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Harvard's Harvey likes the last shot

(02/08/01 10:00am)

Patrick Harvey may be the smallest player on the Harvard men's basketball team, but he's no stranger to making the biggest shots. The 5'10" sophomore guard has been a regular hero for the Crimson this winter, winning not one but two games for Harvard in the final seconds of regulation. With 3.7 seconds left in the Crimson's Ivy opener against Dartmouth in December, there was Harvey -- stealing an inbounds pass and sinking two free throws, as Harvard stole a 79-78 win. And just last week, with no time left on the clock in the Crimson's final non-conference game of the winter, there was Harvey again -- sinking a 12-foot runner in the lane as Harvard downed Hartford, 80-78. Short in stature, maybe. Short on tricks, not at all. And that impresses at least one member of the Penn squad. "I think it takes poise and confidence in yourself in taking that final shot, because you have four other guys out there when you take that shot" Penn senior guard Lamar Plummer said. "Sometimes it's by chance that you're open and the shot comes to you. But I think it has a lot to do with poise and with confidence, and with being relaxed throughout the entire final moments of the game." Given the circuitous route that the Chicago, Ill., native has taken to his current level of stardom at Harvard, it may come as no surprise that he is poised and relaxed when it matters. After averaging 3.3 points per game during the 1998-99 season, Harvey sat out all of last year, and watched freshmen guard Elliot Prasse-Freeman work himself into the starting lineup. This fall, determined to make it back onto the court, Harvey rededicated himself to the game. As a result, he played his way into a starting job as the Crimson moved to a new three-guard offense. And the sophomore sparkplug hasn't looked back, scoring nine points in the season opener, and hitting for double-figures 13 times since then. Yet despite his scoring prowess and his frequent last-second heroics, Harvey remains a relative unknown outside of the Boston area. Even after watching film yesterday, it appeared that the Quakers hadn't realized the full threat that this shooter posed. "I'll probably end up guarding who's on fire," Plummer said. "And if we limit everybody, I'll probably end up guarding my man, the 5'10" kid." That "5'10" kid" might end up on fire, and might need someone in his face all evening -- as he has much of this season. Harvey averages a healthy 14.3 points per game, and is shooting 44 percent from three-point range -- the second-best rate in the Ivies. The sophomore is also a dead-eye from the free-throw line, leading the league by hitting 85.5 percent of his shots from the stripe. On top of this, Harvey is also a strong presence on defense, with 1.9 steals per evening. A hard-nosed ballplayer who often gives up several inches to his opposing counterpart, Harvey mirrors the scrappy nature of his Crimson squad. At times this winter, Harvey and his Crimson squad have looked quite impressive, ready to improve upon last season's third-place finish and challenge Penn and Princeton for Ivy supremacy. At other times, this Jekyll-and-Hyde squad looks like a program that has never won an Ivy title, suffering ignoble defeats to Georgia Tech and Navy by more than 30 points. But despite Harvard's disheartening 65-55 loss to Columbia last Saturday -- in which Harvey led the way with 14 points -- the Crimson can in no way be taken lightly. With Harvey watching from the sidelines a year ago, Harvard nearly toppled the Quakers, falling 62-61 when a Crimson shot bounced awry at the buzzer. A year later, and with a new shooter for opponents to be concerned with, there is a real possibility that Harvard could make tomorrow's clash an interesting one. To that end,'s Andy Katz has even listed this game as a "one to watch" for this weekend. Although Harvey is admittedly just a secondary option in the Crimson offensive scheme behind All-Ivy selection Dan Clemente, he nonetheless has proved he has the capability to come up big when it counts. It was Clemente who missed the shot at the buzzer last winter that would have defeated Penn; tomorrow, the chance might just present itself for Harvey to do his mentor one better and obtain a trifecta of game-winning shots on the season. But if Plummer -- who limited Yale's Chris Leanza to 3-for-14 shooting last Friday -- has anything to say with it, his counterpart on the Crimson won't be left with that opportunity. "Coach usually puts me on their best scorer if he's a guard," Plummer said "And the guys that I have to guard, I basically try to limit them. "And hopefully I'll play great defense on him, and he won't have a chance to score and hurt our team." Not even six feet tall, Harvey might not have much room left to grow in terms of height. Likewise, with each new winning bucket that he hits, Harvey has even less room to grow in terms of on-court heroics. Until next time, that is.

Guard ignoring the Copp-killers

(02/02/01 10:00am)

Charlie Copp might just be one of the least-liked people on Penn's campus. Standing barely six feet tall, and speaking with a quiet, unassuming nature, one would never guess that this very ordinary- looking 19-year-old could generate so much controversy among the student body in such little time. But Copp is no ordinary Penn freshman. Last year, he was a basketball star at Tulpehocken (Pa.) High School who averaged 26 points per game to earn second-team All-Pennsylvania honors. Now, he's a valuable college-level reserve who has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than four of the Quakers' starters. Copp, however, is probably more notorious for his mistakes than his successes. He is the player that most Red and Blue fans blame for a pair of last-second losses to La Salle and Seton Hall that occurred during Penn's eight-game losing streak -- the worst season-opening skid in team history. When the Quakers squandered the 59-51 lead they had held with just a minute remaining in their home-opener against La Salle on December 7, fingers immediately pointed at the freshman guard. While his two missed free throws and his unforced turnover were just a part of a cavalcade of Penn errors in an unfathomable final minute of play, Copp's mistakes stood out from the rest to the Penn faithful. Needless to say, in the first home game of his collegiate career, Copp did not make a favorable impression. "I was coming out of a high school where I was used to having the ball, so I don't know if my instincts took over, but I just kind of took it," Copp said. "I'm not afraid to try to make something happen at the end. I'm not the type of person to just watch other people do it. "I mean, I made a mistake, and at this point in my career, I should have let someone else handle the pressure. But I'm just kind of that way. I want to make something happen, even though this time it was the wrong thing." Unfortunately for the Quakers, the wrong thing happened again for Copp just a week later. On December 13, Penn was on the verge of upsetting then-No. 9 Seton Hall at the Meadowlands in front of a nationally televised audience, tied at 78 with 21.7 seconds left and the ball in Quakers' possession. Copp walked onto the floor as the third option in Penn's three-guard set, but the ball somehow found its way into his hands to begin the Red and Blue's final play. And again, Copp drove the lane in the closing seconds, again he turned it over, and again he was deemed solely responsible for a completely avoidable loss by the Quakers afterthe Pirates' Samuel Dalembert threw down the game-deciding alley-oop on the ensuing transition play. This harrowing sequence of events, in the early-season and in less than a seven-day span, could have scarred many a player -- especially a freshman on a squad struggling to find its first victory. But not Copp, who has had support to fall back upon. "Obviously he was feeling bad that we had lost those games, but I just let him know that he didn't lose any game, it's a whole team effort," Penn sophomore forward Koko Archibong said. "When the team loses, it's the whole team and not just one person who loses the game. "He understands that -- he's just a big-time player who wanted to make the play, and who wanted us to win." Copp's freshman mistakes and his somewhat overly-aggressive nature could very well have driven him into the coach's doghouse. But Penn coach Fran Dunphy has not lost confidence in his freshman point guard. "He was in a very difficult situation, and he's got to make the best possible decision he can make," Dunphy said. "He tried to win the game all on his own. He didn't trust in his teammates then, and I think now he's a little different basketball player. "It was early in his freshman year, and he's allowed to make mistakes. But now those mistakes should be over and done with and he should be ready to go." The diminutive freshman may only be firing at a 22-percent clip from the field, but Dunphy continues to look down his bench and call his number time and time again. For Copp, the vocal support of Dunphy, as well as the coach's unflagging insertion of him into the lineup, says a lot. "Coach Dunphy said some things to me after those games -- he just said that you have to be smarter, and he's right," Copp said. "You have to learn to know what you can do, and what you can't do -- that's basically what he said to me. "And I kept the confidence, because he kept playing me. And now I'm moving on, and trying not to make the same mistake." From Dunphy's vantage point at least, Copp is nowhere near a liability to the team, and instead is a valuable asset to a youthful Penn squad. "He's our third guard, and he's got to be out there making good decisions with the ball, being as solid as he can be," said Dunphy, who has seen his share of successful guards in 11 seasons at the helm of the Quakers. "Charlie is a tough kid who is getting better and is improving every day." * It's late this past Tuesday night, and Copp is doing something he's not used to doing -- sitting. Technically he's at work, manning the desk at a lower entrance to Weightman Hall, but actually he's catching up on reading for an anthropology class. Now this in itself wouldn't be interesting, except for the fact that he's sitting. Through 16 games this winter, sitting is one thing Copp has not been doing a whole lot of. One of seven Quakers to see action in every game this season, he is often the first man off the bench, and is often still on the court in the closing seconds. Statistically speaking, the 2.4 points that the Tulpehocken, Pa., native puts up in 12 minutes per contest are not overwhelming. Statistics, though, can be misleading. In this case, they don't begin to show the full impact that Copp has had in his brief tenure with the Quakers. He can probably hear the whispers from his doubters and critics when he's warming up before tipoff. And he can probably hear them every time he takes off his warmup jersey and approaches the scorer's table. But he's not letting the nay-sayers get to him. Copp has 1.2 assists for every turnover that he's committed. He knocked down 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute of a tight 82-74 win at Lafayette last month. He keeps getting a hand in the face of his man on defense, and he keeps putting his shoulder down as he drives the ball up the court. Copp appears to have circled the wagons and tightened up his play. "He's always been really relaxed," Archibong said. "It's like he's been here before and he's done this before. Nothing really bothers him, he's just a solid person." The sophomore forward should know -- in addition to being Copp's roommate, Archibong was also the recipient of two of the freshman's four assists in the win against the Leopards. Even with the odds stacked against him, Copp seems to be on his way up. And with sophomore swingman Duane King now sidelined with his second injury of this season, Copp's position as the Quakers' first baller off the bench has been further solidified. After an 0-8 start, Penn has won five of its last eight, and whether people realize it or not, Copp has played a role in each win. Now that the Red and Blue are entering the all-important Ivy stretch of the season, Copp seems ready to go. "Now we know we're expected to win every game, and then we also expect ourselves to win every game," Copp said. "I'm new to this so I don't really know the whole process, but I can tell from the way that everyone talks that we should expect to win." He was the man on his Tulpehocken High School team, and though he's taking on more of a supplemental role here at Penn, he's still in the thick of things -- on the court, at work, and anywhere else. And while you may occasionally find Copp sitting and reading at work as he was this past Tuesday, rest assured you won't find Copp sitting too much on the next two Tuesday nights. Instead, you'll find him standing, jumping, and running up and down the court, right in the middle of things -- playing his usual part as Penn contests two of the most important games of its year against Villanova and Princeton.

