Roundtable: Who should be Penn’s starting point guard in 2013-14?

In this week’s roundtable discussion, our editors ask who should be Penn basketball’s starting point guard in 2013-14:

Associate Sports Editor Steven Tydings: This one is tough. While Tony Bagtas told me he is going to “run the team” next year, I think this is a two-man race between Miles Cartwright and Tony Hicks. When Cartwright was running the point effectively, the team played some of its best basketball, and I’d have to think that coach Allen will give the soon-to-be senior the first opportunity to win the job.

That being said, Penn’s best player in the second half of the season was clearly Tony Hicks. His performances at Cornell and at home against Harvard showed he has the potential to be one of the next great point guards in Penn history. But at the same time, I don’t think he should be the point guard to start the year. Cartwright should be given the chance at point guard to start the year. He may not stick. And that’s why it’s important that Hicks is there.

Former Sports Editor Mike Wisniewski: Jerome Allen needs to put the guy there who runs the offense best. My guess is that guy will end up being Miles, at least in the beginning of the year. But if they start the Ivy season and begin losing games, and at that point it becomes clear to the team (because it will probably already be clear to everyone else) that Penn will not win the Ivy League, it will be time to once again look to the future, something Miles will not be a part of.

In that situation, why not give Hicks or Bagtas the bulk of the work to better develop the team for 2014-15? Realistically, Penn won’t be in it next year, but with the young crop of guys they have — if developed properly — they could be in contention the year after next.

Associate Sports Editor John Phillips: I think we’re forgetting about Cam Crocker, who started every game going down the stretch at the point. He had the highest assist to turnover ratio on the team and showed the true passing skills that Cartwright and Hicks don’t naturally have.

But the reason that he should run point over Cartwright or Hicks is really due to what Cartwright and Hicks can do when they are not running the point.

Hicks thrived when he moved without the ball, and Cartwright performed better during the season when he could ease into a contest. When he has the ball in his hands from the opening tip, he tries to do things too quickly. What started to work as the season progressed is that three-guard lineup, with Cartwright, Crocker and Hicks all out on the floor at once. If Cartwright started heating up, then he would start taking the ball up as the game went along.

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Scouting Report: Yale

Oh, you again? Last month, Penn played a hard-fought game with the Elis but lost, 68-59. Yale took a 10 point lead late in the second half before a 9-0 run engineered by freshman Tony Hicks brought the Quakers within one point. But the run was not enough as the Bulldogs pulled away behind a clutch three from senior guard Austin Morgan and took the game by nine.

What have you been up to? Yale is coming off its biggest win of the season, as the Bulldogs upset then first-place Princeton yesterday, 71-66. The win completes the season sweep for Yale over the Tigers since the Elis also defeated Princeton the day after their first matchup with Penn. In the three weekends after the sweep of Princeton and Penn, Yale has split its six games, with wins against Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth. After losing at Columbia last weekend, the Elis took advantage of a shorthanded Cornell squad and won 79-70 in Ithaca.

Leading the way: Yale’s signature this season has been a truly balanced lineup, with 10 players averaging at least 4.5 points per game, and 12 players getting over 13 minutes of court time per contest. In the Elis' last three games, Morgan has led the way, putting up double figures in each contest. Sophomore Matt Townsend has played well in the post for the Bulldogs, averaging 13 points per game in Yale’s last four Ivy matchups. But one Yale forward has been cold in recent games, and that is freshman Justin Sears. Sears had 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench in the Bulldogs’ first game against Penn, but he has scored just a combined eight points in Yale’s last three games.

SIZING IT UP

Scoring: YALE- Both teams struggled at times offensively in the first matchup at the Palestra, but Yale has proven to be the more consistent offensive team this year. The Bulldogs are second in scoring offense in the Ancient Eight and have put up at least 70 points in four of their last six games. They have surpassed 70 points in 11 games this season, compared to just four times by the Quakers.

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Scouting Report: Brown Edition

Familiar Foe: A month ago, Penn picked up its second Ivy League victory against these same Brown Bears at the Palestra. Miles Cartwright led the way with a career-high 28 points, while Tony Hicks added 15 as the Quakers won 71-48 in a rout.

Since We Last Met: After the loss to Penn, Brown was struggling, as the squad had started out 2-4 in Ivy play. And it didn’t get much better soon after, as the Bears proceeded to lose two of their next three, including a close three-point loss to Cornell. But coach Martin and the Bears have turned it around, having won three straight heading into the matchup with Penn in Providence. The first two wins, which came against Dartmouth and Cornell, came by a combined 28 points, but Brown needed a little more work for a road victory against Columbia at Levien Gymnasium. After a late Lions rally tied the game at 58, the Bears inbounded near midcourt with 1.1 seconds remaining. They ran a play that looked to be designed for junior guard Sean McGonagill to get the final shot, but instead set a back screen for Tucker Halpern to hit a buzzer-beating three pointer to sink Columbia.

