Behind Enemy Lines – Cornell’s Dayna Smith

Dayna SmithPenn (7-8, 0-1 Ivy) will head to Cornell (10-6, 2-0) Saturday night as the Ivy League season kicks into full gear.  Cornell coach Dayna Smith has been with the team for 10 seasons and is already the winningest coach in program history. Prior to taking over for the Big Red, Smith spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Penn.  I spoke with Coach Smith about Cornell’s season so far and what the matchup with Penn will mean to both teams.

What led you to Cornell after three seasons with Penn?

Smith: I was able to work at Penn for three seasons under Kelly Greenberg and she did a fantastic job with the program and we were able to win a championship.  I was there for Penn’s first women’s basketball Ivy League championship.  It was just a tremendous experience as my first job in the Ivy League being able to work with the type of student-athlete.  We had a well-balanced team with some players that are probably still on the record-books.  It was my second stint as an assistant after I spent three years at my alma mater at Rhode Island.  Because of our success I was fortunate enough to be able to get the Cornell job.

What have you thought about your season so far?

Smith: We have a veteran team with nine seniors and juniors. You can just tell the experience and the amount of leadership we have is the big difference for us from last season. I’ve been very happy with where our team has been.  We had one big letdown against Bucknell.  That was a game where everything went wrong and everybody played poorly. You hope to have only one of those a year and hopefully we got that out of our system.

As of late, we’ve been playing good basketball.  We played a very scrappy, physical Columbia team in back-to-back weekends and were able to come out of that type of environment with a double-overtime victory on Saturday.  We were able to get two Ivy League wins right off the start and be able to win on the road.  That’s always tough in this league.  We’re excited for these back-to-back night games.  We have two forwards that are our leading scorers and our point guard leads the league in assists.

How does everyone match up in the Ivy League this year?

Smith: The league looks very tough. I think everyone has improved. Obviously, until someone knocks off Princeton, they’ll be the cream of the crop. In preparing this week for them, they just look good. They have talent in every position and they’re skilled in every position. They really don’t have a weakness and that just makes it very difficult to scheme and prepare. I’ve been most impressed with their defense. That’s going to be a challenge for anyone. When you look at the league, Penn is having a very good year. You can see their maturity in their players.  You can see them developing that experience and that familiarity with one another.

Obviously, Alyssa Baron is a fantastic offensive player and I think she’s starting to have pieces around her. If you can bring in a player of her caliber and surround them with people that can score or penetrate and be able to kick to her and be able to score inside for her. That’s when you’ll have success and you can definitely see Penn is starting to develop that. Harvard has a terrific team and Dartmouth was able to knock them off.  I think what you see in the league is anyone can beat anyone on any given night. That sounds cliché but it is something we preach and something we believe in.

How does Penn matchup with Cornell?

Smith: I don’t subscribe to the statistics of former years.  I think in any home Ivy League game you give the home team a few point advantage but we need to play solid basketball for 40 minutes.  Penn is very physical and scrappy and they like to have a lot of movement and motion on offense.  They try to play up-tempo and we like to play up-tempo so we’re going to have to play solid defense.  We’re going to have to understand where their shooters are and play perimeter penetration defense.  We need to keep our composure because Penn does like to get in your face and play physical. That’s something we’ve gotten used to from a lot of Ivy teams but from Penn in particular.

For us, we’re going to have to have a good game against Princeton on Friday and bounce back on Saturday regardless of the outcome and be ready to play a whole different game plan.  I think that’s a challenge for every Ivy team on that Saturday game.  We’re glad we won’t be on a bus driving here Friday night but I think that might be a slight advantage being at home.  Penn will be fresh and hopefully we’ll be ready for that game as well.  I think you’re looking at Alyssa Baron leading the way and we have to contain her by playing team defense.  We’re not a very good one-on-one defensive team, we like to play team defense and that’s going to have to be in effect in order to slow her down.

Over/Under: Temple Edition

Ten point loss for Penn: OVER

Temple (12-5) plays Penn (3-14) in its last matchup before traveling to No. 9 Butler. A trap game for the Owls as they keep their attention focused on playing a national powerhouse in just three days? The problem with this theory is that Temple has already played then-No. 2 Duke, then-No. 3 Syracuse and then-No. 6 Kansas. In the so-called “trap games” right before those matchups, Temple is 2-1. Although history suggests that if Temple hopes to beat Butler, then the Owls should drop this game against Penn. Their lone victory over a top-10 opponent this season came against Syracuse after losing to Canisius three days earlier.

Still, Temple is in the hunt for a Big 5 title with a 1-0 record at this point in the season. The wheels are falling off for a Penn team that will most likely be without leading scorer Fran Dougherty for the eighth straight game. Even an unfocused Temple team, Fran Dunphy, would secure a comfortable win over the reeling Quakers, who are 0-3 against Big 5 opponents this season.