Lehigh guard set to see familiar face

(01/23/01 10:00am)

Lehigh shooting guard Matt Logie is proof that it really is a small world after all. How many basketball players travel more than 3,000 miles across the country to attend college and still see familiar faces at every turn? When Logie, a native of Mercer Island, Wash., steps onto the Palestra floor tomorrow night, he'll be across the court from a friend and former summer league teammate -- the Quakers' own representative from the Pacific Northwest, Andrew Coates. "I still keep in touch with Andrew," Logie said. "I saw him over the summer a bit and I played some ball with him." But running into random high school acquaintances in arenas across the Northeast is nothing new to Logie. In his brief college career, the sophomore has already faced off twice with another childhood friend, Harvard's starting point guard Elliot Prasse-Freeman. "It was a little odd to see him in the opposing uniform," Logie said. "[Elliot and I] grew up playing together in high school and summer teams, and we became good friends along the way. "But we both weren't playing as much last year, so this year was the first real time we faced off." The Lehigh guard scored 15 points against Prasse-Freeman's Crimson squad earlier this winter, but the Engineers still fell in a landslide, 73-52. Logie knows that tomorrow's contest against Coates' Quakers will be just as difficult. Last January, Logie struggled in 19 minutes of action, hitting just 2-of-6 shots from the field as Lehigh lost for the ninth straight time to the Red and Blue. "We have a very young team, and as long as we take it with a grain of salt, we should be alright," Logie said. "What we do have is a very well-balanced team. We have a lot of people who are capable of contributing, and even though I'm the leading scorer, it's not like I score an exorbitant amount of points." Still, as Lehigh's first offensive option, Logie has passed every test with flying colors. On an Engineers team that sees nine players average at least five points per game, the 13.4 points thrown down by Logie makes him a major threat. "We certainly have to pay attention to Logie," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "He's a good shooter and he's had a real nice first half of the season. He can make it from all over the court, not just from three-point range." The journalism major started 14 games last winter for Lehigh, averaging 8.2 points and shooting 41 percent from behind the arc. For his efforts, this outside threat was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team. And Logie's accuracy has not waned in his sophomore campaign, as he is shooting 39 percent from three-point range and an astounding 92 percent from the free-throw line. "I guess that would be the first thing that people would say about me, that I'm a sharpshooter," Logie said. "But I like to think that I'm a pretty heady player as well." Indeed, beyond his shooting ability, Logie is also a force on the defensive side of the ball and has recorded 13 steals on the season. Likely to be matched up on Logie will be Quakers shooting guard Lamar Plummer. Penn's outside threat has knocked down 51 trifectas of his own, compared to a not-so-shabby 46 for Logie. But don't expect Plummer to get in a shooting match with his younger counterpart. "I don't try to get caught up in those kind of things. I just try to go out there and play," Plummer said. "When we were scouting Lafayette, we saw some of Lehigh on film, so we know a little bit about him." Right now, it seems that people all across the country know a little bit about Logie. After all, his former high school teammates are now playing at Harvard, Lehigh, Stanford and Saint Louis. And when you have that much of Mercer Island spread to all corners of the country, you know it really must be a small world.

M. hoops reaches milestone

(01/22/01 10:00am)

Lamar Plummer and Ugonna Onyekwe combined for 42 points and formed a potent inside-outside attack as the Penn men's basketball team picked up an important win at Lafayette, 82-74, on Saturday afternoon. The Quakers (4-10) shot an impressive 51 percent from the field and an uncharacteristic 80 percent from the free-throw line en route to their fourth victory in the past six games. With the win, Penn becomes only the eighth team in NCAA history to reach 1,500 victories. "We feel very fortunate to have won the game. Last year was a great win for our team, and that really propelled us to a good latter part of the season," said Penn coach Fran Dunphy, referring to last season's 80-76 home victory. "And I would hope that might be what would happen for our team this year as well." After a dismal, 76-66 loss at Delaware on Wednesday, the Quakers desperately needed to regroup against a mediocre Lafayette (6-10) team. With strong showings across the board -- all eight Penn players who saw action scored at least four points -- depth was the key in the Quakers' victory. "We knew we needed a win and we needed to arrive as a team and to get some pieces together," Dunphy said. "And I thought we got some good efforts off the bench. Hopefully we're getting better as a team." Plummer started the day's scoring for the Red and Blue by hitting the first of his six three-pointers just a minute into the contest. Penn never trailed after that. The Quakers pushed their lead as high as 12 in the first half as the Leopards converted just three of their first 14 shots. Strong play on the boards denied Lafayette any second chances, and quick hands on defense -- including a steal at halfcourt and subsequent layup by sophomore guard Duane King -- kept the Leopards' offense shaky and off-balance. But behind the strong inside play of center Frank Barr and three trifectas from guard Tyson Whitfield -- including one four-point play -- the Leopards closed to 39-34 at the half. The past few meetings between these squads have come down to the wire, and when Lafayette cut the lead to just one point early in the second half, it appeared that this year's game would be no different. But following a timeout at the 15:47 mark, the Quakers used a 12-2 spurt -- with three-pointers by Plummer and point guard David Klatsky, a two-handed dunk by Onyekwe and four free throws by forward Koko Archibong -- to break out to a commanding 55-44 lead. "David Klatsky stepped up and made a big jumper in the corner to go from a one to a four- point lead," Dunphy said of his point guard, who had six points and four assists, but also a team-high four turnovers. "He got trapped a few times, and coughed the ball up, and that's something that he needs to certainly take care of. "But he stepped up and made a huge shot there, and we did weather the storm, and I was proud of our guys for that." On the other side of the ball, Lafayette didn't exactly help its own cause. With the Penn lead whittled down to a one five minutes into the second half, Leopards point guard Tim Bieg committed two of his five turnovers on consecutive possessions. "It's definitely frustrating to turn the ball over," Bieg said. "That's something that I look at myself, and I should know that I shouldn't be able to give guys the ball in certain spots if they're not looking for it." After Penn's mini-run, the Leopards never got closer than six points until the final minute. Barr led all scorers with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, and seemed to always have the ball in his hands -- and then in the net -- as the second half wore on. At times, it seemed that the 7'0" center was the only calm and collected member of a Lafayette offense that could not get going. But while Lafayette was getting inside baskets, the Quakers always seemed to be one-upping their opponents with both three-pointers from Plummer and King and three-point plays by Onyekwe. Penn converted 18-of-28 two-point shots -- a nice complement to Plummer's 6-for-12 showing from behind the arc. Using a zone defense, the Leopards simply could not deny the Quakers in the paint or on the perimeter. "Our whole emphasis is inside-out," Plummer said. "We start with the big guys and try to get it in there and see what they can do first. The ball movement and getting it inside was the key to our success in making shots outside." This win over a Lafayette team that had previously defeated Princeton, Yale, Cornell and Columbia may well be the Quakers best victory so far this winter. And with the main portion of the Ivy schedule quickly approaching, Penn may finally be realizing its full potential at just the right point in the season.

