Keiera Ray and Alyssa Baron take home Big 5 honors

The accolades keep coming for Keiera Ray and Alyssa Baron.

Ray was announced as the third consecutive Penn player to receive Big 5 Rookie of the Year, while Baron took home first-team All-Big 5 honors for the third time.

Mike McLaughlin’s recruiting classes have produced for the Red and Blue recently, as Ray was following in the footsteps of Baron and sophomore forward Kara Bonenberger, who received the Rookie of the Year award the last two years.

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La Salle representing a few former Quakers in the Sweet 16

While Penn basketball’s season came to a close two weeks ago, there is one Big 5 team keeps on going.
                                                                                                                                                               La Salle, which won a share of the Big 5 Title this season, is still dancing, having won three games to make the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The Explorers' run began in Dayton as one of the final four teams into the tournament, where they defeated Boise State to get into the main field of 64.
                                                                                                                                                                               Next up was a trip to Kansas City, where the 13th-seeded Explorers pulled out two close victories over fourth-seeded Kansas State and 12th-seeded Ole Miss.
                                                                                                                                                               But this La Salle team has some firm connections with the Red and Blue other than simply playing in the Big 5.

Game 18: Temple — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Good Bad & Ugly
Penn was not able to close out the final Big 5 matchup in the way it had hoped in a 76-69 loss to Temple. The Quakers (3-15) jumped to an early lead, which got up to nine points in the second half at the Liacouras Center. But midway through the frame, the Owls went on a 27-12 run, allowing them to take the lead and clinch the victory.

THE GOOD: PLP. Sophomore guard Patrick Lucas-Perry was on fire for the Quakers Wednesday night. When he was on the court, he made himself noticed. Going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc during the first half in addition to netting three free-throws for 12 first-half points. For his 27 minutes on the night, he went 4-for-5, making another trey in the second. Temple coach Fran Dunphy was disappointed that the Owls had trouble containing Penn's "best jump shooter."

THE BAD: Coverage on Wyatt late in the second. Looking at Khalif Wyatt's five first-half points, you might wonder why Penn was unable to pull away with the win on such tight coverage of Temple's main man. But midway through the second, the senior forward exploded, and the Quakers couldn't answer as he notched 21 second-half points for a total of 26. After sinking a three-pointer five minutes into the frame, the Red and Blue just could not stop him, especially after he scored nine straight points for the Owls in less than two minutes midway through the half.

THE UGLY: 27-12 second-half Temple run. The Quakers just couldn't keep up with the Owls after the shift in Wyatt's game and a set of threes from graduate student guard T.J. DiLeo in addition to a ten-point second-half performance from sophomore forward Anthony Lee completely turned the tide of the game. The Red and Blue got up to a nine-point lead, but just started to run out of exhaust on the defensive end, as the Owls took the lead and ultimately the 'W'.

Behind Enemy Lines: Temple’s Fran Dunphy

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Alvin Loke | DP File Photo

The Quakers (3-14, 0-3 Big 5) will be taking on Temple (12-5, 1-0) Wednesday night in their final Big 5 contest of the season. Though this is Fran Dunphy’s seventh year as coach of Penn's Big 5 foe, this will be the first time he takes on former player Ira Bowman, who has latched onto fellow Dunphy alum Jerome Allen as an assistant coach. Both squads have faced a lot of a changes in the past year, but the Owls have continued to dominate. I spoke with Temple coach Fran Dunphy about this familiar matchup and what his plans are heading into this local game.

After your first year as coach of Penn, you lost your top three scorers and struggled the next year.  Do you think the situation faced by Coach Allen has any parallels to what you inherited when you took the Penn job in 1989?

Dunphy: I hadn’t given it a lot of thought, but as I go down Penn’s roster and I see the young guys that they have and the hope for the future that they have, I think Jerome and everybody at Penn should feel very encouraged. I think that they are on their way to building a terrific basketball program and I think the future is very bright.

After 7 years, do you still get any special feeling when you play Penn?

Dunphy: You can’t be somewhere for as long as I was — and in this case the University of Pennsylvania — and not feel a special affinity for the place and the program and everything that it is about. Of course, then you add to it a guy that played for me and who I learned so much from as a person and as a player, so that’s a very special feeling for me. And then of course now you have on staff Ira Bowman, who also played for me. They were two great guys to coach and they have become two great friends as well.

I have tremendous memories of my days at Penn. I was the luckiest guy in America then and I am just as lucky now to have an opportunity to coach another team in the city of Philadelphia, so I feel very fortunate.

We just saw a sold-out Big 5 game at the Palestra between St. Joe's and Penn. Though now some of the games have moved to campus sites, do you ever wish that the Big 5 went back to playing all of the games there?

Dunphy: Well that’s certainly how I grew up and how it was when I was a player at La Salle for three years as well.  All of the games were in the Palestra, so that’s what college basketball in Philadelphia was all about. Certainly the Palestra was college basketball’s arena. But now, times have changed, and we have all had to adapt to it. We have a very nice arena on campus. For us to go back to the Palestra to play all of our Big 5 games would be difficult for our university and athletic department at this point. Yet, I think the purist in all of us appreciates everything that went on back in the day. Would it be great to go back and do that again? Sure it would, maybe on a one year occasion or something like that if we could interrupt things. A number of years ago we tried to have all six teams play in the Palestra on a given day as a celebration of sorts, but there were too many other complications or things that got in the way to allow that to happen again.

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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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Three Up, Three Down: Temple Edition

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.

Three Up-

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.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Temple’s Tonya Cardoza

Courtesy of atlantic10.com

—Courtesy of atlantic10.com

Penn will play its final Big 5 opponent in its last non-conference game of the season against Temple on Wednesday. Penn (7-7, 0-1 Ivy) will be looking for its first win against Temple (7-10) since 2003. For this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I spoke with Owls' head coach Tonya Cardoza about notching her 100th win in less than five years and the youth of her 2012-2013 squad.

