It’s a big week for Penn basketball – both the men's and women's teams will face rival Princeton with much at stake. The men will travel to Jadwin Gym to avenge a bitter loss against the Tigers from less than a week ago. The women will begin Ivy League play on Saturday at the Palestra with an early lead in the conference standings at stake. As both games are expected to be close, hard-fought battles, here are the keys for Penn victories.
The men's offense cannot play like it did last week
The Quakers possess one of the Ivy League’s most powerful offenses. They lead the Ancient Eight in scoring offense, averaging 78.1 points per game. Furthermore, the Red and Blue rank second in field-goal percentage (46.1%) and three-point percentage (34.6%) – not to mention leading the League in three pointers per game (10.0) and assists per game (16.8).
On the other hand, the Tigers possess one of the statistically worst defenses in the Ivy League. Princeton ranks last in scoring defense, allowing 75.7 points to opposing teams. Additionally, the Tigers are last in the League in defensive field goal percentage, as opposing teams shoot 48.4% from the field and 36.7% from behind the arc.
However, none of this was seen in Penn’s 78-64 loss to Princeton last week, as the Quakers shot a season-low 36.6% from the field and went 3-of-23 from behind the arc. Moreover, after dishing out at least 20 assists in each of the last five games, the Red and Blue had just nine assists on this night. If Penn hopes to win, the offense needs to step up and play like it did before the holiday break.
The men need to contain Schweiger, Llewellyn, and Aririguzoh
In last week’s loss to the Tigers, the Quakers did not have an answer for junior guard Ryan Schwieger, sophomore guard Jaelin Llewellyn, and senior center Richmond Aririguzoh. Coach Mitch Henderson knew it, as all three players played for 35 minutes or more – the next highest mark for a Princeton player was 21 minutes. The trio accounted for more than 75% of the Tigers' scoring, with Schwieger leading the way with 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Llewellyn and Aririguzoh put up double-doubles and had 14 rebounds each on the night, accounting for 70% of the entire team’s rebounding.
While Penn may only have a middle-of-the-pack defense, the Quakers will need to find a way to keep Schweiger, Llewellyn, and Aririguzoh in check if they hope to win.
The women need to win the defensive battle
Two very strong defenses will take the court on Saturday. Penn and No. 25 Princeton are neck and neck in almost every defensive category. The Quakers are first in scoring defense, but the Tigers are a close second. Penn leads the Ivy League in opponent field-goal percentage, but Princeton is not far behind at third. The Tigers also lead the conference in turnover margin with the Red and Blue at second.
Defense will play a pivotal role in Saturday’s matchup. If the Quakers want to stay in the game, not only must their defense play at their usual level, but the offense must capitalize on the Tigers’ defensive miscues, which might not come very often.
The women must contain Carlie Littlefield
While senior guard Bella Alarie is the Tigers' most dominant force, Princeton's offense also runs through junior guard Carlie Littlefield. The 2019 first team All-Ivy selection is just behind Alarie with 15.6 points per game and sits top five in almost every offensive category in the Ivy League, along with leading the conference in steals per game.
It will nearly be impossible to stop Alarie, but if Penn’s backcourt can slow Littlefield down on Saturday, the Quakers could force Princeton to become more one-dimensional. Freshman guard Kayla Padilla, who is in the midst of a breakout season, will be key in trying to make that happen.