M. Hoops looks to right its ship

(01/19/01 10:00am)

After Wednesday night's debacle at Delaware, it was clear the Penn men's basketball team (3-9) had to try to shake things up. And a 6 a.m. practice yesterday morning might just have been what the team needed. "It was rough," Penn sophomore point guard David Klatsky said. "But I'm hoping this was what we needed, that this is the wake-up call." "I would say that the practice was a reaction to a subpar performance," Quakers coach Fran Dunphy said. "I wasn't going to sleep after the loss, and I don't know if the players were either." Heading north to Easton, Pa., to take on Lafayette (6-9) tomorrow afternoon, the Quakers are admittedly struggling. A pair of confidence-building blowout Ivy wins last weekend are but a distant memory for this up-and-down Penn team. Instead, all the Quakers can think about is a very discouraging 76-66 loss to a beatable Blue Hens squad. Even a traditionally sure win for the Quakers -- the Leopards have won just once in this annual series since 1991 -- is now in jeopardy, given the spotty play of Penn's lineup as of late. "I'm expecting a close game," Dunphy said. "I think Fran O'Hanlon always does a great job of preparing his team for us. They can play a lot of guys, and they can score." The last few contests in this series have been nail-biters, and last year's 80-76 last-minute victory for Penn was no exception. After the Quakers defeated the Leopards a year ago, the Red and Blue went on to win 18 of 19 games and reach the NCAA Tournament. In the midst of perhaps his toughest season ever, Dunphy knows the importance of righting his ship -- and doing it as soon as possible "Last year's win was, I think, a watershed game for us," Dunphy said. "I think that was a key game for us to finish the season strongly, and hopefully it'll be the same for us on Saturday." Neither team is approaching its level of play from a year ago, when Lafayette won 23 games, and Penn won 21. But the Leopards are 4-0 against the Ivy League this winter already, and if the Quakers want to pick up a 'W', their play will have to improve dramatically from their poor display on Wednesday. "The main focus is the little things," Klatsky said. "Getting to the loose balls and picking them up when we get one hand on them. And getting the lay-ups when we're fouled, so that we're going for three-point plays instead of free-throws, because we know we've been struggling from the line." Dunphy doesn't see major changes on the horizon, just better execution of the game plan that is set ahead of time. "I can't say we're shaking up the strategy," Dunphy said. "We're a vanilla-type group on offense, and if we take good shots and don't make mistakes, I think we'll be fine." The Quakers did neither on Wednesday, shooting just 40 percent from the field, with 14 turnovers. A major part of the team's woes came in the paint, where Penn's big guns -- forward Ugonna Onyekwe and center Geoff Owens -- struggled to establish themselves. "We have to get better balance inside," Dunphy said. "We seem to be getting the ball down there OK, but then we're not getting it in." If the Quakers can exploit the Leopards' deficiencies inside -- they are being outrebounded by six boards per game -- Penn may move one step closer to the elusive victory. On a positive note, Onyekwe scored 18 points and pulled down nine boards against Lafayette last season, and he seems primed to go off again this second time around. Owens, meanwhile, sat out of practice yesterday to allow his ailing feet time to recuperate; the senior only saw 15 minutes of action at Delaware. His play in the paint against 7'0" Leopards center Frank Barr -- 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 30 blocks -- could be a focal point in this game. "I'm going to need to get an advantage on him if we're going to win. I think it's a big matchup," said Owens, who played against Barr in several pickup games this summer. In addition to Barr, the Quakers will need to be concerned with Leopards point guard Tim Bieg, and sharpshooter Tyson Whitfield. The 6'4" Whitfield is the Leopards' leading scorer, netting 15.8 per night. A year ago versus Penn, the senior scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Dunphy stressed that he "can go off and score 30." The Quakers have only three non-conference games remaining before they hit the meat of their Ivy slate, which means that the time they have to get it on track is dwindling. "I think it's the confidence in each other that we really need to work on," Owens said. "We've done it for stretches, but we have to be stronger for the whole game if we want to win."

Tip-off time: M. Hoops opens with Wolfpack

(11/17/00 10:00am)

Over eight months ago, the Penn men's basketball team ended its season in the NCAA Tournament in North Carolina. Tonight, the Quakers return to the Tar Heel State to take part in the CoSida Classic. Penn faces host North Carolina State at 7 p.m. in first-round action, and either North Carolina-Charlotte or Fordham tomorrow evening. "I think it's a great challenge for us, and that's why we chose to be in the tournament -- that we would play two games against very, very good competition," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "Obviously N.C. State is very good, I know the challenge will be there." This will be the third consecutive year that Penn (21-8 last year) opens with a major-conference foe, and the Quakers are looking to reverse the results of the past two seasons. In 1998, Penn lost, 61-56, to No. 8 Kansas, and last fall, the Quakers fell, 67-50, to No. 17 Kentucky. Though the Wolfpack may be unranked heading into tonight's season-opener, this up-and-coming ACC team will be as much of a test as the Quakers' previous season-openers. N.C. State (20-14 in '99-00) has gone to the NIT the past four years and is looking to move up to the NCAAs come March. The first step on the road to that destination would be a victory over Penn tonight. "For us, we'll be on our home floor for the first time this season, so I expect we'll come out with a lot of enthusiasm," Wolfpack sophomore forward Damien Wilkens said. In an offseason rife with scandals in the college basketball world, Herb Sendek's squad was not immune to problems. N.C. State enters tonight's game without the services of its leading returning rebounder -- senior power forward Damon Thornton, who pulled down 7.6 boards per game last winter. Thornton was arrested on October 11, on charges of driving while impaired and hit-and-run for backing Wilkins' car into a parked car while his blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit. Thornton has since been convicted and suspended from playing by N.C. State through this semester. On the other side of the ball, Penn will also be missing key players -- only these losses were expected. In the first game of the post-Michael Jordan and post-Matt Langel era at Penn, all eyes will be on the performance of the Quakers' relatively unproven backcourt. Sophomore point guard David Klatsky saw considerable action in three-guard sets last season, but likely backcourt-mate senior Lamar Plummer is returning from a leave of absence that saw him miss the final 23 games of last season. Klatsky scored nine points and dished out eight assists in an exhibition win on Monday, and his ability to control the tempo of the game will be important tonight. "From what I understand about Penn, they seem to be a sleeper team. They've had success in the NCAA Tournament, and they've always had outstanding outside shooters," said Wilkins, who himself averaged 11 points last year. The focal point of Penn's offense, though, will no doubt lie in the paint. Ivy League Rookie of the Year Ugonna Onyekwe returns with high expectations for his sophomore campaign -- one of which is to improve upon his scoring average of 11.7 points per game. And on the other side of the box from Onyekwe will be fifth-year senior center Geoff Owens, a second team All-Ivy pick from a year ago. The 6'11" Owens will be the tallest player on the court tonight, which could allow Penn's defensive monster (54 blocks last fall) some room to maneuver. But if the Quakers are to make a game of this, Owens -- and 6'10" freshman Adam Chubb, who scored 19 in the exhibition win -- must find their success on the offensive end. "I know they're not quite as tall as us, but they're a little bit stronger. They're 6'8", 6'9" but a lot thicker," said Owens, who weighs in with a somewhat wiry 230 pounds on his 6'11" frame. "It's going to be a little different matchup for us because we don't have guys as thick as they can work with -- but we're going to use our height advantage." The Wolfpack are doubtless favorites on their home court, with three returning starters in the lineup. One question mark for the Wolfpack will be who will face off with Klatsky. Redshirt junior Archie Miller and sophomore Cliff Crawford are expected to split time at the point guard spot for a N.C. State team that graduated a four-year starter in that position in May. Neither point guard impressed last week when the Wolfpack defeated the California All-Stars, 120-87, though Wilkins hit for 22 points on eight-for-12 shooting from the field, including a perfect four-for-four from three-point range. But the shining star of this exhibition, whom Onyekwe and fellow Quakers sophomore forward Koko Archibong must contain, was 6'8" forward Kenny Inge. The senior averaged 10.3 points a year ago, but exploded for 26 on 10-for-11 shooting in the exhibition. "I think all of us are going to have to play a lot better than we did in the scrimmage," said Onyekwe, who himself sat out the 77-66 Penn win with a sprained ankle. "We didn't even get challenged that much. But we just need to work at a few things and just gel a bit better, and all that takes time. "But hopefully we can get it together." Tonight's game will be followed by the UNC-Charlotte-Fordham matchup. Tomorrow, the consolation game will start at 7 p.m., followed at around 9:20 by the championship contest. And if Penn plays its cards right, it might just find itself going for that CoSida title. "I would hope that we would be able to compete," Dunphy said. "That's our desire, although we know that we're going to be facing one of the best frontcourts that we're going to face all year long."