Double-double for Darien Nelson-Henry: UNDER

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Game 17: St. Joseph’s – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Good Bad & Ugly

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOOD: Darien Nelson-Henry growing up.
The freshman has continued his trend of better production in the new year. Against St. Joe’s, the offense ran through the forward/center and it showed in that stats. DNH took more shots than any other Quaker, connecting on eight of his 12 attempts. His 17 points were a team high along with his seven rebounds. Darien also managed to stay out of foul trouble, a big accomplishment for the Red and Blue front court. Nelson-Henry committed just two fouls in 32 minutes of playing time.

THE BAD: Shooting behind lines.
From the free throw line, Penn was just 5-for-14 compared to 10-for-13 for St. Joe’s. The Hawks also shot 40.7 percent from behind the three point line compared to the dismal 19.0% percent the Quakers registered from distance. If Penn had been able to make five more free throws and three pointers, giving them percentages of 71.4 percent and 42.8 percent respectively, this game would have gone to overtime. Credit the Hawks' defense for the three-point shooting woes, but there is no excuse for the charity stripe to work against Penn.

THE UGLY: Searching for wins.
Penn has not been able to find back to back victories since Mar. 2 and Mar. 3 of 2012. Out of conference play, Penn has achieved that milestone just once since the beginning of 2012. An 18-11 Ivy League record has helped to mask the out of conference troubles lately. Penn needs to find wins in the Ivy League to help balance out the 3-14 record this season. Before the 13 remaining Ivy League games get under way, Penn must travel to Temple for one more tough non-conference matchup.

Over/Under – Princeton

OverUnderWin for Penn – UNDER

For the first time this season, Over/Under is debating not how many points the Quakers will lose by, but rather whether Penn can actually win this game. The beginning of the Ivy League schedule and matchups against common opponents for Penn and Princeton signal fresh hope for the Quakers. Against common opponents, Penn is 0-4. But Princeton hasn’t fared much better, going just 1-3. That lone victory came over Lafayette by a score of 72-53 on Nov. 24. Penn lost to Lafayette by two points its last time on the court.

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Turn Back the Clock: Jan. 10, 1979

The Quakers comeback take down an undefeated No. 15 Temple squad, 79-74
January 10, 1979

In front of a sold out Palestra crowd numbering 9,208, Penn improved to 2-0 in Big 5 play, including a win over La Salle.

The season continued to be a special one for the Quakers, ending in Penn’s first and only Final Four appearance.

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Over/Under – Butler Edition

OverUnder90 points for Butler – Over
Penn (2-9) has already allowed 80+ points in both games against Delaware, a team with a losing record at 5-8. Now facing a top-20 opponent and likely the toughest opponent on the schedule, expect the Quakers defense to break down yet again. No. 17 Butler (10-2) averages just under 75 points per game but has already reached the upper 80s in a couple of games so far this season. Top scorers Rotnei Clarke, Andrew Smith, Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall all average over 10 points per game. This offensive firepower will wear down the Quaker defense and allow the Bulldog bench to get in on the action as well.

30 point win for ButlerOver
Butler is 5-0 at home this season and has only lost 25 times at Hinkle Fieldhouse in the past 12 seasons. Penn is winless away from home this year with an 0-7 combined record in neutral and true road games. Penn comes in riding a four-game losing streak during which the average defeat has been 13 points. Butler, in contrast, has won its last seven by an average margin of victory of 15.4 points. But considering that Indiana, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt were three of those Butler victories, look for Butler to get over that 30-point cushion.

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Over/Under – Wagner Edition

OverUnderOur second Over/Under focuses on Penn's battle with Wagner. Who's over and who's under?

15 bench points for Penn – Over
Penn has had fewer that 15 points from its bench just three times this season. But Penn's 83-60 loss at Delaware marked the lowest total of the season with just nine. This was due to the fact that Penn lacked three starters and dressed just seven players. The key to bench contribution will be based on how many players are back in uniform. If all three of the suspended starters return, Jamal Lewis, Dau Jok, and Camryn Crocker can move back to the bench where they provide a combined 10.3 points per game. Freshman Tony Hicks, averaging another 5.1 points per contest, would be an important addition to the bench should he be allowed to return. Even if all the suspended players plus the injured Simeon Esprit are again unable to play, Penn needs more of a contribution from the reserves in order to compete and improve upon its average of 62.2 points per game, good for 285th nationally.

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Over/Under – Delaware Edition

Another new Buzz feature comes just in time for Penn's tilt with Delaware tonight. Just like the name says on the tin, we'll look at whether the Quakers and their opponents will go over or under a certain number. 

 

15-point win for the Blue HensUNDER

Since Delaware trumped Penn, 84-69, in the first round of this year’s NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament, both teams have taken a nosedive. Both teams have dropped seven of their last eight and are coming off of a double-digit loss to Villanova. But while UD is only averaging 2.7 points per game more than Penn, the Blue Hens' schedule has been much more daunting, including blowout losses to Pitt (which boasts the nation's seventh-ranked defense) and No. 2-ranked Duke. The key to keeping the game close for Penn will be limiting Devon Saddler’s production. The junior guard averages 20.5 points per game and has led the team in scoring in eight of the team’s 11 games. Expect Penn to use the 13-day break since the last game to figure out how to stop the Delaware offense and keep this game closer than the first meeting.

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