Three Up, Three Down: Princeton Edition

Three Up Three DownIt's rare for the Penn-Princeton matchup to have no Ivy title implications. That said, both teams still have pride on the line: the Quakers (9-21, 6-7 Ivy) are looking to salvage a disappointing season by improving to a .500 record in conference play, while the Tigers (16-11, 9-4) will try to bounce back after suffering defeats on the road against Yale and Brown that ended their Ancient Eight championship hopes. When the two teams meet for what ESPN calls one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball Tuesday night at the Palestra,  who will be up and who will be down for Penn basketball?

Three Up-

Tony Hicks: It's hard to be "up" much more than averaging 23.8 points per contest over his last four games, but Hicks to continue his great play against the Tigers. Last time the teams met, Hicks was the lone bright spot for Penn, putting up 16 points in the defeat. Princeton has no defender quick enough to keep up with Hicks, who has only gotten better since their last meeting. The rookie guard is much improved from the free throw line, as he has made 40-for-45 (.889) from the charity stripe since the last Penn-Princeton matchup. With his quickness and shooting prowess, Hicks will likely put up 16+ points against the Tigers Tuesday night.

Darien Nelson-Henry: Despite Princeton sporting a lineup full of trees (no starter for the Tigers stands under 6-5), Nelson-Henry outweighs all of his opposing starters by at least 40 pounds. Combine that with soft hands and developing skills in the post, and the freshman center is in for a good night while carrying the load inside for Penn.

Attendance: A down year for Penn basketball has left the student section at the Palestra relatively empty on many occasions this season. However, a significant uptick in student attendance can be expected against Princeton. If nothing else, students will attend to wear their "Puck Frinceton" shirts and shout epithets at their rival school.

Three Down-

Three-point shooting defense: T.J. Bray buried the Quakers in January by burying six three-pointers on his way to a 23-point performance. Overall, the Tigers knocked down 11 treys while shooting 50 percent from distance. With Ivy League Player of the Year candidate Ian Hummer attracting attention inside the three-point line, the Penn defense will be distracted and end up chasing the ball around the perimeter. The Tigers, who lead the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Ancient Eight in assists, will succeed in making the extra pass and finding the open man.

Miles Cartwright: The junior guard struggled to find the bottom of the net against the Tigers last time around, converting just 1-for-7 from the field, and there is no reason to believe anything has changed for him since then. Unlike Hicks, Cartwright does not have the craftiness and agility to create his own shot and slice his way through the Princeton zone defense, and his three-point shooting has rarely been reliable this season. All signs point to Cartwright shooting well below 50 percent once again, though he can give Penn a chance to win by distributing the ball  and limiting turnovers.

Turnovers: Over the last three games, Penn has averaged just 13.7 turnovers per contest — a significant improvement from the poor ball handling earlier in the season. Additionally, Princeton ranks second-to-last in steal among the Ivies, which should help the Quakers maintain possession of the ball.

Game 26: Columbia — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Good Bad & Ugly

BOX SCORE // FULL RECAP

Riding momentum from a 79-71 victory over Cornell the night before, Penn entered its matchup at Columbia with a head of steam, as the squad was looking to log its first Ivy weekend sweep of the year. But the Quakers' offense stalled against the Lions, and Penn walked away with its most disappointing loss of the season, a 58-41 defeat that ended not with a bang but a sad, lonely whimper. The Quakers, however, were not alone in their offensive struggles. Though Columbia picked up a win, the Lions had an abysmal performance from the field in the second half in a game in which each Ivy squad seemed determined to match the other's horrific shooting. With bad play all around, this edition of "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly" will in actuality be "The Ugly, the Ugly & the Marginally Less Ugly."

THE UGLY: Six field goals from both teams combined in the second half.