Penn newcomers pack plenty of punch

(11/16/00 10:00am)

Penn basketball freshmen Adam Chubb and Charlie Copp have a lot in common. They're both likely to crack Fran Dunphy's rotation in their first Penn season. They both have relatives in North Carolina who will be attendance for tonight's game at N.C. State. And come next July 5, both will turn 20. "I think we may have a little connection going on there," Chubb said. Well, there could be a connection -- if you overlook the gaping height difference between the 6'10" tower that is Chubb and the six-foot speedster that is Copp. * From a coaching perspective, recruiting by the "book" says that you should bring in three freshmen each year -- a big man, a guard and a swingman. And so, a year after going outside the lines and bringing in six freshmen, Penn followed the book with the class of 2004 -- with center Chubb, guard Copp and 6'6" shooter Jeff Schiffner joining the show this fall. Of the three, Chubb has received the most hype, and has the biggest footsteps in which to follow. Coming to Penn from the same prep school as Quakers forward Ugonna Onyekwe, the 1999-2000 Ivy Rookie of the Year, this freshman has a lot to live up to. And with a game-high 19 points and seven rebounds in an exhibition game Monday, Chubb showed that he might not disappoint anybody. "You can see so much potential in him, and potential becomes reality sometimes -- for example, Monday night," Penn center Geoff Owens said. "When he gets off his feet and you hit him on a fast break, he's up there putting the ball in the basket around his knees, throwing it down so easily." * Copp and Schiffner, on the other hand, have flown in slightly under the radar screen. With the graduation of All-Ivy backcourt stars Michael Jordan and Matt Langel, there is certainly playing time to be had at the guard position. But with four returnees to Penn's backcourt, the presence of two new guards on Penn's roster wasn't going to make a big splash. But each was an all-state honoree last year, both of them averaging over 25 points per game in their senior high school campaigns. In Monday's exhibition, both first-year men were impressive. Schiffner scored 12 points, second only to Chubb on the Quakers, and Copp dished out four assists. Their presence should be quite a luxury for Dunphy. "I think we all showed a lot of good signs. It was good to get the guys into a game-type situation," Schiffner said. "I think we learned a lot, and it's probably a good thing to catapult us into Friday night." * The trio of freshmen all have their own reasons for coming to Penn, the Palestra and Philadelphia. For Chubb, surprisingly, Onyekwe's move to Penn did not play as large of a role in his decision as might have been expected. "Ugonna's decision really didn't influence mine that much. But I did use him as a tool to figure out a lot more behind the scenes things when I came on the official visit," Chubb said. "And I asked him questions, compared to Mercersburg, so he was kind of an easy link, which did help." For Copp, who lives an hour away in Tulpehocken, Pa., location was a factor. Moving from a less-than-urban locale to Philadelphia might have presented a problem, but Copp has played in the Sonny Hill League the past four summers, and so he was familiar with the City of Brotherly Love. Ultimately, though, reputation may have decided it for Copp. "If you get the opportunity to play at Penn, you want to take it," Copp said. "You have to have competition to know that you can play, and that just makes it better. "But you can't have a bad day, because there's so many guys there ready to take your spot." * In this age of temptation and seemingly unending wrongdoing in college athletics, responsibility is a virtue held in high esteem by coaches. Dunphy, then, must be ecstatic with his freshman class. All three stressed their great focus on academics, and how they "don't really do anything" outside of basketball and school. Chubb, a Whartonite, made a freshman mistake with his classes -- he's taking five in his first semester at Penn, which has made his life a little more difficult. Copp, ever the frenetic little man on the court, even flew out of the Palestra seconds after the end of practice on Tuesday so he could get a headstart on a paper. But such actions are to be expected by the son of a minister. "He definitely keeps on top of his work and helps me stay in tune with what I need to do too, because you know I can get distracted by the video games," Penn sophomore forward and roommate Koko Archibong said. "He keeps me in check. I see him doing work, so I'm like, 'OK, now I have to do my work.'" But Copp could very well have a wild side. The Quakers fans in attendance at the exhibition game could sense it in his pair of somewhat unnecessary behind-the-back passes. And even Archibong senses the presence of a deep-rooted party animal. "Charlie's just a real chill cat," Archibong said. "He's one of those people who's not all out there doing all what-not, but he likes to have a good time as well." Also, Archibong has introduced his roommate to another integral part of the Penn basketball experience -- Fingers, Wings and Other Things. "Definitely introduced Charlie to FWOT -- if I didn't I'd be so wrong," Archibong said. "We've gone a couple of times so far this year." Proven winners. Despite the overuse that the phrase suffers, Dunphy at least hopes there is some truth behind it. Chubb -- a lanky, lean, leaping machine -- won the high school boys' high jump championship at the 1999 Penn Relays. Schiffner's high school team won a Group II North Jersey title, and advanced to the state semifinals -- in both basketball and baseball. For his efforts, Schiffner was named the New Jersey Nets Male Athlete of the Year. * How are the new guys dealing with other aspects of college life, like having roommates who might not be involved in such a time-intensive activity? For Chubb, that is not a worry.

Quakers player profiles

(11/16/00 10:00am)

Dump the ball inside. With the graduation of the starting backcourt and starting small forward from the 1999-2000 Penn men's basketball team, the returning anchors for the Quakers squad this season are in the paint. And getting the ball down low to senior center Geoff Owens and sophomore forward Ugonna Onyekwe may just be key to survival for the Red and Blue as they try for a third consecutive League title. * Center: A second team All-Ivy selection a year ago, Owens returns to the low post for Penn with an added offensive burden on his shoulders this winter. The 6'11" senior captain averaged 9.0 points last season, but his strength clearly lay in the 7.3 rebounds he pulled in and the 54 shots he rejected on the defensive end. Owens is now the Quakers' all-time leading shot-blocker, and should prove a menace to all opponents -- so long as he can remain injury-free and improve upon his 51 percent career average from the free-throw line. Backing up Owens at the five-spot will be fellow senior Josh Sanger. A 6'8" banger whose strength also lies more on defense than on offense, Sanger will likely see spot time for the third consecutive season. * Power Forward: Penn has a devastating weapon at the power forward spot in the 6'8" Onyekwe. Between leading the Quakers in scoring in the NCAA Tournament with 17 points against Illinois, and throwing down a 360-degree dunk at Princeton that still inspires talk, Onyekwe dominated the league a year ago. This year, the sophomore will be called upon to up the 11.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game he snared as a frosh. Onyekwe is joined in the frontcourt by another graduate of Mercersburg Prep -- Adam Chubb. The 6'10", supremely athletic freshman will likely come in off the bench and see action at both center and power forward. And after a game-high 19-point performance in an exhibition game on Monday, expectations are rising for Chubb before he even plays one minute of college ball. Battling back after a freshman campaign that never got off the ground when he injured his ankle, 6'8" sophomore Andrew Coates will also be a candidate for time in the paint. Whether Coates sees much action, though, depends largely on the ability of Owens and Onyekwe to stay out of foul trouble -- Penn's big men combined to foul out seven times last winter. * Small Forward: The likely starter at swingman for Penn is 6'8" sophomore Koko Archibong. The Pasadena, Calif., native started 12 games for the Quakers a year ago, but saw limited action after suffering a concussion against Drexel and the subsequent re-emergence of then-senior Frank Brown. With a year of experience under his belt, Archibong will look to ride his unorthodox shooting style to more than the 3.2 points per game he averaged as a freshman. Archibong also impressed in Penn's exhibition game last Monday, going for 11 points and two blocks. Others likely to vie for minutes at small forward include 6'7" junior and fan favorite Dan Solomito and little-used 6'8" senior Jon Tross. Limited action the past few seasons has not allowed the pair to fully demonstrate their court-savvy, but with a relative youngster starting at the three, anything can happen -- especially if injuries rear their ugly heads. * Shooting Guard: Heading into fall practice, this was the one true question mark for the Quakers. With no clear heir apparent to the long-range threat of Matt Langel at shooting guard -- unlike at small forward or at point guard -- it seemed likely that senior Lamar Plummer and sophomore Duane King would duel it out for the starting nod. But a preseason foot injury to the 6'5" King has sidelined him until at least December, and Plummer looks to have the inside track to be the Opening Day starter at the two for the Red and Blue. The 6'1" senior is coming off a leave of absence from school that caused him to miss the Quakers' last 23 games of the 1999-2000 campaign. Plummer's familiarity with Dunphy's offense and his MVP play this summer in the Sonny Hill League, though, should help to ease his reintroduction to the lineup. Plummer averaged 4.3 points per game in both his freshman and sophomore campaigns. During his sophomore season, he was hobbled by an eye injury that had effects on his game all year. Also in the running for some court time are 6'4" sophomore swingman Harold Bailey and 6'6" newcomer Jeff Schiffner. Depending on the recuperation time for King, and Plummer's readaption to the Penn offense, the playing time of this pair could vary. Schiffner showed his long-range ability in Monday's exhibition game, hitting a pair of second-half treys as part of his 12-point outburst. * Point Guard: Make no mistake about it -- this is David Klatsky's team for the next three years. Generously listed at 5'11", this diminutive sophomore is anything but small on the court. Klatsky saw a copious amount of playing time as a freshman, averaging 21 minutes per game off the bench as a ball-handling specialist. The sophomore's 52-to-33 assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman is a good sign, but the major question surrounding Klatsky is whether he can turn his 4.0 points per game into a more fearsome number. The sophomore racked up eight assists and nine points -- including a game-opening three-pointer -- in Monday's exhibition, which can only be taken as a good sign. Klatsky has shown definite signs of sure-shooting ability, but he hasn't yet been placed in a game situation where he's needed to produce. Expect Plummer and six-foot freshman Charlie Copp to see some minutes at this position as well, especially early in the season when the Quakers are trying to establish a rotation for when Ivy play comes around. Copp did distribute four assists on Monday night, though he averaged a shooting-guard-esque 26 points per game in high school -- meaning Klatsky may be the one true point guard on the Penn roster. * Coaches: Fran Dunphy returns this winter to patrol the sidelines of the Palestra for the 12th consecutive season. Owning a record of 194-105 at the helm of the Quakers, Dunphy is second only to Lon Jourdet in all-time victories for the Red and Blue. Former Penn assistant Steve Donahue left this past summer to assume the top spot at Ivy rival Cornell, but fellow assistant Gil Jackson returns for his 12th season by Dunphy's side. With Donahue's departure, volunteer assistant coach Dave Duke has been promoted to the other full-time assistant slot.

