too much for the Quakers as they pulled away, 67-61. It was Penn's third Big 5 loss on the season, and only Villanova remains on the Quakers' City Series schedule. But Penn looks to turn things around this weekend as it heads into the meat of its Ivy League schedule.Comments powered by Disqus
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