During finals, the Penn men’s basketball team will hit the books. But shortly thereafter, it will hit the road.
Over winter break, the Quakers will leave the confines of the Palestra for four consecutive road games and try to remedy a winless record in away contests.
“We have to have our own party on the road. We have to bring our own condiments, our own snacks, our own beverages,” coach Jerome Allen said. “And what I mean by that is that we have to take care of our house and not turn the ball over and play solid defense.”
According to Allen, both of those factors will be crucial for Penn while playing in unfamiliar venues, because even though the team possesses a high degree of control over turnover rate and defensive effort, it cannot as easily defend against a poor shooting performance.
In particular, the Quakers’ three-point shooting touch has been missing on the road, where they have converted just 25.3 percent of attempts from beyond the arc compared to 37.2 percent at home.
However, the break should offer plenty of opportunities for the Red and Blue to get in extra shooting practice and also develop team chemistry.
“Winter break is always good for team-building stuff,” junior guard Miles Cartwright said. “We’re the only people here, so we spend a lot of time together off the court.”
While on the court, Cartwright and the Quakers will look to “tighten up [their] offensive principles” in an effort to curb a turnover rate that ranks last in the Ivy League at 16.9 per game.
Following a 13-day stretch without competition, Penn will open the break Dec. 21 against Delaware, a squad that can relate to the Quakers’ slow start. The matchup will be a rematch of last month’s Penn-Delaware showdown at the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament, where the Blue Hens posted an 84-69 victory over Penn behind 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists from junior guard Devon Saddler.
Eight days after the Delaware contest, the Red and Blue will travel to Staten Island for a matchup with Wagner, who defeated them, 71-65, last year over the break. Despite finishing with a 25-6 record just a season ago, the Seahawks have floundered offensively to open this season’s campaign, averaging 18.4 turnovers per game and shooting just 24.7 percent from three-point range.
However, Wagner has the capability to play lockdown defense and can grind out low-scoring games, which gave the Seahawks a 48-42 overtime victory over Princeton on Nov. 28.
On Jan. 2, the Quakers will face one of their most formidable opponents of the season when they travel to Indianapolis and take on Butler. Thus far, the Bulldogs have already handed losses to premier programs such as UNC and Marquette. Senior guard Rotnei Clarke leads the offensive attack for Butler, putting up 17.3 points per game with a sizzling 45.0 three-point shooting percentage.
Penn will round out its road games for the break Jan. 5 at La Salle. After dropping a game to Central Connecticut State, the Explorers have run the table with four consecutive wins, including an overtime victory over Villanova. Their offensive attack focuses around potent three-point shooting, as they tally 8.3 treys per game.
In its final tune-up before Ivy League play, Penn will conclude the break against Lafayette at the Palestra. Though the Leopards lack the talent of the Quakers’ other opponents, they cannot be completely overlooked, having notched a 63-60 win over Delaware on Nov. 28.
With no classes on the Quakers’ plates and long stretches between games, practices will figure prominently into Penn’s preparation for league competition — perhaps even more so than games.
“We can definitely work on some things strategically because we have a lot more practice time,” Cartwright said. “I know we’re really looking forward to that.”
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