Rahne crucial at Cornell

(11/16/00 10:00am)

It must sound like a broken record by now for Penn fans, but the Quakers have to face another top-notch Ivy quarterback on Saturday. In a season when passing records across the Ivy League are falling faster than the prices at your local Wal-Mart, Cornell's signal-caller may well be the best that Penn's defense sees all year. The owner of virtually every single-season passing record at Cornell thanks to an awe-inspiring campaign last fall, Ricky Rahne is now looking toward another goal -- leading the Big Red to their first-ever outright Ivy League title. A year ago on Franklin Field, Rahne's 296-yard and two-touchdown passing effort left Penn on the losing end of a 20-12 decision, and left his image etched in the memory of the Quakers defense. But that game was for third place in the Ivies, not for the crown. Tomorrow, as a result of Rahne's hard work and determination -- as well as his 2,638 yards passing and 18 touchdowns -- the season finale is for all the marbles. And with this in mind, Penn knows who it must focus on if the visitors are to leave Ithaca, N.Y., victorious. "We very much are a mirror image of each other in that we both have very, very good quarterbacks," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Ricky Rahne has really been a good player for them. He's very elusive, and he's done a nice job." True to Bagnoli's words, Rahne has been elusive in a number of ways in this season of wackiness in the Ivies. Last Saturday, Rahne did his predictable bit in the pocket, with a 32-for-44 effort for 258 yards and two touchdowns. What was devastating, though, was Rahne's 35-yard run down the right sideline for a score late in the third quarter. You usually don't expect that kind of mobility from a 6'3" gunner with that strong of an arm, but you might if that quarterback turned out to be a three-year letterman in track in high school. Still, Rahne downplays the ground aspect of his game. "I just kind of got outside and ran," Rahne told the Cornell Daily Sun, describing last weekend's touchdown scamper. "They were probably expecting me to throw it once I got outside the pocket, because that's what I usually do. "I got kind of lucky I guess." Much like the Quakers, the Big Red have gotten to the brink of a title courtesy of squeakers, comebacks and luck. Four times this fall, Rahne has rallied his squad to victory after trailing with less than three minutes remaining. "Rahne must instill a lot of confidence in his team because in all five of Cornell's Ivy wins, they've been down in the fourth quarter," Bagnoli said. "He's made a lot of big plays for them -- and they have a lot of confidence that if they can keep it close, they have a good shot at a win." Rahne's Cornell squad beat Yale by one point. And Princeton by one point. And Harvard by one point -- after trailing 28-0. Last Saturday at Columbia, the Big Red decided not to make it so close -- and won by four. If Rahne has his way, though, his strong arm and quick feet will terrorize the Quakers defense, and ensure there is no need for such last-minute heroics. Penn, though, feels it may have an answer -- somewhat. "Obviously Rahne is the hardest type of quarterback to defend -- the kid that can throw and can scramble," Bagnoli said. "But statistically, they don't feature their running game, so how Ricky goes, they go." Although Rahne has rushed for three touchdowns this fall, the Big Red's ground attack leaves a lot to be desired. Cornell has rushed for a league-low 660 yards -- which accounts for only 20 percent of the Big Red's total offense. As a result of this, Cornell is something of a predictable offense, one that relies on Rahne to lead them to victory. The junior has been successful in this task so far, despite tossing 10 interceptions and being battered to the tune of 30 sacks in nine contests -- compared with just 16 sacks that Penn's Gavin Hoffman has suffered. The Quakers, meanwhile, have won three straight, defeating two other premier quarterbacks -- Brown's Eric Webber and Harvard's Neil Rose -- in that span. And Bagnoli, for one, feels his defense has been able to take something away from those games -- though he still realizes the danger that Rahne brings. "The thing he has is the exceptional amount of plays that he makes late in the game," Bagnoli said, expecting yet another tight contest. "It's really a game of the cardiac kids on both sides."

Football nearly costs itself victory, Ivy title

(11/13/00 10:00am)

In a super-close game between two very evenly matched teams, it's no surprise that the Penn football team was separated from Harvard by just one point on Saturday. But this Floridian final margin of victory should not have been nearly as close as it was. In a game of missed opportunities -- of which Harvard kicker Robbie Wright's missed 33-yard field goal was but the last -- it was the inability of Penn's offense to capitalize on five Crimson turnovers that nearly cost the home team a win and a shot at the Ivy title this Saturday. Despite forcing four second-half turnovers -- including an astounding three on Harvard's first three plays of the second half -- the Quakers could only net a solitary field goal from these gifts. The problem? Penn's high-octane offense seemed to sputter when given great field position after a Harvard turnover. "I don't know how to describe these games," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Both teams had tremendous opportunities -- we went three straight possessions in the second half forcing turnovers, and we only got three points out of it." In the first four minutes of the second half, Penn took possession at the Crimson 14, 38 and 28 -- thanks to an interception by Travis Belden and fumble recoveries by Dan Morris and Chris Pennington. On those three prime scoring opportunities, the Quakers did not find the end zone once. And in this crazy Ivy League that is the highest-scoring conference in Division I-AA, that kind of turnover-to-points ratio just isn't going to cut it. "We couldn't even capitalize on 50 percent of them," Bagnoli said in disbelief. "At that point, you say you know they're going to score some points because they're a good offensive team, so you know you have to do something." Perhaps Harvard's defense toughened whenever it was backed against the wall in its own end of the field. Perhaps it was a fluke that the Quakers completed only three-of-six passes for 15 yards, rushed two times for only six yards and suffered both a sack and an illegal procedure penalty on those three series to start the second frame. But whatever factors were at work, Penn was severely handicapped by the fact that it could not take advantage of all the opportunities that presented themselves. "We kept plugging away at it," Penn quarterback Gavin Hoffman said. "And they were a good defense. And you can't get too down just because they started making some plays." Granted, the Quakers did keep plugging away and came up with yet another last-drive winning touchdown, but in the process, they made the game far too interesting. This was never more evident than on Penn's second-to-last drive. Starting at the Harvard 30-yard line courtesy of a Fred Plaza interception, the Quakers went three-and-out. Three incompletions and an unforgivable delay-of-game penalty nearly tossed Penn out of the title hunt. "Obviously, I felt coming in that the turnover ratio would be the most important statistic," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "I thought our defense overall played extremely hard. Nothing came easy for the Penn offense. "And despite [the turnovers], we still put ourselves in position to win." And one of the ways that the Crimson put themselves in a position to win was by turning both Penn turnovers into points. In the first quarter, Harvard's Ben Butler picked off a Gavin Hoffman pass and ran it back 54 yards for a touchdown. And in the third quarter, following a Dante Balestracci interception, the Crimson found the end zone four plays later to go up 35-27. True enough, on their second scoring drive of the day, the Quakers did show that they could turn turnovers into points. After Plaza recovered a fumble at the Harvard 16-yard-line, Ben Zagorski caught a touchdown pass three plays later to tie the score at 14. But coming away without a single touchdown after four second-half turnovers -- the average starting position was 27 yards from the end zone -- is a problem the Quakers obviously want to rectify. "There were a couple of times where we had opportunities to make the really big play and to turn the ball over, but we didn't capitalize on that," said Penn cornerback Joey Alofaituli, who was second on the Quakers with six tackles. "It was too close." In the end, though, Penn did win. Penn's defense did force five turnovers, which is something any coach would be proud of. Hoffman did pass for 394 yards, and Penn's offense did hold the ball for a dominating 39 minutes. And the Quakers did not allow their inability to convert in the third quarter affect their performance with the game on the line. But on the other side of the equation, the Quakers must realize that when they head to Cornell on Saturday, they will need to capitalize on every chance they get, and not again make the mistake of letting post-turnover opportunities slip away.

