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M Hoops vs. Lafayette Credit: Michelle Bigony

Penn hasn’t faced off against Pittsburgh in the past decade, so excuse the Quakers if they’re a little unfamiliar with the Panthers’ roster. There’s an easy fix though — they just have to turn on ESPN.

The Panthers (6-0) are ranked No. 5 in the country in both the AP and ESPN Coaches Polls, and currently sit atop the Big East standings along with Georgetown. They’re a battle-tested group that, as a program, hasn’t missed the NCAA tournament since 2000.

The Quakers (2-2) will certainly have their hands full this Saturday, as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers.

“It’s definitely a good measuring stick for us,” senior Jack Eggleston said. “It’ll show us the things we need to improve on and areas where we can be successful.”

Saturday’s contest will be the first of four against currently ranked opponents, as the squad takes on No. 7 Villanova, No. 8 Kentucky and No. 21 Temple before beginning Ivy play.

The Red and Blue’s biggest task will be to slow junior guard Ashton Gibbs. Having just earned Big East Player of the Week honors, Gibbs is third in the Big East in scoring, and leads the Panthers in points, three-pointers and free-throw percentage.

Another issue for the Red and Blue will be grabbing some boards this weekend. The Quakers have struggled to earn offensive rebounds, as Eggleston is the only Penn player averaging more than five per game. The Panthers have five.

“Its 90 percent desire,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “Its pretty much just giving a consistent effort and letting it be second nature that when the shot goes up, you box out.”

One bright spot for the Quakers this season has been the play of freshman Miles Cartwright.

“Its been a plus,” Allen said. “As a freshman, you try not to put too much pressure on those guys, but he’s blended in great with the group.”

The team will have extra time to bond this week, remaining in Philadelphia over the break — with practice scheduled on Thursday — to prepare for Saturday’s 7 p.m. matchup.

Strong play and all around team unity may still not be enough to topple the mighty Panthers, but it won’t be because the Quakers are unprepared.

“You don’t play the games on paper,” Allen said. “Come [Saturday], we expect to win. We’ll play the game and we’ll try to impose our will, impose our style and after that, let the chips fall where they may.”

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