In the second frame, Penn and Columbia scored a total of six field goals — four on the Quakers' side and two for the Lions, while shooting 16.7 percent and 10 percent from the field, respectively. While one would like to attribute the low scoring to excellent defense, it was largely a result of poor shooting performances by virtually everyone on the floor. Neither team finished above 33.3 percent shooting overall, though Columbia did convert 22-26 free throws in the game, which led the Lions to victory.

THE UGLY: Three technical fouls on Penn's side.

Freshman Tony Hicks followed up his 29-point performance against Cornell with 19 points against the Lions. However, his play was tarnished by receiving two technical fouls and ultimately fouling out of the game with 3:33 left in the game. Hicks logged his first 'T' at the 7:42 mark in the second half. It was unclear just what the call resulted from, but it seems like Hicks said something to the refs they didn't like after calling a foul against the rookie. His second technical came a few minutes later with 3:33 remaining. Again, the reasons for the infraction were unclear, but it sent Hicks to the showers early as he also tallied his fifth personal foul. His ejection killed Penn’s momentum and extinguished any chance of the Quakers crawling back into the game. If that weren't enough, just a moment later, coach Jerome Allen was whistled for a technical after reacting to a missed travel call.

MARGINALLY LESS UGLY: Hicks dazzles again with 19 points.

Despite the technical fouls, Hicks was certainly the closest thing to a bright spot for Penn. After Columbia defenders swatted away a couple of his first drives to the rim, Hicks adjusted and began to effectively utilize a jump shot that has improved greatly over the course of the season. The rookie shot 8-for-15 from the field, accounting for more than half of Penn's 14 field goals. Clearly, however, it was far from enough to keep the Quakers in the game, even with the Lions converting just 2-20 from the field in the second half.

Liveblog: Penn vs. Columbia

Follow along as we bring you all of the action from Morningside Heights, as Penn (7-18, 4-4 Ivy) looks to defeat Columbia (10-13, 2-7) and log its first Ivy weekend sweep of the season.

Liveblog: Penn vs. Cornell

Join us for the action all the way from Ithaca, N.Y., as Penn takes on Cornell to to start off its Ivy League weekend on the road in the Empire State.

Game 20: Cornell — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Good Bad & UglyJust a night after securing its first conference win of the season, Penn took Cornell down to the wire at the Palestra before falling in anticlimactic fashion. With 2.7 seconds remaining, the Quakers were set to inbound the ball from the baseline, down 71-69. But they never got a chance at a last shot, as they suffered a five-second violation call just as Cameron Crocker inbounded to Darien Nelson-Henry underneath the basket, and the Big Red walked away with a 71-69 victory. With the loss, Penn sinks to 4-16 and 1-2 in Ivy League play.

THE GOOD: Three-point shooting gives Penn a chance to win.
Despite entering the game dead-last among the Ancient Eight in three-point field goal percentage, the Red and Blue lit Cornell up for 12 threes and shot exactly 50 percent from distance. It's become clear that giving minutes to Dau Jok and Patrick Lucas-Perry adds marksman accuracy to Penn's offense and complements Nelson-Henry's play inside. The two sophomore guards shot a combined 7-for-12 from the field, and Lucas-Perry led the Quakers in scoring with 14 points.

THE BAD: No inbound, no overtime.
The bad of this really starts before Penn even has a chance to inbound the ball. After Cornell scores with 10.5 seconds left to make the score 71-69, Cartwright drives the ball up the floor and takes the ball left, driving toward the basket. Just as he goes into the air for a leaning, left-handed layup, Jerome Allen calls timeout, leaving the Red and Blue just 2.7 seconds left. Why Allen didn't call timeout as soon as Cartwright crossed half-court is truly a mystery. Then, the play Allen draws up is fruitless, and Crocker fails to get the ball in. The Quakers' coaching staff needs to be better in the clutch for Penn to have a chance down the stretch.

THE UGLY: Fran the Man goes down again.
After missing eight games due to mononucleosis, Fran Dougherty went down with some sort of upper body injury in his second appearance since returning. He was later spotted wearing a sling with tape reaching from his upper arm to his wrist. No word on whether the junior forward will miss any time, but his absence would be a serious blow to Penn's chances to make a run in the Ivy League.