Nine days until M. Hoops tipoff

(11/08/00 10:00am)

With just over a week remaining until the Penn men's basketball team kicks off the 2000-01 campaign at North Carolina State, the anticipation is beginning to heighten. And many Quakers fans do not realize that the Red and Blue's first on-court action is coming sooner than one might think. Penn will take on an Israeli national team next Monday at 7:30 p.m. just up 33rd Street at Drexel's John A. Daskalakis Center. This game will not take place at the Palestra because Penn's historic arena is still undergoing renovations. "This was an opportunity to play against a team from another country and to develop relationships with other countries that might involve some of our players in the present and also in the future," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. * Former Penn guard and 2000 Ivy Player of the Year Michael Jordan expected big things when he graduated last May. And when he signed with Besancon of the French first division last month, he looked to be on track for success. But Jordan was released after one week, and one game, from this French squad -- a victim of a rule in European basketball that limits each team to two foreign players. "I don't know if he fully knew then what he was getting into," said Quakers senior center Geoff Owens, Jordan's close friend and former roommate. "Everything was just happening so fast for him -- he was over there, and he was home, and it was kind of whirlwind there for a second. Obviously, I think he didn't feel like he got a fair chance." Released primarily because his French squad decided they would be better served by a foreign shooting guard than a foreign point guard, Jordan returned to the States and quickly found other work. Jordan has latched on with the California All-Stars -- a traveling team of former college stars that includes Temple's Mark Karcher. The roster changes frequently on this team, which has defeated Rutgers and Princeton in exhibition games. "They played Temple on Sunday and he didn't play in that game, but he's going to play against George Washington [tonight]," Owens said. "He's going to try to see if he can do the CBA or IBL." * Many of Penn's basketball recruits hail from the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic and are able to play in front of friends and family many times in their collegiate careers. For Quakers senior center Josh Sanger, who hails from Charlotte, N.C., it looked like he might never get that chance. But thanks to creative scheduling by Dunphy and the Penn Athletic Department, the Quakers will take on Davidson on November 29, and Sanger will be going home -- in his 88th college game. "Davidson is only about 40 minutes from my house, and it's just really nice to go back home and play against them," Sanger said. "Davidson recruited me, and it'll be nice to play against some people who played on my AAU team. "[Growing up], my team was UNC-Charlotte. But I did go to a Davidson camp, and one of my AAU coaches used to play for Davidson." Ironically, one of Penn's potential opponents in the season-opening CoSida classic is this same UNC-Charlotte squad. * One word that any coach loathes is "injury". But a positive sign during practice yesterday was the sight of shooting guard Duane King -- despite a large black "boot" on his right foot -- practicing his shooting form at one of the Palestra's side hoops. The timeline for the sophomore's return remains at five-to-seven weeks. * Yesterday's news that Penn was the unanimous selection to win the Ivy League in the annual media poll came as no surprise to the Quakers. "As we've said, that's our goal; we set out to win the Ivy League," Owens said. "When someone else backs us up, that's pretty good, but we're not really too concerned with what people think, because I think we all believe we can win the league."

O'Neill has career day in victory

(11/07/00 10:00am)

PRINCETON, N.J. -- He isn't the largest, fastest or flashiest wide receiver on the Penn football team. He doesn't lead the Quakers in scores, receptions or the number of double-teams he's faced. But it seems that whenever Penn needs a big play in a pinch, Doug O'Neill is there. The senior wide receiver put on a display in the first half of Saturday's 40-24 win at Princeton that is not soon to be matched by anyone wearing red and blue. In the first 30 minutes of action, O'Neill hauled in six passes for 135 yards -- a career high. While the Tigers were able to stifle Penn's rushing attack to the tune of 1.4 yards per carry in the first half, Princeton had no answer for O'Neill and the Quakers receivers. "Their wideouts were doing a good job of juking our guys, and we have to do a better job of tackling -- that's fundamental football," Princeton coach Roger Hughes said. On Penn's third drive, O'Neill caught a quick slant on the right hashmark and ran 40 yards untouched through the Tigers' defense, all the way down to the 16-yard line. Penn's second-longest pass play of the day set up Jason Feinberg's second field goal, which cut the Princeton lead to 7-6. But the importance of O'Neill was never more apparent than as the Quakers drove down the field trying to beat the clock at the end of the first half. Down 24-6, with 60 yards to go to reach the end zone and only 43 seconds to traverse that distance, Penn quarterback Gavin Hoffman looked to O'Neill. And to no one's surprise, the senior delivered. First came a seven-yard reception along the right sideline, and then came a 14-yard catch in nearly the identical spot. And then came the play of the year to this point -- O'Neill's 42-yard miracle touchdown catch with 0:00 showing on the clock. Scrambling from the pocket, Hoffman did his part of the Hail Mary by chucking the ball down toward the end zone -- and O'Neill did the rest. Reacting like a cat, the senior snapped the ball out of mid-air after Princeton linebacker Chris Roser-Jones tried to bat it down. O'Neill then used a quick dash to the right and a John Holahan block to find his way into the end zone for the improbable score. "I'm supposed to be a couple of yards behind where the ball is actually going to land. And if the ball gets tipped back to me, I'm just supposed to go up and get it," O'Neill said. "I thought I was going to be able to get around the outside to get to the end zone, because everyone was clustered around where the ball was originally tipped. But I saw an opening and just cut in there." And just like that, an 18-point deficit was cut to 24-13, and Penn's confidence was restored. "The last play before half certainly was a momentum changer," Hughes said. "That being said, the first thing I tried to get across to my players was that it's just one play. "But then they did a nice job of capitalizing on the momentum that they generated from that play." O'Neill then came back and caught the Quakers' first pass of the second half, as Penn blitzkrieged the Tigers to the tune of three touchdowns in under eight minutes. But this 13-yard reception across the middle also left O'Neill on the sidelines for the rest of the afternoon, and must have brought back memories of last season for the senior. An honorable mention All-Ivy pick in his sophomore campaign of 1998 with 42 receptions for 506 yards, O'Neill looked to lead the Quakers receiving corps last fall. But a knee injury kept O'Neill out of his entire junior campaign, and in his absence, Penn's offense found another go-to guy in junior Rob Milanese. Yet this fall, without the pressure of necessarily being the first option that Hoffman looks to, O'Neill has flourished. The Colts Neck, N.J., native has caught a pass in a Penn-record 27 consecutive games and is an ever-present force in the Quakers attack, as well as an ever-present thorn in opponent's sides. "We knew their offense could make some big plays," said Roser-Jones, who was burned by O'Neill more than once. "It seemed liked we would stop them for the first few plays of the series, and then we'd make a little mistake and they'd really capitalize on it." With that score, as well as his other three touchdowns this fall, O'Neill has shown he can help Penn take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. As one of the four captains of the 2000 Quakers, and as one of only a few seniors on Penn's offense, the team looks to O'Neill for leadership. And his performance on Saturday was nothing less than what Quakers coaches and fans have come to expect from the senior. Even after absorbing that vicious hit early in the third quarter that saw him hobble off the field, the fighter in O'Neill was still prepared to re-enter the game and do whatever was necessary for the victory. "I'm sore. I got hit in the ribs on one of those plays," O'Neill said. "[But if it was a closer game], I think I would have gone back in."

Northrop leads Tigers with boot

(11/02/00 10:00am)

Kickers are second-class citizens in the football world. Taken for granted and left alone on the sidelines, these true "foot"-ballers only gather attention during the brief moments when they step on the turf with the game on the line. The way he has been playing for the past two seasons, though, it appears that Princeton's Taylor Northrop has thrived under this pressure. The junior owns the longest field goal in school history -- a 52-yarder against Harvard a year ago -- and has knocked 21-of-29 kicks through the uprights for the Tigers. The Jupiter, Fla., native's penchant for kicking the long ball is no new feat, however. Northrop kicked a 55-yard field goal in high school, and won the Lou Groza Award as the top placekicker in Florida as a senior. But Northrop remains modest about his abilities. "When I go out onto the field, I never think of how long the kick is," Northrop said. "Regardless of how long it is, the distance never factors in -- I just focus on technique and on hitting it straight." For the most part, this approach has worked for Princeton's all-purpose kicker, who sees a rare triple-duty handling punts and kickoffs as well. His 37.9 yard-per-punt average is third in the Ivies, and Northrop has converted 16-of-17 extra points. But that one missed extra point came with 11 seconds left in last Saturday's 25-24 Tigers loss at Cornell, when the junior slipped on the slick field and sent it wide. "Obviously he was pretty down," Princeton coach Roger Hughes said. "But he's been very, very good kicking field goals and extra points. I was just shocked that his plant foot slipped out from under like it did." That loss effectively ended any hope of an Ivy title for the upstart Orange and Black. "That was one of the more tragic things if you're a kicker on the last play," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "You approach the ball and it's like something out of Charlie Brown, where the ball isn't there and you go flying." Regardless of that one play, Northrop has been invaluable to the squad from Old Nassau. In a season that has seen Princeton run through four quarterbacks, Northrop may just be the most consistent member of his team. Unlike the Quakers -- who utilize Roman Galas, Ryan Lazzeri and Jason Feinberg for kickoffs, punts and field goals, respectively -- the Tigers feature the all-Northrop show, all the time. For Feinberg, at least, that isn't a bad thing. "I personally like it better to handle all kicking duties, because the more I'm on the field, the better it is mentally for me," Feinberg said. "At the same time it can be a negative -- if you have a bad punt and have to go out and make a big field goal, you've got to get the punt out of your mind." That is the challenge for Northrop as he approaches this week's game. Will he dwell on the last-second mistake against Cornell? Or will the junior -- who hit a 47-yard field goal last year versus Penn -- shrug it off and dominate the kicking game? Judging by his past success, it will probably be the latter. "I was recruited to do everything, so doing all the kicking is not that big of a deal," Northrop said. * At first glance, Penn defensive back Kunle Williams must be salivating in anticipation of this Saturday's matchup. A year ago on Franklin Field, Williams was a defensive wizard, picking off two Tigers passes and returning both for touchdowns in a 41-13 Quakers victory. The second pick came with just 34 seconds remaining and saw the junior go the length of the field for an NCAA-record-tying 100-yard interception return. Yet Williams feels his past performance might not translate to an advantage or repeat showing. "It's a new year; they're a good team; and we need to come out and play like we know how to," Williams said. "We've let up a bit this year, but we're leaving that behind us and we're going to focus on each game one at a time." This fall, the Quakers only have five interceptions as a team, and they have been lit up for 697 yards in the air the last two weeks by Brown and Yale. Nonetheless, Williams is expecting a strong showing against Princeton. "They like to run the option, but the quarterbacks that they do have left are not really option players," Williams said. "But we're not counting that out of the game. We're basically preparing for everything, because you don't know what to expect -- especially in this crazy league." * Joe Phillips was named the Ivy League's Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance last Saturday that saw the freshman rack up 85 yards in punt returns, including a career-best 32-yard return in the final frame. And, yes, he plays for the Quakers. One of the more unheralded members of the 2000 Penn football team, the six-foot wideout took over punt return duties in the third week of the season and hasn't looked back since. "We started off seeing what he could do, and the next thing you know he grabs it and he's off and running with it," Bagnoli said. Phillips, a low man on the depth chart at receiver, is currently ninth in I-AA by averaging 15.8 yards per punt return. His skills have helped to set up the Quakers offense in good field position with regularity, and bring an added dimension to the Penn attack. Bagnoli, though, was quick to credit former returner and current blocker Fred Plaza for Phillips' success. "Freddy was very unselfish," Bagnoli said. "And he's one of the reasons why we've been able to return it, because he's dominated the kid outside."

