After Saturday's loss to St. Joseph's, the Quakers take to the road to face off against Big 5 rival Temple, led by former Penn head coach Fran Dunphy. Here are some predictions for the final non-conference match up for the Red and Blue this season.
Darien Nelson-Henry: Over the past five games, the freshman big man has averaged 13 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Nelson-Henry’s progression has been easy to notice, especially in the second half against St. Joseph’s, where the Quakers ran the offense through him in the post. Look for more of the same against Temple, especially since the only players above 6’9 for the Owls, Jimmy McDonnell and Devontae Watson, have combined for just 4.2 minutes per game.
Three point defense: Penn’s defense behind the three point arc on Saturday was well below par, giving up 11 three pointers and letting St. Joe’s take over the game. However, Temple is a very different Big 5 team, as they are 14th in the Atlantic 10 in three-point percentage, giving the Quakers a better chance of limiting long-range opportunities.
Tony Hicks: Hicks has looked like a completely new player in 2013. After being inconsistent at times in the first half of the season, Hicks is starting to tap into his potential, scoring 10.7 points per game in January. While the freshman usually comes off the bench for the Red and Blue, he uses his ability to drive to the basket to help provide a spark for the Quakers' offense. If he can continue to stay out of foul trouble as he has done in 2013, he will be a key part of Penn’s offense at Temple.
Penn’s starting guards: With the rise of Nelson-Henry, the Quakers have found an answer to some of their problems inside. However, the team continues to struggle in the backcourt. Their three starting guards— Steve Rennard, Miles Cartwright and Jamal Lewis— have been a large part of that problem, as demonstrated by their performance on Saturday, where they combined to go 6-20 from the field and 0-7 from three-point range. Facing off against Temple’s Khalif Wyatt won’t help, as the three will have to put in more energy defensively in order to contain the senior guard.
Fouling related issues: On Saturday, the Red and Blue limited themselves to just 15 fouls. However, they have been averaging over 20 fouls per game. If the foul issues flair up, not only does it hurt Penn’s depth, but also plays to Temple’s strengths, as they lead the Atlantic 10 in free throw shooting. Furthermore, after shooting just 35.8 percent from the free throw line against St. Joe’s, the Quakers need to improve. However, with more touches going to Darien Nelson Henry, who's just a 55 percent free throw shooter, Penn will struggle to rectify its foul-shooting issues.
Penn's ball handling: Last game, the Quakers seemed more in control on offense, as they limited themselves to just 10 turnovers. The team has dealt with ball-handling issues all season and Temple poses a large threat in this regard. The Owls are second in the Atlantic 10 in assist to turnover ratio and also force 8.4 steals per game. While it is unlikely that the Red and Blue will turn the ball over 26 times again as they did against NJIT, expect them to still have problems holding onto the rock against Temple.