Last week, Penn basketball seemed to be getting back to its old winning ways: On Saturday, the team treated its fans to the Quakers’ first Big 5 win since 2012 after scraping their way to a 56-52 win over Saint Joseph’s.
In their next two match ups, the Red and Blue will try to do something else that they last achieved in 2012: beating Dartmouth and Harvard in the same weekend.
Rounding out a five-game home stand, Friday will feature the Big Green (8-8, 1-1 Ivy), while Saturday night will pit the Quakers (5-10, 0-1) against the four-time defending Ivy League champions in the Crimson (11-5, 1-1).
The last time Penn defeated the two northernmost squads in the Ancient Eight on consecutive days came in February 2012 on the road, part of the Quakers’ run at a conference championship that ended just one win shy of sharing the Ivy League title with Harvard.
Unlike the last time Penn swept these two teams in a weekend, this time the Quakers will have home court advantage. Though interest in the team has dwindled in recent years — in part due to low finishes in conference play in the last two seasons — the Red and Blue’s victory in front of a sold-out crowd against St. Joe’s bolsters hopes for another lively Penn contingent for the upcoming weekend’s games.
“Sold out crowd at the Palestra: There’s nothing like it, and we’re just glad that everyone came out to support us,” freshman guard Antonio Woods said. “We hope we get the same support for this upcoming weekend.”
Against the Hawks, the Quakers overcame committing 19 turnovers and converting just 57.1 percent of their free throws by holding the opposing squad to shooting just 33.9 percent from the field. Penn will likely need a similar defensive performance against Dartmouth and Harvard to secure victories — the Quakers are 4-0 when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points, but just 1-10 when they concede 60 points or more.
Fortunately for Penn, Dartmouth averages an Ivy League-worst 62.4 points per game. However, the Big Green played some of their best basketball of the season last weekend, coming from behind to beat Harvard on the road by erasing a 14-point Crimson lead in the second half with a 26-2 run.
Slowing the Dartmouth attack starts with containing Alex Mitola, a sharpshooting 5-foot-11 junior who leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game while shooting 41.0 percent from three-point range. Mitola racked up 25 points in a victory over the Quakers in Hanover last season, though he was held to just four points when Penn defeated the Big Green at the Palestra last year.
As Allen is quick to point out, Mitola’s play is also complemented by the Big Green’s other weapons.
“Alex is the head of the snake so to speak, but he does a pretty good job of just trusting his teammates,” Allen said. “They all play together. They all play hard.”
In addition to Mitola, Dartmouth’s arsenal includes 6-foot-7 junior Connor Boehm and 6-foot-9 senior Gabas Maldunas, who both average double figures in scoring.
The Big Green’s greatest advantage against the Quakers might be experience. Dartmouth has just one player averaging more than 10 minutes of playing time per game who is a sophomore or younger: freshman Miles Wright. Meanwhile, Penn has three freshmen and one sophomore playing at least 20 minutes per game, and for those freshmen, the weekend will represent their first time playing Ivy League games on consecutive days in their young careers.
Despite losing key seniors Kyle Casey, Brandyn Curry and Laurent Rivard to graduation after last season, Harvard has also reloaded with a veteran group that includes seniors Wesley Saunders, Steve Moundou-Missi and Kenyatta Smith and juniors Siyani Chambers and Agunwa Okolie in its regular starting lineup — a group tasked with winning an Ancient Eight title for the Crimson’s fifth consecutive season. However, Harvard’s loss at home to Dartmouth suggests that the conference championship could be up for grabs this season.
If the Quakers are lucky, their youthful squad can force their way into the Ivy race by capitalizing on home court advantage this weekend and sweeping the Big Green and Crimson for the first time in three years.Comments powered by Disqus
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