This season, you reached a landmark, you got your 100th win. What does that mean to you?

Cardoza: It means a lot. Obviously every game that you go into you want to win and the fact that I’ve been able to do it in four and a half years, it’s just a credit to the kids that I’ve coached and the staff that I’ve had surrounding me. It feels good to get that out of the way. The last month or so, knowing that we were so close, it was finally good to  get that one win. It means a lot because it’s a milestone a lot of people are not able to reach and the fact that I’ve been able to do it, like I said, in four and a half years I’m happy with that.

You’ve obviously had a very successful couple of seasons at Temple and I know this season is a little different. You have a very young team. It’s the second most inexperienced in Division I. How has that affected your level of play and goals for the season?

Cardoza: Obviously our goals have to change and as we came into the season our expectation was to still do the same things we’ve done in the past and we haven’t been able to do that. We haven’t reached the same level of success up to this point but everyday, we are young, and everyday we have to get better because we’re also building for the future. We haven’t had a lot of wins but everyday in practice we’re trying to get better with the hopes that it carries over down the stretch and that we’re able to make a run for it.

But it’s been something different, something that obviously none of us have been used to because we haven’t lost many games here so we’re not going to be accustomed to losing as well. We know that we are young, and we do have a lot of inexperience but sometimes it’s not about inexperience it’s just about what effort you give and I think there’s sometimes that we’ve lost games this year, not because we were young, just because we didn’t do little things.

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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.

The ones that got away for Penn basketball

When Penn takes on La Salle on Saturday, the Explorers’ senior center Garvin Hunt may give the Quakers at least a glimpse of what might have been for them.

That’s because Hunt was once a highly touted recruit of former Penn head coach Glen Miller’s. Hunt got attention from Miami, Florida and Harvard before choosing to play for Miller in Oct. 2007. But after appearing in just six games his freshman season, Hunt decided that academics were more important than athletics, leaving the program. He told CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman in September that he contented himself with playing pickup basketball three or four times a week against fellow student-athletes.

But Hunt decided to take advantage of the fifth-year graduate transfer rule after getting his degree in architecture in May 2012, joining the La Salle basketball program. Since then, Hunt has played just 18 total minutes in seven games for the Explorers.

Hunt may be a rarely used reserve for La Salle, but he’s a good excuse to think about just a couple of other players that left under Miller or openly because of Miller who are still playing college basketball.

Brian Fitzpatrick, Bucknell: Fitzpatrick played in 17 games off the bench as a freshman for Penn in 2009-10, averaging 9.2 minutes per game. But Fitzpatrick didn’t see room for himself on Penn’s roster and questioned Miller’s recruiting discretion, bolting for Bucknell in the summer of 2010.

Now a senior forward for the Bison, Fitzpatrick also played in all 35 games for Bucknell last year, when he averaged 11.8 minutes per contest. In 15 games this season, he has averaged 1.7 points and grabbed 1.1 rebounds per contest.

Kevin Panzer, Nevada: Panzer was one of Miller’s most heralded recruits for the class of 2014 beforehe decommitted four games into the 2009-10 season (and three games before Miller got canned). He would have provided a much needed offensive big man for the Quakers.  

Panzer played in all 32 games in 2010-11 as a freshman for Nevada, earning 10 starts within the first 13 games of the season and averaging 2.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per game.  He was Nevada’s leading scorer off the bench as a sophomore and as a junior this season, is now averaging 5.6 points per game.

So even 1117 days after Miller was fired by Penn, his recruits are still out there. So keep an eye peeled out for Garvin Hunt on Saturday.

Game 9: Villanova — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Palestra hosted its first Big 5 matchup of the 2012-13 campaign, a foul-filled and turnover-laden affair between Penn and Villanova. Despite shooting just 4-for-17 from the field in the first half, the Quakers stayed in the game behind 24 free throw attempts, including a perfect 8-for-8 performance from Miles Cartwright, in the opening frame. But Penn could not keep pace with Villanova in the second, as its shooting woes continued and turnovers piled up. The Wildcats extended their lead to double digits and shutdown Penn's attempts to get back in the game, as Villanova went on to win, 68-55.

THE GOOD: Steve Rennard puts up 12 points.
After scoring some crucial buckets toward the end of last season, the shooting guard had all but disappeared from the stat sheet this winter, averaging just 3.5 points per game through eight games. But Rennard looked more like himself tonight, knocking down two treys late in the game to go along with six free throws. Perhaps even more important than him scoring was that he didn't stop shooting even after his first couple shots rolled out. Penn will need him to stay confident and keep firing in order to make the Quakers a legitimate threat from three-point range.

THE BAD: Dougherty disappears.
Villanova came ready to guard Fran Dougherty and succeeded in stifling the junior forward. The Ivy League's leading scorer at 17.1 points per game finished with a measly two points on 1-for-3 shooting. Even in a game with 52 personal fouls between the teams (yes, we'll get to that), Doc shot no free throws whatsoever. After his seven-point performance against Penn State and tonight, it's become clear that opposing squads know that shutting down Doc is a key to beating Penn. And it would seem they're right.

THE UGLY: Hack-a-thon at the Palestra.
Villanova and Penn tallied a combined 52 personal fouls on the night, leading to 71 free throws. That said, the whopping number of fouls cannot be entirely attributed to the players, since the referees seemed determined to call virtually every bump, and love tap, as a foul. For a game between two Philadelphia basketball squads, the matchup had none of the grittiness or toughness expected from a Big 5 contest, primarily because anything smacking of toughness at all was called a foul.