Leading the Charge: So if Brown is playing well, the question becomes, thanks to who? The Bears are heavily reliant on their starting five since the team only played eight players in its recent road trip to Cornell and Columbia. That starting five – McGonagill, Halpern, Rafael Maia, Cedric Kuakahmensah, and Matt Sullivan – have been the keys to Brown’s winning streak, each averaging over 25 minutes a game on the season. McGonagill, who is fourth in the Ivies in points and assists per game, has been strong in the three-game stretch, averaging 11.7 points and 3.3 assists per contest. Halpern had a game-high 22 points against Cornell and Sullivan has put up at least 16 points in each of the three wins. Maia and Kuakahmensah have been strong in the post, averaging 9.3 and 6.6 rebounds per contest, respectively.

Sizing it up:

Scoring: PENN- Neither Penn nor Brown has been particularly impressive at putting the ball in the basket this season, ranking sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Ivies in scoring offense. And while Penn put up 75 points to beat Harvard last week and has the recent offensive surge of Tony Hicks, Brown has two of the top four scorers in points per game in the Ancient Eight while also having had its own 84-point outburst against Cornell. This one is pretty even, with a slight edge to Penn based on the 71 points the Red and Blue registered in the first meeting.

Rebounding: BROWN- While Darien Nelson-Henry looked strong down low against Harvard, the Quakers now face a much better frontcourt team than the Crimson. Maia and Kuakamensah are first and second respectively in rebounds per game in the Ancient Eight, and the Bears are second in offensive rebounds. Additionally, Brown is third in rebounding margin, while Penn is dead last.

Beyond the Arc: PENN- This is a close one statistically, as the two teams are within two points of each other in three-point percentage. But the Quakers displayed in the first meeting that they can hit treys very well, going 9-for-15 from three-point range. And the Quakers have weapons off the bench to make long-range jumpers, including Dau Jok and Patrick Lucas-Perry.

Bench: PENN- Speaking of the bench, this category is all Quakers. While the Red and Blue had just nine points off the bench against Harvard, their reserves can absorb a lot more minutes than Brown’s small three-man bench. With players like Jok, Lucas-Perry and Greg Louis, the Quakers can give their starters a spell while still providing quality minutes, something Brown doesn’t always get outside of their starters.

Defense: BROWN- The Bears have only allowed their opponent to score 70 points or more three times in conference play, and have held their past three opponents to 57.7 points per game. On the other side of the court, the Quakers have struggled defensively, ranking seventh in scoring offense, while allowing Harvard to drain 10 shots from beyond the arc Saturday.

Three Up, Three Down: Dartmouth Edition

Three Up Three DownThe Quakers go from Cambridge to Hanover as they face Dartmouth to finish out their weekend back-to-back. Here are some predictions for tonight's contest:

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Penn’s defense: After allowing Harvard to shoot 52.3 percent last night, it is hard to imagine that the Quakers couldn’t improve on the defensive end. Additionally, they move from the Ivy League’s highest scoring offense in Harvard to the lowest scoring offense in Dartmouth, making it much easier for the Red and Blue. Expect Penn to hold down the fort defensively as it tries to get a split this weekend.

Miles Cartwright: In the Quakers’ two conference victories this season, Cartwright has been their one constant. The junior guard has put up 50 combined points in Penn’s victories over Columbia and Brown. If the Quakers want to compete with the Big Green, they will need Cartwright to have another strong performance Saturday night. While he may not put up 25 points against Dartmouth, his steadying presence would go a long way towards a Red and Blue win.

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Three Up, Three Down: Brown Edition

Three Up Three DownAfter an up and down game against Yale last night in which the bottom eventually fell out for Penn, the Quakers look to right the ship tonight against the Bears, who are coming off of a 63-46 loss at Princeton. Who's up and who's down?

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Penn's free-throw situation: The Quakers shot just 12-for-20 (60 percent) from the line last night after shooting an even dimmer 1-for-3 against Cornell. So is this the same team that shot 26-for-29 at the charity stripe against Columbia? Perhaps against a Bears squad allowing opponents to sink nearly 12 free throws per game, we'll see a little Jekyll tonight at the foul line.

Darien Nelson-Henry: Taken out of the equation from the getgo by Yale's inside defense, DNH should improve upon the whopping one point he posted last night. At the very least, it'll take a low-post presence to combat Brown's rebounding prowess.

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Three Up, Three Down: Yale Edition

Three Up Three DownThe past week has been full of ups and downs for the Quakers - an upset win over Columbia to a disappointing defeat to Cornell to the reemergence of Miles Cartwright to the likely season-ending injury to Fran Doughterty. Here are some predictions for the ups and downs likely to happen when Penn takes on the Yale Bulldogs on Friday at the Palestra:

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Jerome Allen: If there was ever a time for coach Allen to step up, this weekend is it. Allen has been criticized often this season for his team’s lack of discipline and costly mistakes, but he has the chance to prove his doubters wrong if he can pull off a victory or two this weekend without Fran Dougherty and Steve Rennard.

