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Sophomore Jeff Schiffner is a probable backcourt starter - along with Andrew Toole and Tim Begley - in tonight's game, as Penn starts its season down south. [Stefan Miltchev/DP File Photo]

The Penn men's basketball team will open its 2001-02 campaign in Atlanta tonight, looking for its first season-opening win since 1997.

Quakers coach Fran Dunphy likes to schedule elite non-conference opponents for the Red and Blue, and this season is no different. Penn will face Georgia Tech (1-0) at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum, kicking off a difficult week that includes a Thanksgiving Day contest in Las Vegas with No. 2 Illinois.

"I think we should just jump right into it," Penn swingman Duane King said. "Even though we do have some new guys, everybody has experience. Ugonna [Onyekwe] and Koko [Archibong] are coming back as starters. Dave [Klatsky] was a starter last year. Andy Toole has played college for two years. I think it's fine."

Because of an injury to Adam Chubb -- Penn's top returning big man who is expected to be out until mid-to-late December -- Dunphy may go with a three-guard lineup tonight. The probable starters are Toole, freshman Tim Begley and sophomore Jeff Schiffner in the backcourt with Onyekwe and Archibong up front.

Toole will see his first game action since the 2000 season, when he played for Elon College. He is one of six newcomers on the Penn roster, along with five freshmen.

One of those freshmen, guard Patrick Lang, will be very close to home. A native of Roswell, Ga., Lang will be able to cash in on an early Thanksgiving dinner, since he'll miss Thursday's when the Quakers are in Nevada.

"All of these guys look forward to playing against teams that are close to home," Lang said. "I know Duane wants to play at Louisville, and he's a junior. For me to have the opportunity to go down there is great, especially as a freshman. A lot of people are going to be watching me play. I'm excited about it."

Lang will be even more excited if the Quakers can upset Georgia Tech, which opened its season on Friday night with a 97-62 victory over Florida A&M.; The Yellow Jackets had five players score 14 or more points, while freshman forward Ed Nelson grabbed 13 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

While Nelson was strong on the glass in his Georgia Tech debut, he and the rest of the Yellow Jackets frontcourt struggled as much as three players could possibly struggle in a 35-point victory. Georgia Tech's front three -- Nelson, Marvin Lewis and center Luke Schenscher -- combined to shoot 9-for-24 from the floor and 5-for-10 from the foul line.

The Rambling Wreck's backcourt, however, was already displaying midseason form on Friday. Sophomore Clarance Moore scored 16 points and pulled down nine boards while Tony Akins put up 14 points of his own.

Akins was an honorable mention all-Atlantic Coast Conference player last year.

Penn has a 30-26 all-time record against ACC teams, but that mark is deceiving, as the Red and Blue's last victory against a member of the powerful conference came against North Carolina in the 1979 NCAA Tournament.

While the Quakers are 3-2 against Georgia Tech, all three Penn wins came before the Korean War. The Yellow Jackets won both meetings of the two schools in the 1980s, while Penn's last win in the series came at the Palestra on Feb. 24, 1951.

"I was in Southwest Philly at 1218 South Ruby Street, probably watching nothing because we had no TV," said Dunphy, who was two years old at the time of that Penn-Georgia Tech game. "I was probably listening to the Shadow or the Lone Ranger or something."

More pertinent to the present, the Quakers will have to deal with a Yellow Jackets team that went 17-13 last season and made it to the NCAA Tournament.

News and Notes

Penn opened the 1986-87 season with Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Quakers lost, 87-54, en route to a 13-14 overall record. The Red and Blue still went 10-4 in the Ivy League that year, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.... Georgia Tech will face two Ivy League teams this season --- Penn and Cornell.... In addition to the Yellow Jackets, Penn also defeated ACC powers Maryland and Duke in 1951.

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