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2122012_MensBasketball_Dartmouth(Laura) Credit: Laura Francis , Laura Francis

Though many believe Saturday night’s vaunted rematch between Penn and Harvard could determine the fate of the Ivy League, men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen would say the Red and Blue’s most important game of the year comes a day earlier, against last-place Dartmouth.

“Right now I’m just worried about trying to get a one-game sweep,” Allen said. “Everyday I tell them that whenever I look at a calendar, Friday always comes before Saturday. I’ve never looked at a calendar where the reverse is true.”

With all the attention on top-ranked Harvard (23-3, 9-1 Ivy) and the media circus surrounding its newly-famous alumnus Jeremy Lin, many forget that Penn (15-11, 7-2) needed a last minute three-pointer from Zack Rosen to edge a Big Green (5-21, 1-9) squad that was winless in league play at the time.

“We just need to come out with a lot of energy, I think that’s where it all starts,” Penn guard Miles Cartwright said. “I guess you could say we were a little emotionally and physically drained [against Dartmouth] because of the night before, but now there’s really no excuse for that because we play them first. I think we need to come out and hit them with the first punch.”

Dartmouth is coming off its first Ivy League win of the season entering the matchup on Friday, and will be looking to climb out of the league cellar. They could play spoiler on Friday if Penn doesn’t put up a better showing than it did at the Palestra earlier this month.

“We need to work on playing the game consistently on the defensive end for 40 minutes,” Allen said. “It seems like every time we relax and think we’re out of the action we end up paying for it as a team.”

“We feel like we could always do better defensively, because that’s how you’re going to win the league — on back-to-back nights,” Cartwright echoed. “Shots might not always fall because of fatigue, but if we defend at a high rate we feel like we’ll be able to win any game.”

Ultimately, if the Quakers overcome Dartmouth, they will bring about the matchup everyone is waiting for when they take on the Crimson in Boston for a share of the Ivy League title.

The biggest task for the Red and Blue will be stopping Harvard’s twin towers at forward. Kyle Casey (15 points against Penn) and Keith Wright (13 rebounds) make up arguably the most effective frontcourt in the league, and both rank in the top 10 in the Ancient Eight in rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots.

In the last meeting, however, the Crimson freshmen stole the show. Steve Moundou-Missi and Corbin Miller scorched the Quakers, with Moundou-Missi grabbing eight rebounds and Miller tallying 17 points off the bench.

With a better performance down low and a shooting percentage more in line with the team average — Penn’s 32.1 field goal percentage against Harvard was far below its usual 44.5 percent scoring rate — the Quakers could pull off the road upset this weekend. Not that anyone on the team is talking about Saturday’s matchup.

“Right now its simply win or go home,” Cartwright said. “So Friday night is a championship game for us and that how we’re preparing.”

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