An opening Ivy weekend sweep, a four-point win over St. Joseph’s in front of a packed Palestra and now a 15-point victory over Princeton.
With each passing game, more and more credence is being lent to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Quakers have a shot at the Ivy title that has been all but handed to the No. 23 Harvard Crimson.
But can the Red and Blue’s recent success realistically be projected onto a possible title race with a nationally-ranked Ivy powerhouse?
Yes and no.
The most difficult part about predicting the Quakers’ future success is that they play their best basketball when they lock down defensively in the half-court and are bolstered offensively by lights-out shooting from seniors Zack Rosen and swingman Tyler Bernardini — the latter of which is not something you can really prepare for and expect to get every night.
You can’t prepare for them defensively, either, as Princeton coach Mitch Henderson might tell you about the duo’s 9-for-14 clip from the field (6-for-7 from three) in the first half.
“We really had no response at all tonight for Zack Rosen,” he said. “[As a team] they were just quicker to everything in the first half and the second … We just consistently couldn’t stop them.”
When Rosen and Bernardini are locked in, like they were on Monday night, the Quakers have a shot against anyone, including Harvard.
But can you really plan for those two to go off against a Crimson team that absolutely dismantled Yale defensively Friday, holding the Bulldogs to just 35 points?
When Rosen had it going, Penn continued to send him high screens, which gave him the inch of space he needed for his patented stepback.
It kept working, which justified the repeated calls, but what happens when those shots don’t fall? At the start of the second half, those same plays were not yielding the same results. The Tigers’ defense closed out more effectively and forced Rosen into a few long misses, including one from nearly half-court. Relying on Rosen’s ability to hit those isolation-type shots won’t get it done.
But understand that this is by no means lost on the minds of the coaching staff. Jerome Allen realizes that whether his team’s shots fall or not, the one thing that can be controlled is defensive effort. Even though his Quakers scored 40 points seemingly at will in the first half on Monday, he knows that offensive shooting numbers are relatively trivial.
“At halftime we talked about the illusion we didn’t want to get caught up in,” Allen said. “The fact that we gave up 32 points … and they shot 68 percent from the field [was our concern].”
The Red and Blue know that their role players need to contribute with the little things — like Rob Belcore’s four offensive rebounds or Mike Howlett’s hustle — to have a chance at all. But the unpredictable nature of Penn’s outside-shooting offense makes it hard to say just exactly where their ceiling is.
So maybe, just maybe, the Quakers will be able to put together a complete game and receive hot-shooting performances from Rosen and Bernardini. Or maybe they won’t.
But unlike some of the other Ivy teams, you can’t say unequivocally whether they have a shot against Harvard or not, because you just don’t know.
You’ll just have to wait and see.
KEVIN ESTEVES is a senior communication major from The Bronx, N.Y. He is a former Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be contacted at dpsports@theDP.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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