Penn men's basketball may be the No. 4 seed in this year's Ivy League Tournament, but any opponent would be wary of the Quakers the way they've been playing lately. In Saturday's semifinal, the Red and Blue will face top-seeded Harvard, but the game is far from decided. Here are a few keys to success Penn will need if it wants to pull off the win.
Feed AJ Brodeur
Although the Quakers have lost to the Crimson twice this year, by scores of 75-68 on Feb. 16 and 59-53 just two weeks ago, none of the blame can be placed on Penn’s First-Team All-Ivy performer. The junior forward has been especially dominant against Harvard this year, amassing 47 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists in the two previous matchups.
Whether it's his classic hook shot, a mid-range jumper, or even the occasional three-pointer, Brodeur is deadly from anywhere on the court. For the Quakers to prove that the third time against Harvard is indeed the charm, they’ll need their star to shine once again.
Defend the Perimeter
Harvard is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference, knocking down triples at an impressive 37.3 percent clip. Against the Quakers, that percentage has skyrocketed to above 45 percent in both games.
To prevent an onslaught from the three-point line, Quaker junior guards Devon Goodman and Antonio Woods will have to key in on Harvard junior Bryce Aiken. Aiken, a First-Team All-Ivy performer in his own right, paces the Crimson with 21.8 points per-game, while shooting 41.7 percent from three on a 6.9 attempts per-game.
It wouldn't hurt if freshman guard Bryce Washington and senior guard Jake Silpe, who hit the most shots from beyond the arc after Goodman and Woods, also got hot from deep. The Quakers will need all the help they can to be as deadly from distance as possible.
Convert Free-Throw Attempts
With a team free-throw percentage of only 63.8, Penn ranks 337th out of the 351 teams in NCAA Division I basketball. Simply put, this number needs to improve for the Quakers to have a chance against the top-seeded Crimson.
Although Penn shot well from the stripe in the first loss to Harvard, the team converted only six of 13 tries in the second game, dooming the Red and Blue in a six-point loss. If Saturday's game becomes as close down the stretch as the first two Penn-Harvard contests, every point will make a difference, especially from the line.
With the added pressure of the Ivy League Tournament and a sure-to-be raucous crowd, free throws could become even more nerve-racking, but the Red and Blue must overcome these potential anxieties to defeat the Crimson if they want to eventually return to the NCAA Tournament.
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