Four games into the 2014-15 season, it is time for Penn basketball to hit the road.
The Red and Blue will be active over Thanksgiving break, heading to Temple on Tuesday evening for their first Big 5 game of the year before traveling to Wagner on Saturday.
The Quakers (0-3) are coming off three consecutive losses on their homecourt, the last of which came against Lafayette on Saturday.
Against the Leopards, freshman forward Mike Auger stood out, putting up 18 points and nine rebounds to lead the squad. His tenacity on the offensive glass drew the praise of coach Jerome Allen and helped Penn stay in the game.
However, he left early with an injury and the team is unsure of his status moving forward.
“I would hope that he’s physically ready to go,” Allen said. “It is of the utmost importance that he spends as much time as he possibly can connected with the group on the floor.
“Hopefully he’s fine, but it hasn’t been determined yet.”
Regardless of Auger’s status, the team has been improved in crashing the offensive glass on the young season. Last year, Penn finished sixth in the Ancient Eight in offensive rebounds but has been tops in the Ancient Eight so far this season, averaging 5.7 more offensive boards per game.
“It is just coach placing an emphasis on it in practice, letting everyone know it’s what he wants,” senior captain Tony Hicks said. “Even in film, he’ll say, ‘You’re supposed to be crashing right now.’”
The Quakers’ ability to rebound will be a focal point against Temple (2-2) on Tuesday. The Owls have struggled shooting the ball (last in the American conference) but have been proficient on the boards, as coach Fran Dunphy has a team with a lot of height.
Due to proximity, Penn’s players have a lot of familiarity with the Owls and know each of their players well, which raises the stakes of Tuesday’s game.
“It means a lot,” Hicks said. “There’s definitely bragging rights that go into it. We know all the guys on the opposing teams. During the offseason, we hang out with them, play pickup with them. It definitely means a lot to have that edge over them.”
It won’t just be the players with some familiarity at the Liacouras Center, as Dunphy was Penn’s coach from 1989-2006, recruiting and coaching Allen along the way.
It will be the second straight former mentor that Allen will face after taking on former Penn assistant and current Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon on Saturday.
“I used to complain about how much film coach O’Hanlon made me watch and I ended up turning into him as a coach,” Allen said.
“I think everything’s documented how much time we spent together and what those guys mean to me but it is not necessarily about me. It’s not about Fran Dunphy ... I want to beat him as bad as he wants to beat me.”
After facing Temple, the Quakers will spend Thanksgiving break together. Last season, the Red and Blue volunteered at a homeless shelter before heading to Allen’s house. This year, the team will likely spend time with Jon Jon, a five-year-old cancer patient who Hicks described as “like our team mascot.”
The team doesn’t get a traditional Thanksgiving or winter break and instead spend the time as a collective group.
“We bond a lot during those times,” Hicks said. “There’s no one on campus besides us so we’re around each other all the time. It means a lot.”
Only time will tell whether that time together will pay off on the court.Comments powered by Disqus
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