Liveblog: Penn vs. Cornell

Follow along as the Quakers take on the Big Red at the Palestra and try to string together consecutive wins for the first time of the season.

30 Seconds with … Fran Dougherty

In anticipation of Fran Dougherty's return to the Penn lineup after an eight-game absence due to mononucleosis, we bring you 30 seconds with the Franimal in a rapid-fire discussion of yachts, nicknames, hypothetical biopics and more.

Do you play a musical instrument?
Yes, I do.

What instrument?
Guitar.

You've been give a yacht. What will you name it?
The Voyager.

Favorite class you've taken at Penn?
Environmental case studies.

If you could win any award, what would it be?
Probably the Nobel Peace Prize.

Best nickname you've ever been given?
I'd have to say "Fat Fran" from Tyler Bernardini.

If a biographical film was made about your life, who would you want to play the role of you?
I'd want Jim Carrey.

Greg Louis vs. Austin Rivers

In my recent profile of Greg Louis, I included an anecdote from the Penn forward's high school days, when his squad took on Austin Rivers and Winter Park High School in the high-profile City of Palms tournament. Rivers, a Duke-bound combo guard and eventual No. 10 NBA Draft pick, erupted for 42 points, including five consecutive three-pointers.

Though it wasn't Dwyer's best game, it's worthwhile to watch the highlights to play the "Hey, I see Greg!" game. (He's wearing No. 23 for the Dwyer Panthers, who are in white). Additionally, the video gives a sense of the type of competition some of Penn's athletes faced in high school. And though the video doesn't show it, Louis poured in 19 points to go along with nine rebounds in the 76-64 loss.

Despite the defeat, Louis spoke very positively about the experience of playing against Rivers:

It was actually encouraging playing him because before the game there was so much hype around him, but playing against him you realized it wasn’t, I don't know, magic — it wasn’t impossible to stop him. We didn’t accomplish it, but it seemed like he had just worked really hard at his craft and he was good because he worked at it.

Dwyer went on to finish the season 33-2 and capture the Florida class 5A state title. Meanwhile, Winter Park won the class 6A state championship in the Sunshine State and concluded the year 28-6. Interestingly enough, Dwyer received a No. 7 national ranking from Max Preps, while Winter Park came in at No. 90, so perhaps the Panthers had the last laugh after all.

Q & A with Penn basketball commit Matt Howard

Though Penn commit Matt Howard can finish at the rim with an emphatic dunk, his offensive prowess truly lies in his well-developed mid-range game and disciplined decision-making, according to ESPN. Perhaps his high basketball I.Q. should come as no surprise for a player with multiple AP courses under his belt. With his combination of athleticism, scoring ability and basketball intelligence, Howard attracted offers from Stanford and Virginia Tech, but ultimately chose to become a Penn Quaker. A day after a 84-58 blowout of Chapin High School by Howard and his teammates, I caught up with him to talk his decision to commit to Penn, the challenges of juggling school and basketball and highlights from his senior season. 

What were you looking for in a school during your college search and the recruiting process?

I was always looking for a good balance between good academics and a good basketball program, and I found that Penn.

Why, among all of the schools that you looked at, did you choose Penn?

I had the best relationship with the coaches, and it was probably my best visit that I went on too.

Do you have any connections to Philadelphia that drew you to a city?

My great-aunt used to live there . . . I have a grandparent in New York, so I passed through Philly a lot on my way there.

From what I’ve read obviously you’re doing pretty well on the basketball court, but you also have to be doing really well in the classroom to be able to come to Penn. Is it a challenge to balance your commitments to academics and basketball?

Yeah, all the time because when I’m tired from basketball I have to study for a test or something like that, but I think I have a pretty good balance between the two.

What are some of your favorite honors courses that you’ve taken?

