Game 3 Preview: The University of Pennsylvania Quakers

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough loss at the BJC to Bucknell, Penn State will try and regroup on the road against in-state counterpart, Penn.

Who: Penn Quakers
When: Tomorrow, 2:00pm
Where: The Palestra (Philadelphia, PA)
TV: None, but there's always the radio
enPom Rank: 235
Line: N/A

Losing to Bucknell for the first time since 1976 aside, that sure was a fun display of offensive fireworks a couple of nights ago, wasn't it? The good news is, we probably won't see a team make shots at such a ridiculous clip as Bucknell did. The bad news of course, is that we probably won't see PSU average 80 points per game, either. Nonetheless, a very critical and certainly winnable road matchup looms tomorrow afternoon when the Nittany Lions (1-1) travel to Philly's famed basketball mecca, The Palestra to take on the Penn Quakers (1-1).

Scouting The Opposition

Penn is in its fifth season (and fourth full season) under head coach Jerome Allen, who sports an overall record of 49-66. Allen starred as a guard at Penn in the early-mid 90's before enjoying a lengthy pro career that included stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, as well as numerous European club teams. Allen joined the coaching staff at Penn at the start of the 2009 season and quickly ascended from a volunteer assistant to head coach at his alma mater in December 2009, following the firing of then-head coach Glen Miller. Since then, Penn had seen steady improvement going from six wins in Allen's first year, to 13 wins, to 20 wins in 2011 before taking a step back last year with only nine wins, thanks in large part to injury issues (sound familiar?).

Much like PSU, Penn also sports a solid backcourt led by sophomore Tony Hicks (20.5 ppg) and senior Miles Jackson-Cartwright (18.5 ppg). Hicks scored 28 points in Penn's season opener against city rival Temple, a game that saw Temple hold a seemingly comfortable 14-point lead with eight minutes to play in the game, before Hicks helped lead a furious rally to briefly reclaim the lead for Penn, before ultimately falling short, 78-73. The Quakers however, used that newfound confidence to grab its first win of the young season at future PSU opponent Monmouth (NJ), 79-73.

Penn isn't without a frontcourt presence, either: 6'11" sophomore Darien Nelson-Henry currently averages a double-double (16.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and added two blocks to go with his 14 points and 11 boards in the win over Monmouth. Look for Pat Chambers to run plenty of zone defense in order to hold Nelson-Henry in check and avoid matchup problems.

For what it's worth, College Basketball Talk (NBC Sports) picked the Quakers to be runners-up in the Ivy League, behind only league favorite (and last year's NCAA Tournament Cinderella) Harvard. Based on the tiny sample size thus far, that prediction doesn't seem so far-fetched. The two teams met last year at the BJC, with PSU winning 58-47 in one of its first games following Tim Frazier's season-ending ACL tear. The since-departed Jermaine Marshall led the way with 18 points while DJ Newbill and Brandon Taylor racked up 13 and 11 points, respectively. Given that both teams are averaging well over 70 points/game thus far, one should expect this year's edition to be a little more higher-scoring.

Key Matchup

Aside from the obvious Frazier/Newbill vs. Hicks/Jackson-Cartwright matchup, the deciding factor in this game should be how well Ross Travis and Donovon Jack can handle Nelson-Henry in the post. If Nelson-Henry is able to assert himself like he did against Monmouth, it will likely end up being another frustrating contest for PSU.

Prediction

This is a Penn State team that some felt going into this season was an NIT or perhaps even a fringe NCAA bubble team. While the Bucknell loss certainly stings, it is by no means a postseason hopes-killer.  With that being said, the defensive woes have already been exposed in full and time will tell whether they will have been corrected enough to hold this pesky Quakers squad in check. The Palestra is also well-known for being a raucous, intimate environment to play in, so having seasoned vets like Frazier, Newbill, and Travis certainly can help keep their less experienced teammates from getting rattled. A win tomorrow would (at least momentarily) quell some of the doom-and-gloom and #FiurChambres talk that's already permeated on certain PSU message boards. I base this on mostly nothing, but I'll take PSU to pull out a close one, 72-70 on a last-second teardrop by Frazier.


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