Football breaks free from Lions

(10/17/00 9:00am)

Two long scoring drives to begin the third quarter turned a 23-19 nail-biter into an insurmountable 37-19 lead, as the Penn football team rallied from an early deficit to soundly defeat Columbia, 43-25, Saturday at Franklin Field. Quakers quarterback Gavin Hoffman passed for 235 yards and three touchdowns, and backup tailback Mike Verille -- who took over after Kris Ryan left with a sprained right knee in the first quarter -- rushed for 97 yards and scored twice to pace a balanced Penn attack. Colin Smith, Todd Okolovitch and Doug O'Neill also found their way into the end zone for Penn -- the latter two only minutes apart in the third quarter -- as the home team brushed aside the upstart Lions. Columbia (2-3, 0-2 Ivy League) struck first just 4:07 into the game on a one-yard Johnathan Reese plunge, but Penn (3-2, 2-0) responded three minutes later on a 32-yard strike down the middle from Hoffman to Smith. Both squads scored on their first two possessions, and neither team punted in an offensive-dominated first half. But thanks to a Fred Plaza interception and a Brian Drake fumble recovery that gave Penn excellent field position, the Quakers put together two quick second-quarter scoring drives and led at the break. "The first half was a game of the short field," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Whoever had the field position was going to score, and they had it off of kickoff returns, and we had it off of the turnovers." Penn came out of the locker room on fire after the half, and proceeded to turn a four-point contest into a blowout. Encountering minimal opposition, the Quakers ripped off a 76-yard, five-play scoring drive, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Okolovitch. "Coming out of the half like that was huge," Penn linebacker Dan Morris said. "The offense came right out and scored, and defensively we just had to shut the door, and we did that." O'Neill caught a two-yard play-action pass alone in the end zone on Penn's next possession, to finish off a 74-yard, 12-play drive, and the Quakers never were seriously threatened again. Hoffman went 8-for-8 in the quarter; the Quakers led the Lions 173-19 in total offense in the period; and Penn scored three times in the first 15:04 of the half to end any thoughts of an upset. "They just whipped us in the third quarter," Columbia coach Ray Tellier said. "We knew they were a good offensive team, and we still struggled to stop them. We just couldn't continue to generate offense, and they did." Reese rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions, to go with an impressive 61-yard kickoff return. But the junior had only eight of his 28 carries in the second half, as Columbia was forced to pass to get back into the game. "John is a heck of a player. People are geared to stop him, and he still gets his yards," Tellier said. "The key is to keep the game close, where he continually is a threat. And in the second half it got a little bit away." Lions quarterback Jeff McCall completed 14-of-31 passes for 123 yards, but only spread the wealth around to five receivers. In contrast, Hoffman connected with eight wideouts and had no interceptions. O'Neill hauled in a team-high six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. After a sub-par performance a week ago, Hoffman and the entire offense looked smooth and crisp in Saturday's win. "To have zero turnovers was really big," Hoffman said. "Coach has been stressing that all week, and we worked really hard in making good decisions." On the other side of the ball, the play of the Quakers defense in the second half -- holding the Lions to only 2-of-6 on third-down conversions -- was yet another step in the right direction. But despite the positives that Penn can take from its victory, at the same time the loss of Ryan looms ominously large. The Quakers star running back had an MRI on Sunday, and while he was gingerly walking around campus yesterday with the aid of crutches, Ryan is still a game-time decision for Yale. News and Notes With a 19-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, senior Jason Feinberg became Penn's all-time leading scorer among placekickers. With 174 career points, Feinberg is the Quakers fifth-leading all-time scorer, 36 points from the top spot... Hoffman is fourth on Penn's all-time passing yardage list, and needs only 226 yards to take over the top slot.

Football searching for more consistent play

(10/12/00 9:00am)

While the national anthem is being cued up and the referees are preparing for kickoff on Franklin Field at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, fans may be wondering which team will be showing up to play. True, the schedule has said for quite some time that this contest will pit Columbia (2-2, 0-1 Ivy) against Penn -- but the pressing question is which Quakers' squad will show up. Will it be the Penn (2-2, 1-0) team that demolished Dartmouth, 48-14, two weeks ago? Or the Quakers squad that meekly fell at Holy Cross, 34-17, a week ago? Even the Penn coaching staff is still wondering what the answer to that question might be. "It was very disappointing last week. I thought we had made some huge strides, and all of a sudden you go five hours away and play a clinker of a game," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Right now it leaves a lot more questions than answers. "But I fully expect our kids to play better. Hopefully we've done a better job in preparation." Saturday's game offers the Quakers the chance to get back on the winning track and to rectify problems that manifested themselves at Holy Cross, before Penn heads off to face Yale next week. But despite the Quakers' demonstrative 41-17 win over Columbia last October, and the fact that the Lions haven't had a winning record since 1996, no one in West Philadelphia is taking this game for granted. "We have to come to the game more mentally prepared; that's what we didn't do last week," said wide receiver Rob Milanese, who leads the Quakers with 33 receptions. "Columbia looks a lot better than last year, when we put a lot of points up on them." One focal point for Penn tomorrow is to work out the kinks in its potentially explosive passing attack. At Baker Field in Manhattan last October, Quakers quarterback Gavin Hoffman shredded the Lions to the tune of a Penn-record 399 yards passing. And prior to the meltdown at Holy Cross that saw the junior signal-caller throw three interceptions, Hoffman was averaging over 330 yards per contest this season. The Quakers have been reevaluating their defense -- and with good reason. After being stampeded by the Crusaders to the tune of 496 total yards and five touchdowns, Penn is eager to make a statement. "We've just got to get back to hitting people hard and wrapping up and making good tackles," said Penn sophomore linebacker Travis Belden, who leads the Quakers with 36 tackles and seven tackles for a loss. As evidenced by the 24-point Penn victory a year ago, Columbia is used to being hit hard. But thus far in 2000, the Lions have shown signs of reversing that trend. Columbia is seven points away from a perfect record, and a week ago the Lions mauled Lafayette, 47-22. Columbia junior tailback Johnathan Reese, with 201 yards on 30 carries, spearheaded a Lions attack that barreled its way to 306 rushing yards in that win. But Reese is quick to credit his entire offensive unit for his success. "[Quarterback] Jeff McCall has been efficient, so that takes the focus off the running game somewhat," Reese said. "I heard Penn has had some tough games, and I think there are weaknesses in the defense. "But I'm sure they'll come to play, so I don't think it'll be easy." Reese is second in the Ivies with 617 yards on the ground this fall, and is a major concern for a Penn defense that ranks fourth in the league at stopping the run. On the third play from scrimmage against the Quakers last year, Reese trotted 76 yards for a TD. "Obviously he's explosive, and he's one of the top backs in the Ivy League," Belden said. "Reese is definitely a formidable opponent, but his supporting cast isn't up to our supporting cast. And I think we'll be able to capitalize on that." Indeed, behind the arm of Hoffman and the sure hands of receivers Milanese, Doug O'Neill and others, the Quakers have gained an Ivy-leading 1,354 yards in the air. McCall has only passed for 640 yards, but the junior has thrown five fewer interceptions than the Red and Blue offense. The wild card in this matchup, then, may be the play of Penn's rushing game. "Our hope is to be able to run [running back Kris Ryan] and take some pressure off of our quarterback and get some semblance of a balanced attack," Bagnoli said. With Ivy heavyweights Yale, Cornell and Harvard remaining on the schedule, Penn's response to last week's loss will be a good indication of how far the Quakers will go this season.

