The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Penn's Ugonna Onykewe scored only eight points in an OT win over 'Nova, but he redeemed himself when he blocked Reggie Bryant's last-second, buzzer-beater attempt. [Andrew Margolies/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

When the Big 5 came up with the idea for tomorrow's tripleheader at the Palestra, the Temple-Villanova nightcap seemed like the day's marquee game.

But Temple is 3-3 and Villanova has already lost two City Series games, including Wednesday's 75-74 thriller to Penn. The Quakers' game against St. Joseph's (No. 18 AP, No. 24 ESPN/USA Today) now looms as the most exciting matchup in tomorrow's basketball festival on 33rd Street. The game will tip-off 30 minutes after the 1 p.m. matchup between Drexel and La Salle.

"I think it's going to be a high-energy game," said Hawks coach Phil Martelli, whose Cityliners have not lost since a season-opening upset at the hands of Eastern Washington. "Penn plays the way any coach would want his team to play."

The Quakers' only loss of the year came on Thanksgiving night in Las Vegas to then-No. 2 Illinois. The Red and Blue have defeated teams from the Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Big East conferences on their way to a blazing 6-1 start.

Penn has used sharp three-point shooting and stellar defense to build up its record so far this season. The Quakers are committing 12.3 turnovers per game, while forcing their opponents into an average of 17.3 miscues, including 23 by Villanova on Wednesday night.

Penn's plus-5 turnover margin is easily the best in the Ivy League. For comparison, top-ranked Duke boasts a plus-6.3 margin.

The Quakers offense has arguably been even more impressive than the defense, though. Penn has hit 43.4 percent of its attempts from downtown, the 11th-best clip of the 324 teams in Division I, and a better mark than any team in the Top 25.

"Playing a team like St. Joe's, you have to hit your shots," said Penn swingman Jeff Schiffner, who has hit 53 percent of his three-point attempts this season. "There's no question that we're going to have to hit our shots when we get them. They really are a nice team."

Respect goes both ways between Penn and St. Joe's, which maintain one of the city's friendliest rivalries.

"I've been around here 17 years, and I remember the great teams Penn had with Jerome Allen and Matt Maloney, but I think this Penn team is the best I've seen," Martelli said. "I know some people will say, 'Oh, but Allen and Maloney made it to the pros,' but I think that this squad is the best Penn team I've ever seen."

The Quakers know, however, that the same might be said of the current St. Joe's squad, a group which started the year in the Top 10 before its shocking one-point loss on opening night.

"I just think it was a first game of the year," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "When St. Joe's played Eastern Washington, they just didn't get off to a very good start. They're not the same team today as they were when they played Eastern Washington. While you can learn some things from it, you're not going to glean the crystal ball answer to beating St. Joe's."

It's probably a good thing that neither team has a crystal ball, because tomorrow afternoon's game should turn out to be a Big 5 classic on par with Wednesday night's contest.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.