The great Northeast tour continues.
The defending Ivy League champion Quakers (13-7, 1-3 Ivy) have gotten off to a rocky start in conference play, but with wins this weekend they could build up some significant momentum going into a four-game home stand.
“If we get a lot of our hard work done, if we can really buckle down this weekend and get some wins, then we’re in great shape,” coach Steve Donahue said.
The Ivy League schedule has some quirks that are unique among all other college basketball conferences. Once League play begins, each team plays back-to-back games every weekend, with both being either at home or on the road.
This can take some getting used to, especially for a team like Penn that has a good number of young players in the rotation. Junior forward AJ Brodeur stressed the importance of bringing the freshmen up to speed quickly.
“Throwing those young guys into the speed of a Division I basketball game two nights in a row every weekend for the next five or six weeks is going to be tough,” Brodeur said.
Five other Ancient Eight teams will be subjected to back-to-back road weekend trips later in the year, but the Red and Blue face that challenge right off the bat.
This makes the upcoming games against Brown (13-7, 1-3) and Yale (13-4, 3-1) all the more important, as the long road stretch could end up being the difference between making the Ivy Tournament and watching from home. Donahue, however, feels that his team is prepared to finish the trip strong.
“Let’s not get down because we’re on the road," Donahue said. "We know what’s coming. Let’s give it our all here and get wins on the road so we can come home and feel good.”
The Red and Blue realized after last weekend’s games that no Ivy opponent is going to hand them an easy win, and the Bears and Bulldogs will be no different. Brown represents the current trend in the Ivy League of a young but talented roster while Yale boasts a much more experienced group of primary contributors.
“[Experience] is definitely a huge advantage, especially in the current climate of the Ivy League,” Brodeur said. “It really is a young league with a lot of talent.”
Against Brown, the Red and Blue will be looking to shut down the dynamic sophomore duo of guard Desmond Cambridge and forward Tamenang Choh, who are the Bears’ top scorers from the outside and inside, respectively.
Yale has a much more spread out offensive attack, with five players averaging double-digit scoring. Each of the top four scorers for the Elis, however, are upperclassmen, so they have the advantage of experience.
The Red and Blue did struggle to an extent in road games against these teams last season, losing by a point to Yale and taking a close win against Brown in a high-scoring affair. Regardless of the arena, however, Donahue knows that every Ivy League game is, in essence, the same.
“No matter what, these games are all going to be difficult, home or away,” he said.
Even though the Quakers know these games will be a grind, they are determined to set out on the path back to the top of the standings, and it all starts with what could be a major turning point in their season.
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