After dropping one rivalry, Penn has the chance at redemption against a hometown foe.
Penn men’s basketball (7-6, 0-2 Ivy) dropped its first two Ivy League competitions of the season, both against Princeton (6-8, 2-0). Despite the importance of Ivy play, the team has an opportunity to gain momentum in another important set of games. The Quakers will take on Saint Joseph's (3-14) on Saturday at the Palestra in one of the team’s four Big 5 games.
“[Big 5 games] are different, and they are special,” coach Steve Donahue said. “It’s hard to tell people who aren’t from here why it is, but it’s such a historic, traditional rivalry that means not just a lot to your current players but past players, past fans, alumni, and it’s a game that attracts the Philadelphia sports fans too. It means a whole lot more than your typical game to everyone around here.”
“The types of fans that it brings out, the energy and the passion that we can really feel in the arena leading up games, it’s really unique,” senior forward AJ Brodeur said.
“Anytime you play someone that you’re familiar with, especially from the same city, you know with the tradition that goes along with the Big 5, it’s going to be a great environment,” senior guard Ryan Betley said. “It’s like a league game in a sense, but a little bit different.”
The last time St. Joe’s got the better of the Red and Blue was in the 2016-17 season, when the current senior class was in their rookie year of college. Since then, Penn has won twice in the past two years and will look to continue the trend in the upcoming weekend.
The Quakers will look to shut down junior guard Ryan Daly, junior forward Lorenzo Edwards, and freshman guard Cameron Brown of the Hawks. Meanwhile, a trio of senior talent consisting of Brodeur, Betley, and Devon Goodman will work to lead the Red and Blue to victory.
The Villanova game on Dec. 4 was the last time the Quakers played a Division I program before opening Ivy play against the Princeton. Now, Penn has two more non-Ivy League games to play before playing only Ivy League schools to the end of their season.
“These two games give you an opportunity to get back on track, figure out what’s working, how you can prepare for Harvard, the first game back [to Ivy play], and obviously get better than we’ve been playing in the first two Ivy League games,” Donahue said.
Wins against St. Joe’s and Temple (10-6) the following Saturday would boost Penn’s chances for a claim to the Big 5 title for the second year in a row. Villanova (13-3), Penn’s only loss to a Big 5 team so far, would have to be upset by Temple in order for both teams to go 3-1.
“It’s going to be a sold-out Palestra, it’s going to be really intense, and they understand how hard this game is going to be. I think that’s enough motivation, really,” Donahue said.
While Ivy League games might not be going in Penn’s favor so far, the Quakers have the opportunity to notch another crucial win in the Big 5 this weekend.