Mano-a-Mano: An Empire State of Mind for Penn

ManoAMano11-1In this week’s Mano-a-Mano, Associate Sports Editor John Phillips and Senior Sports Editor Mike Tony debate whether we can expect Penn to sweep this upcoming Ivy weekend against Columbia and Cornell.

John Phillips: I think the odds are in Penn’s favor, with Cornell being the bigger question mark of the two games.

This is a young squad, and the mistakes down the stretch that they made against Cornell the first time around — like not even being able to inbound the ball with the game on the line — won’t happen again Friday night. Penn knows that it can hang tough with the Big Red, and that confidence goes a long way in determining which version of the Quakers appear on a nightly basis.

Cornell is playing well right now, but there is the revenge factor that can’t be overlooked. Penn let one slip out of their grasps at the Palestra a few weeks ago, and now the Quakers have a chance to make up for it.

Mike Tony: The odds can’t be in favor of a team with this lack of experience in Ivy roadtripping. The Quakers never got things going against Harvard and needed 20 minutes to wake up at Dartmouth, scoring just 18 points in the first half at Leede Arena.
The Big Red gave Harvard everything it could handle a couple of weeks back with an efficient frontcourt. Will Cam Gunter and Henry Brooks be as efficient against Errick Peck and Shonn Miller?

If Penn couldn’t handle Cornell at home with the momentum of upsetting Columbia at the Palestra on its side, why should we believe it can pull off a sweep of both teams now?

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Over/Under – Dartmouth Edition

OverUnder15 minutes for Cam Gunter – UNDER

The junior forward had a career night Friday against Harvard, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine boards in just 15 minutes of play. Off of a breakout performance like that, the fans might expect to see more of Gunter. But for the most part, Gunter was forced into action due to Henry Brooks’ foul trouble and Darien Nelson-Henry’s limited minutes coming back from injury. Both of those players should see more minutes tonight, which means less court time for Gunter.

60 points for Dartmouth – UNDER

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Game 23: Harvard – The Good, Bad & the Ugly

Good Bad & Ugly

 

 

 

 

FULL RECAP // BOX SCORE 

THE GOOD: Cam Gunter

Never thought Cam Gunter would go in this category, did you? But after a 10-point, nine-rebound performance in just 15 minutes of play that saw Gunter grow up in the face of a Harvard frontcourt that was surprisingly on its game all night long.

THE BAD: The Boston Block Party

Fifteen blocks for Harvard made for one of the longest nights in recent memory for the Quakers offensively. The game was basically a highlight reel of Miles Cartwright and company driving into the lane only to get stuffed by sophomore center Kenyatta Smith, who had 10 blocks of his own.

THE UGLY: How Harvard won

Harvard came in with a killer team three-point percentage, but it didn't need to rely on the long ball against Penn. Even with Harvard's No. 2 and No. 3 leading scorers Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard struggling offensively, the Crimson still imposed their will on the Quakers, especially inside, where Smith jump hooked his way to a 20-point explosion. (He had 68 points in 18 games this season before Friday.) Jerome Allen said Darien Nelson-Henry had "zero presence defensively" and that his poor defense was a "function of effort," not his injury. A bit of coachspeak perhaps, but still legitimate disappointment at an interior defense that buckled whenever it was pushed. Forget "small ball," this was just the Crimson's weakness (their bigs) having their way against Penn.

 

Layup Line: Quick hits on Penn basketball

Random observations, musings, opinions, etc. on Penn basketball...

