After barely escaping the Palestra with a weekend sweep of Cornell and Columbia, the Quakers have positioned themselves for a huge weekend road trip against Dartmouth on Friday and first-place Harvard on Saturday. Here are some takeaways from former Sports Editor Kevin Esteves that will loom in the coming days:
No givens in the Ivy League.
Even though Penn dominated Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., back in January — holding the Big Red to just 37.5 percent shooting in a 64-52 win — it essentially meant nothing heading into Friday’s game. Cornell came ready to rock from the tip. Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry, who were held to just 12 combined points the last time around, dropped 14 and 17 points, respectively, to keep Cornell competitive.
On the flip side, most Penn fans may have thought if the Quakers could limit Columbia’s Brian Barbour (who burned Penn for 25 points last time), then the Red and Blue would cruise to victory. Well, Barbour was all but eliminated offensively, managing just six points, yet the Lions nearly stole a win at the Palestra in OT, with guys like Meiko Lyles shooting the lights out.
Different players step up at different times. In Penn’s last duel with Harvard, it was Crimson freshman Corbin Miller who did the damage. Even if the Quakers can zero in on him, the Red and Blue will have to be prepared for other potential Crimson shooters stepping up.
Miles with range.
In the win against Cornell, Penn guard Miles Cartwright was absolutely locked in and that corner three is becoming his patented shot. Cartwright nailed five of six treys from basically the same spot on the floor and he didn’t hesitate one bit.
When he has it going from the perimeter, he becomes such a special player because his outside touch complements his unique ability to penetrate and finish at the rim. If he can continue to shoot efficiently, defenders will have to chase him off the three-point line, and he’ll have the ability to pump fake his man and drive.
Missing Tyler Bernardini.
A downside for the Quakers is the uncertain health of senior Tyler Bernardini, the team’s best pure shooter who appeared to aggravate an already existing foot injury on Saturday. The team informed The Daily Pennsylvanian Monday that the injury was not season-ending and he remains day-to-day.
Still, without Bernardini in the lineup, the offensive flow just isn’t as crisp. Sure, Zack Rosen and Cartwright can hurt opposing teams offensively by creating plays off the dribble, but it’s not ideal to ride those two horses the whole way. Bernardini can score in bunches and quickly turn the tide of a game — an ability that will be sorely missed if he can’t contribute this weekend.
Rennard and Belcore’s defensive presence.
I don’t know if Penn basketball statman Stu Suss keeps track of things like this, but I’ll go on the record saying that Steve Rennard and Rob Belcore share the team lead in deflected passes — and whoever’s in third place is not even close.
The duo’s defensive effort is so refreshing to watch. They fly around disrupting passing lanes even if they know their efforts won’t necessarily result in a turnover. In fact, Belcore pressures every single inbounds play after a made Penn basket and has probably stolen the ball only a handful of times this season in the process.
But that’s not the point. Belcore lets the other team know he’s there — all game — and by being a defensive pest, he keeps the other team on edge. That, I assure you, does not show up in the box score.
Speaking of Rennard, the sophomore’s got the clutch gene. Basically every single one of his made three-pointers this season has come at an absolutely crucial time.
It’s eerie, almost. Case in point: in the last eight minutes of regulation Saturday, two of his three treys regained the lead for Penn, while the other helped swing the momentum back in Penn’s favor after a 9-2 Columbia run put the Lions up five.
Ever since he first got an opportunity this season in a 69-60 win over Delaware, he’s played a big hand in Penn’s success, especially in light of Bernardini’s injury. Although he played just 47 minutes total as a freshman, he’s played 58 minutes in his last two games alone and is going to be relied upon more and more to keep up his production on both sides of the court.Comments powered by Disqus
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