The final stretch begins now for Penn men’s basketball, as the Quakers prepare to journey north and take on Harvard and Dartmouth in the longest road trip of the year. The weekend will mark the first time the Quakers will repeat a set of matchups against Ivy opponents.
Last time the Quakers (13-8, 5-3 Ivy) took the court against the two teams, they did so on their home floor, sweeping the weekend and bouncing back from the team’s slow start to Ivy play.
“I think you just have a to have a short memory in this league,” coach Steve Donahue said. “It's important to not get too high or too low.”
If the Quakers are going to find success this weekend, they are going to need a strong performance from one of their stars, freshman guard Jordan Dingle. Second on the team in scoring with 14 points per game, the freshman shot just 7-of-26 from the floor and 4-of-19 from three last weekend, knocking his field goal percentage below 40% for the first time all season.
“He’s a young player. He probably missed some shots that he usually makes, but he also probably took some shots that he shouldn’t be taking. I think that’s part of the learning process for him,” Donahue said. “He’s probably the one guy on our team who can really go get a bucket, and at times we ask him to do that.”
Dingle will be even more important to the Quakers this weekend as the team is once again set to be without senior Ryan Betley, who is expected to miss the two games with an ankle injury.
Even when the Quakers' most reliable players are missing games or not playing their best, they have found ways to succeed, as it seems like every weekend a different role player finds his way into the spotlight.
After strong weekends from senior guard Ray Jerome and freshman forward Max Martz, the Quakers got a huge boost from junior Eddie Scott last weekend. Scott, who started for much of the season before Ivy play, contributed 18 points off the bench in the win over Yale.
“Since our injuries have crushed us at times, we've been forced to go deep throughout the season,” Donahue said. “I think I’ve got guys on this team that really buy in to helping us win with that next man-up type of mentality, and that’s how it's going to have to be.”
Looking ahead to the weekend, Penn first draws a matchup versus Dartmouth (9-14, 2-6) on Friday night. When the Quakers first met the Big Green two weeks ago, Dartmouth was dead last in the Ivy League. But after a weekend sweep of Cornell and Columbia, the team's first sweep in five years, the Big Green seem to be back on track.
“They played five of their first six on the road,” Donahue said. “I think what you're seeing is a team that’s home and starting to feel more comfortable.”
Dartmouth is led by a daunting frontcourt anchored by juniors Chris Knight and Aaryn Rai, so making sure senior forward AJ Brodeur and the rest of the team are able to control the paint will be key to a victory.
“They always play hard,” Brodeur said. “We are ready for a fistfight, we just need to come out and throw the first punch and ride that wave for the full 40 minutes.”
After Dartmouth, the Quakers will face the Crimson (16-7, 5-3) on Saturday night in a game that very well might mark the end of an era. Over the past two seasons, Penn and Harvard have battled in a number of crucial matchups at the top of the Ivy League, with the Red and Blue winning the 2018 Ivy League Tournament final before falling to the Crimson in the semifinals last year. If the teams do not meet in Ivy Madness this year, this will be the final time these two highly successful senior classes square off.
“[The rivalry] has meant a lot. Every time we’ve played them and every time we’ve beaten them, it's been by less than 10 points,” Brodeur said. “In my career, we’ve never won at Harvard, so hopefully we can change that.”
Especially prominent will be the matchup between Harvard senior Chris Lewis and Brodeur, who have started against one another in nearly every contest between the two teams the last four years.
“I love competing against him,” Brodeur said. “It's special going against that type of player because of how skilled he is [and] how physical he is. He’s a lot bigger and stronger than a lot of other Ivy League bigs.”
If the Quakers are able to slow down Lewis, it will go a long way towards helping improve their chances of an Ivy Tournament berth, as they go into the weekend tied with Harvard and Brown for third place.
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