BC Calculus and AP Physics are probably my favorite courses right now.

To talk a little bit about basketball now, tell me a little bit about senior season with A.C. Flora this year. Have you been pleased with the way the year’s gone and how you’re playing?

Yeah, I’m pretty pleased with how I’m playing right now. I’d like to have a few more wins — I think we’re 12-8 or something like that. But so far, this is my best season by far.

What are you hoping to improve upon even further as you prepare to play at the college level?

Just staying aggressive, my three-pointing shooting and being aggressive on the defensive end.

I saw a clip of a game-winning shot you had against Hillcrest back at the Chick-fil-A Classic in December. I was wondering if you could take me through that play and what your thinking was, if you can remember it.

On that play, there was like seven seconds left, so once I got it out of bounds, I just thought to get it down the court as quick as I could and then once I got it down the court I thought I’d do a fadeaway because I know nobody could block that. And it went in.

See the shot for yourself:

Behind Enemy Lines: St. Joe’s assistant Mark Bass

After starting out 0-2 in Big 5 play, Penn (3-13, 0-1 Ivy) will take on St. Joe’s (9-6) at the Palestra on Saturday evening. For this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I caught up with Hawks’ assistant coach Mark Bass, a St. Joe’s alumnus and former player who competed against Jerome Allen and Penn during his playing days. During our conversation, we talked about coach Phil Martelli’s commitment to Big 5 tradition, the Hawks’ turnaround over the last three seasons and more.

Last year, this game was listed as a home game for Penn at the Palestra, but this year it’s listed as a home game for St. Joe’s, despite also being played at the Palestra. Do you get the sense that your team enjoys coming to the Palestra for these games?

I think coach Martelli — that’s a question for him to answer, because he likes playing at the Palestra. I think any opponent would love to play the game on their home floor … But I think in his point of view, Big 5 game, he thinks it should be played at the Palestra … But personally I would love this game on home field to give us all the advantages we can get.

In last year’s game between Penn and St. Joe’s, Zack Rosen, Tyler Bernardini and Rob Belcore combined for 52 points. How does their absence change your gameplan against Penn?

I think last year’s team with those three guys — they were seniors. They had senior leadership, and we were playing with sophomores and juniors.

And now, there’s this turn that we’re playing with juniors and seniors, and they’re playing with some underclassmen. So hopefully our upperclassmen can do the same things that their seniors did last year. Those three gentlemen dominated the game last year, and we didn’t have an answer for them.

What do you see about Jerome Allen as a player that is reflected in the teams he coaches?

His passion as a player and as a coach just boils over. You can see how much passion he has on the sidelines, and he played with that same passion. And of course it rubs off on his own players, and that’s what Jerome brought as a player and he’s bringing it as a coach — his passion for the game.

Just two seasons ago, St. Joe’s finished the year well below .500 at 11-22. What have been the keys to the program’s improvement since then?

I just think guys getting better — getting better in the offseason, working on their game, working on their body, just getting better.

And that’s basketball because now in a couple years you’re going to be saying the same thing about this young group of guys at Penn. They’re taking their bumps in the road right now …so next year they should be better. And that’s what happened with us. Two years ago, we won 11 games. Last year, we won 20.

So it’s about getting better, not getting down on yourself and getting better as an individual and as a team. I think if you look at our team and you look at the Penn team now, they were along similar lines. That’s what I see with our team, and I think this young core group of guys that Penn has are doing the same thing that we have. They’re going to get better just as we’ve gotten better and hopefully continue to get better.

Do you have any memorable moments from your playing days competing against Jerome Allen and Penn?

I just remember Jerome Allen and Matt Maloney — those two guys were a great backcourt — and just playing against those two and assistant coach Ira Bowman. It was just some good matchups and memorable moments playing in the Palestra against those guys.

I really can’t pick out a specific game or what-have-you. I just know matching up it was going to be a tough night for us guarding those three guys night in and night out.