Patrick Lucas-Perry: Over the season, the diminutive sophomore guard has slowly but surely made his claim to be a more integral piece in coach Allen’s plans. The Penn offense needs a spark from somewhere, which is exactly what PLP can provide. His fantastic three-point shooting cannot be ignored, and PLP should at the very least be the Quakers’ first option off the bench.

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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.

Three Up, Three Down: Cornell Edition

Three Up Three DownWith the Quakers coming off an upset win over Columbia to open their first Ivy weekend of the season, we take a look at who's hot–and who's not–as the Big Red come to town.

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Miles Cartwright- The junior captain stepped up as a leader when the Red and Blue needed him the most Friday, pouring in eight points in the game's final two minutes to ensure that a nine-point second half lead wouldn't go to waste. Additionally, Cartwright was able to minimize his turnovers, a positive trend that he'll need to keep up against a Cornell team that averages seven steals a game.

Steve Rennard- After seemingly being left for dead, the junior was able to revitalize his season against Columbia. In 29 minutes of action, Rennard was able to score seven points on 2-4 shooting, including his first made three-pointer since a win over NJIT on Jan. 17th. If Rennard can maybe, just maybe, recapture his shooting touch from last year, the Quakers will only benefit from having yet another outside scoring threat.

Henry Brooks- Much like Rennard, Brooks was able to reverse an early-season bad habit on Friday night. In 28 minutes of action, the sophomore forward managed to keep himself out of foul trouble against Columbia's rangy big men, hearing only two calls against him on the night. Additionally, he showed some nice range in going 2-for-4 from the field, including one shot that was just inside the three-point line.

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Patrick Lucas Perry's minutes, again- Where was he? If people thought that PLP had turned the corner after his sterling performance against Temple, they were wrong. Lucas-Perry received 15 minutes of playing time, but it seemed like far less, as he never seemed to establish much of a presence for himself on the court. The sophomore wound up going 0-for-2 from the field, and only managed to pick up a single rebound.

Every freshman not named Darien Nelson-Henry- It was a rough night for most of the Quakers' youngsters. Jamal Lewis tallied one assist, two turnovers, and a whopping three fouls in only seven minutes of action, earning him a comfortable spot on the bench. Tony Hicks scored eight points, but went 1-for-5 from the field. And, in keeping with tradition, Julian Harrell never even had a chance to take his warm-ups off.

The rims in the Palestra whenever Fran Dougherty shoots- Playing for the first time in a month following a bout with mononucleosis, the dynamic junior wound up going 1-for-5 from the field in 18 minutes off the bench, but his stat sheet could have looked a lot better. Dougherty had shot after shot take the exact wrong bounce at the exact wrong time, spoiling some sharp inside post and isolation moves by the athletic forward.

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'.

Three Up, Three Down: St. Joseph’s Edition

Three Up Three DownOn Thursday, Penn basketball broke their eight-game losing streak in a close and admittedly ugly 54-53 victory over NJIT. Up next, the Quakers will (not really) go on the road for a Big 5 matchup against St. Joseph's at the Palestra, for which the Hawks are the official home team. Here are some predictions for the Quakers' third Big 5 contest of the season:

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Darien Nelson-Henry: In his first career start on Thursday against NJIT, Nelson-Henry had somewhat of a coming out party. He recorded his first collegiate double-double and was a huge factor in Penn’s vast improvement on the boards. The turnover problems are still there, but the Quakers will need to rely on DNH to be a presence in the paint, especially if Henry Brooks finds himself in foul trouble again.

Penn's bench contribution: St. Joseph’s Halil Kanacevic will miss his third straight game due to a death in the family. With him out, the Hawks won’t have a single bench player who averages more than 10 minutes per game. The Red and Blue will look to take advantage of their much deeper bench, as coach Allen has 10 players fit who average double-digits in minutes per game.

Patrick Lucas-Perry: While just about everyone else on the team underperformed against NJIT, Lucas-Perry was a rare bright spot. PLP scored eight points in only nine minutes on the court, including Penn’s final five points to grab the victory. So Perry has now been a driving force in two of the three Penn wins of the season — NJIT and UMBC.  Expect more minutes for the diminutive guard as the Quakers will need all the help they can get to shut down an explosive St. Joe’s backcourt.

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Penn turnovers: At some point, there really is nowhere to go but up. Or down, in this case. The Quakers turned the ball over a ghastly 26 times against NJIT, but expect that number to be significantly lower on Saturday. St. Joe’s only causes its opponents to commit 10.9 turnovers per game this season, while hopefully coach Allen will have made some tweaks to who handles the ball for Penn and how they do it. 

Jamal Lewis: With the recent emergence of Tony Hicks, Lewis has seen his minutes drop in the past few games. His performances have also dropped: 0 points off just two shots against Princeton and NJIT. This won’t have gone unnoticed by coach Allen, who should give emerging players like Lucas-Perry more minutes. 

Penn rebounding deficiencies: Kanacevic’s absence for the Hawks also hurts them on the boards. St. Joe’s will miss his 7.2 rebounds per game, especially as Penn has been steadily improving in the rebounds department. Against NJIT, Quakers won the rebounding battle 41-24, the highest margin ever under coach Allen.