Crusaders pick Football apart

(10/09/00 9:00am)

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The extravagant halftime show by the Holy Cross marching band yesterday on Fitton Field featured dangerous knife juggling and fiery baton tossing. Unlike the band, however, the Penn football team posed no danger and possessed no fire, as the Crusaders (4-1) stormed right over the listless Quakers, 34-17. One week removed from a 48-14 drubbing of Dartmouth, the Red and Blue (2-2) unexpectedly found themselves on the receiving end of a vicious pummeling. Penn trailed by as much as 34-3 in the third quarter, the Quakers defense allowed over seven yards per play from scrimmage and previously accurate signal-caller Gavin Hoffman was pulled in the third quarter after tossing his third interception of the game. "Honestly, it was never a contest, even if you look at the final score," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "They just physically beat us. We were just dominated. I don't know if we weren't just ready to play, or if we underestimated them. I'm as surprised as everybody else." Holy Cross streaked to the first of its five touchdowns just 64 seconds after the opening kickoff, as Crusaders quarterback Brian Hall scrambled untouched 30 yards into the end zone on a draw. After trading punts, the Quakers finally got on the scoreboard one play into the second quarter on a 23-yard Jason Feinberg field goal. This capped off a 14-play, six-minute drive, and made the score 7-3. This was the first of two long drives Penn put together in the first 30 minutes that penetrated inside the Crusaders' 10-yard-line. But a Holy Cross defense that stymied the Quakers with a plethora of blitzes and unexpected looks toughened inside the red zone both times. The Red and Blue could not find the end zone on either drive -- converting one of two field goals -- and could not capitalize while the game was still close. "They showed us a lot of different looks on defense. They just threw in a lot of coverages and a lot of different blitzes, and we adjusted a little too late I think," said Penn backup quarterback Mike Mitchell, who was 8-for-13 with a touchdown and an interception after replacing Hoffman. But after a relatively tame first frame, things really got out of hand in the second quarter, when Holy Cross barreled into the end zone three times. The sequence that broke the Quakers' back came in the waning moments of the first half when the Crusaders scored two quick touchdowns to head into the break ahead 27-3 and in total control. With 2:02 on the clock, Michael Gillis ran 12 yards around the right end for a score. And even more crushing, with 0:01 showing, wideout David Thompson hauled in a spectacular five-yard pass in the corner of the end zone. This fifth and final catch for the Crusaders speedster sounded a death knell for the Quakers. "Obviously, the score before the half helped our momentum and really took the wind out of their sails," Holy Cross coach Dan Allen said. "To win and to win the way we did, a lot of things have to go right. And they did for us." Not even the sidelining of Hall in the second quarter from a strained MCL could slow the Crusaders, as backup Erreick Stewart stepped in cold and didn't miss a beat. The Grambling transfer completed 6 of 11 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Stewart connected with David Kasouf on a 53-yard scoring bomb on Holy Cross' first possession of the third quarter, and the rout was on. "Their quarterbacks were both athletic guys who could pass it but weren't afraid to keep the ball and run it. And they hurt us -- we didn't stop them," said Penn linebacker Dan Morris about Hall and Stewart, who together ran for 82 yards and passed for 266. Hoffman was pulled midway through the third quarter after throwing his third interception, against no touchdowns. Rob Milanese led Penn with eight receptions, and captain Doug O'Neill pulled home six more passes, but the Quakers oft-pressured quarterbacks rarely connected with their receivers on the day. Led by Mitchell, Penn found the end zone two times in the final 17 minutes, making the final score somewhat respectable. Junior tailback Kris Ryan -- who rushed 18 times for 69 yards and is still recovering from a preseason ankle sprain -- scored on a one-yard run late in the third quarter, and Milanese hauled in an eight-yard pass from Mitchell with 8:14 left to end the scoring. This limited offensive success with the game out of reach aside, the Quakers did little more than mail in their effort yesterday. The option-oriented Crusaders attack burned the Penn secondary with four passes good for more than 40 yards. And the Quakers turned the ball over five times, including one amazing gaffe when a punt hit Penn blocker Vince Alexander on the helmet as the ball neared Quakers return man Fred Plaza.

Football listless in loss to Holy Cross

(10/07/00 9:00am)

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The halftime show by the Holy Cross marching band featured dangerous knife juggling and fiery baton tossing. Unlike the band, however, the Penn football team posed no danger and possessed no fire today on Fitton Field, as the Crusaders stormed all over the listless Quakers, 34-17. Holy Cross streaked to its first touchdown just 64 seconds into the game, as Crusaders quarterback Brian Hall scrambled 30 yards into the end zone to culminate an 80 yard, four-play drive. And things just got worse from there, as Holy Cross was able to convert almost every time it had possession, taking a 27-3 lead into the half. Unlike last Saturday, when Penn spotted Dartmouth an early lead, and answered immediately and frequently, the Quakers were never able to challenge the home team. Penn put together two long drives in the first half, each reaching inside the 10-yard-line of the Crusaders. But the Red and Blue could only come away with a 23 yard Jason Feinberg field goal to show for it. Gavin Hoffman was pulled midway through the third quarter after throwing his third interception of the game, against no touchdowns. While the junior quarterback was able to complete over half of his passes, Hoffman was clearly out of sync with his receiving corps. Rob Milanese led Penn with eight receptions, including an eight-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. The sequence that quite possibly broke the Quakers' back came over the final 2:02 of the first half, when the Crusaders scored two touchdowns to turn a 13-3 contest into a 27-3 laugher. With 0:01 remaining in the first half, Crusaders junior wideout David Thompson hauled in a spectacular five-yard pass in the corner of the end zone -- one of five passes for 112 yards that the speedster pulled down. Behind backup quarterback Mike Mitchell, Penn found the end zone two times in the final quarter-and-a-half of play, making the final score somewhat respectable. Junior running back Kris Ryan scored on a one-yard run with 5:05 left in the third quarter, but otherwise was used sparingly during the afternoon.

Big-play offense strikes once again

(10/02/00 9:00am)

It seemed all too appropriate that the scoreboard clock at Franklin Field read 9:11 when backup running back Todd Okolovitch broke into the end zone for the Penn football team's seventh touchdown on Saturday. But for a Dartmouth defense that could seemingly do nothing right all day long, the game had ended and the call for help had been extended a long, long time before this prophetic 911 appeared above the west end zone. When asked where his squad could go after this loss, Big Green coach John Lyons summed it up nicely. "The first thing we can do is get on the bus and get the hell out of here," Lyons said. Four minutes into the Quakers' 48-14 dismantling of Dartmouth, the Big Green found themselves on top, 7-0. But five minutes later -- courtesy of a Kris Ryan four-yard touchdown run and a pair of 35-yard strikes from quarterback Gavin Hoffman to Colin Smith and Rob Milanese -- the Quakers had responded with three quick touchdowns to go up 21-7. This quick turnaround was replete with the big-play offense that the Quakers have come to love through three games of the 2000 season. "I just think we got on little bit of a roll, and made some plays early, and got some momentum, and took advantage of some opportunities, and things kind of snowballed from there," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "I don't think anybody in their wildest imagination could have predicted this kind of score." Perhaps the Quakers thought the game was measured in how quickly they could find the end zone, because the home team didn't seem content to settle for lengthy drives. The first 15 minutes of Saturday's contest saw Penn's offense put together six plays good for 20 yards or more, including a 33-yard rush by Ryan and five long strikes from Hoffman to a variety of wide-open receivers. "I think we're really coming along in the passing game, and we're really learning the new offense," Milanese said. "We're getting a lot more comfortable, and we're finding hot reads on some of the plays." Hoffman's accuracy (25-for-30), the Quakers' receivers' sure hands and game-breaking ability, combined with the return of Ryan gives Penn an offensive attack sure to leave opponents crying out for help. "We came out and had a great first drive, and then they came out and went right down the field. They had a good plan against us and spread us out," Lyons said. "We tried everything. We blitzed, and everything we could do we did. Gavin ran the offense real well." The Red and Blue's quick-strike success -- four of seven scoring drives were six plays or less -- is a feature that any coach is sure to envy. And while the Quakers demonstrated sterling ball control on a 13-play, 88-yard drive in the fourth quarter, Penn's ability to pull off a 20- or 30-yard play seemingly at will is what makes it all the more dangerous. "It's not like we have only one or two guys that I go to," said Hoffman, who found Milanese three times, Smith twice, tight end Ben Zagorski and receiver Doug O'Neill on passes good for 20 yards or longer. "It seems like everyone is getting a piece of the action," Hoffman said. "That makes it really easy on me, that defenses aren't rolling coverages toward a single person. It makes it easy on me and more fun to distribute the ball." Granted, the Big Green have struggled against the pass this fall, but the Quakers are averaging 352 yards in the air -- and 465 total yards -- over the past three weeks. "I think it's a combination of the new offensive system with the plays, which make it easy to get open," Milanese said. "We're very deep at receiver, and we have to talent to go with it. "And I think we're confident that we're better than the other team, and we expect to win."