  • One of the keys to tonight's Temple game will be reacting to the Owls' intense defense. Against UMBC, Penn's offense was efficient when it was able to slow things down and get into its sets. But when the Retrievers cut off passing lanes or forced players out of position, the Quakers struggled to improvise and find quality shots with the clock running down. Temple does that better than anyone Penn will face this season.
  • We definitely saw the "counters to counters to counters" that Temple assistant Shawn Trice informed Kevin about for his cover story on Jerome Allen's influences (READ IT IF YOU HAVEN'T YET; READ IT AGAIN IF YOU HAVE). Often, the point would dribble to one side and initially look for the wing cutting to the rim. If that wasn't there, the other wing would be coming off a screen on the other side. And even when that wing got the ball, the big underneath would either set a pick or cut to the hoop.
  • Zack Rosen did on the basketball court what Aaron Rodgers has done on the football field this season: unbreakable focus and nearly flawless execution. Even more impressive about his 26-point, 10-for-16, put-the-team-on-my-back performance? He turned the ball over just once, despite handling the ball for most of the time he was on the court -- using 23.5% of Penn's possessions, according to Quaker Ball.
  • Interpret it as you wish, but Penn outscored UMBC by 16 during the 21 minutes Rob Belcore was on the floor compared to +8 for Fran Dougherty and +6 for Mike Howlett. My take: at least against UMBC, which didn't have much size inside, Belcore was far and away the difference defensively.
  • As anticipated, Allen used a three-guard lineup featuring freshman Patrick Lucas-Perry alongside Rosen and Miles Cartwright. Over a five-minute, first-half stretch, the lineup was outscored by seven points. The group needs time to gel, but it could be the difference in a few games this season.
  • My No. 1 takeaway from Friday's opener was that Allen has the benefit of depth and versatility this season, which he didn't have last year. He will be able to adjust his team's style depending on the matchup, and can also try to force matchup problems himself. Mainly, playing Belcore or sophomore Marin Kukoc (who missed last season due to injury) at the 4 allows him to have a very mobile defense and forces opposing bigs to the perimeter on offense. Yet with Howlett, who was extremely solid and efficient at UMBC, and sophomore Cam Gunter, Allen can also go with a more traditional lineup if an opponents' size is a factor (like tonight against Temple and 6-10 center Michael Eric). Howlett and Kukoc will be vital to this effort, forming a quality bench along with freshman Camryn Crocker.

Positional Breakdown: Center

Season tip-off day has finally arrived. Beginning today, preseason predictions can be thrown out the window. All the drama will unfold on the court. So on this banner day, we offer the final installment of our positional previews by examining the men in the middle: the centers.

THE PLAYERS:

Senior Mike Howlett has been very effective when in the lineup, but his health has been a rarity over the past several years. In fact, he's played in just 41 career games, 13 more than point guard Zack Rosen started last season alone. But Howlett's physical presence inside always seems to raise the Quakers' level of play on both ends of the court, so the 6-9 big could be a wild card this season.

Sophomore Fran Dougherty: The 6-8 local product said after the Red & Blue scrimmage that he's prepared to play next to Howlett or alone in the middle. If forced to the center spot, Dougherty would be an intriguing option due to his defensive mobility and developing post game.

Sophomore Cameron Gunter: Gunter is in the same boat as Dougherty, only he's rawer and has far more natural athleticism. Plus, he remains Penn's lone shot-blocking threat, so he will surely crack the rotation at the very least.

THE MINUTES:

The distribution of playing time will depend upon Howlett's health and performance. Even if he starts, he will likely be used in spurts to maximize his effectiveness while he's out there. Dougherty should see a large chunk of minutes, while Gunter will allow the team to present a different look when needed.

THE OUTLOOK:

If the injury bug continues to plague Howlett, the Quakers could be in trouble. Both Dougherty and Gunter have slight (though improving) builds, meaning rebounding could become a killer issue minus Howlett. Conor Turley will not be around to do the dirty work, so someone will have to fill his shoes. That guy could be the unheralded Gunter, who can take the Quakers to another level if he can mine his untapped potential.

BREAKDOWNS 1-4: Point guard ... Shooting guard ... Small forward ... Power forward

Mano-A-Mano: Volume III

Four straight losses have dropped the Quakers into the middle of the Ivy League pack as quickly as you can say "Back to the drawing board." So with the league title realistically out of Penn's grasp, how should Jerome Allen proceed? Mano-A-Mano has been on a bit of a hiatus, but while Penn fans may not be getting an Ivy title this season, we're bringing you what you really want: a lengthy installment of the Esteves-Kotloff Battle of Brawl-nut Street. Without further ado:ManoAMano1

Question: What should 'Pooh' do - continue to try to win with the vets or play the young pups?

Kevin Esteves: I think Allen needs to continue to ride the veterans — basically, don't switch up the rotations. Just because you lose four straight games doesn't mean you jump ship and change what you're trying to accomplish. I'm fairly certain that with the leadership of Allen, Rosen and Eggleston, that desire to win won't be compromised by a few bad losses. I also think they need to gut out a bunch of victories down the stretch here for the following reasons:

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Game 21 – Columbia: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

After three straight overtime losses, the Quakers found themselves in New York City with the chance to stop the skid. Instead, Penn succumbed to a second half run by Columbia and lost 75-62.

The Good: Cameron Gunter's solid line of 12 points (4-for-6 from the field and 4-for-4 at the line) and 3 boards. Red and Blue fans would probably like to see some more rebounds out of the big fella — Penn got destroyed on the glass in general, more on that later — but he gave Penn some good minutes and his best production by far of the season. He had been scoreless on the season up until this point (45 mins of burn - or what you might call lately, an "Eggleston.") Gunter's presence lifted Penn in the first half and his length and activity bothered some of Columbia's penetrating guards. Tall order, literally, to task the freshman with clearing out Columbia's 6'9, 245 Mark Cisco and 7'0, 265 Max Craig, but he definitely showed Coach Allen something.

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Toni Kukoc’s son commits to Penn

It's been a rumor for some time now, but now it's official. Toni Kukoc's son Marin Kukoc has committed to Penn. Dick Jerardi writes in today's Daily News: "Penn got a commitment from Marin Kukoc, Toni's son from Chicago. He is just the latest in what is shaping up as a terrific recruiting class."

What Jerardi says is right. Penn has a dynamite recruiting class coming in next year, no matter which way you slice it. I've been covering the Class of 2014 extensively here on The Buzz, and it now stands at seven total players: Steve Rennard, Casey James, Dau Jok, Miles Cartwright, Cameron Gunter, Fran Dougherty and Marin Kukoc.

As far as I know, it's not over yet. Kevin Panzer, who committed to Penn and then de-committed, is not out of the running to re-commit. I'll be clear: I don't know anything for sure, except that he hasn't made his decision yet and Penn is still pursuing him. And I also don't think Penn is done pursuing other options, even with the huge class they already have.

As for Kukoc, the NBA pedigree is obviously the first thing that sticks out. He is a 6-6/6-7 swingman at about 185 pounds (that's a guess on my part). I don't know much else about him at this point, but the DP should have a full story later today or tomorrow. But I posted some videos after the jump which will hopefully give a better sense of him as a player.

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Two recruiting updates in the aftermath of Miller

With the fairly unprecedented move to remove Glen Miller as head coach in the middle of the season, the biggest impact of the decision will perhaps be on recruiting. Miller had seemingly hedged his job to an extent with a very strong recruiting class, which was potentially jeopardized by his dismissal. Once my finals are over later today I'm going to look into more of the impact on recruiting, but the Northstar Basketball Blog has already begun to figure out just how this move might shake up the already shaky Class of 2014.

NBB reports that local product Steve Rennard from St. Joseph's HS in Metuchen, N. J., was accepted to Wharton this past week and will definitely be coming to Penn. Penn's other top local prize, big man Cameron Gunter, is more unsure of his status with the Quakers after Miller's move.  "Right now I'm just trying to get all the facts together and talk it through with my family," he said. "I don't know the full extent of the situation, so I can't comment on that right now." See the full text of NBB's report after the jump.

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Miller bags another for 2010

According to NJhoops.rivals.com, Glen Miller and the Penn basketball program have nabbed another nice name for the Class of 2014. The player is 6-foot-8 forward/center Cameron Gunter from Ridley High School where Kevin and Steven Egee attended.

I have not yet confirmed the information myself with anyone in the Penn basketball program, though NJhoops tends to be a reliable source. And the PennBasketball twitter definitely lends support to the report. A post from this morning reads: "It was a very good night last night in the Penn Basketball Recruiting world...we were thrilled with the phone call we received..."

Here's what I've gathered so far about Gunter. First, there is this story from Aug. 25 on recruitrecon.com (another pretty good recruiting site) which says that Gunter had a very strong summer in AAU playing for the Jersey Shore Warriors. It also mentions Penn as a team with interest in him. Other schools with interest included Holy Cross and Northeastern, though NJhoops says he cancelled trips to those schools after committing to Penn. He is apparently a more defensive player at this point with good size and athleticism, but the reports on his strong summer seem to indicate his offense is improving rapidly. Overall he may be a bit of a project, but he is more developed than Garvin Hunt was as a freshman.

In other recruiting news, CBB reported that 6-foot-9 big man Daniel Edwards committed to Princeton. Penn was apparently interested in him as well.

Gunter is the fifth name we've heard surface as a verbally committed Penn recruit. The others are California players Austin Kelly, Casey James and Kevin Panzer, along with another local product in St. Joseph's prep point guard Steve Rennard. And there's no telling if the Quakers are done reloading. Stay tuned.