SportsProf

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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Ugly Game for Pennsylvania Tonight

Providence 89, Penn 52. Click on the link for an early box score.

What does this game mean? Probably not a whole lot, except to remind us that there's a significant difference between a very good Big East team and one of the best teams in the Ivies. Clearly, shooting 4-20 from behind the arc and 6-13 from the foul line didn't help the Quakers. And, it also seems clear that Coach Fran Dunphy is doing what he normally does early in the season -- trying to find the right combinations.

In contrast, Princeton lost in the second round of the Coaches versus Cancer Tournament to Syracuse, and, like Penn, they played the Big East team in the Big East team's own gym. That said, if you're looking for meaning in comparative scores, Syracuse is a top 5, top 6 team, and Providence, even with all-American candidate Ryan Gomes, is unranked (of course, the Orangemen have player-of-the-year candidate Hakim Warrick and sharpshooting guard Gerry McNamara).

Why am I pointing this out?

Because Princeton played Syracuse much tougher than Penn played Providence, losing 56-45, in a game that was close until about 6 minutes to go. Because through a combination of walk-ons and others, Syracuse prepared for Princeton's style of play for about one month, as the Orange clearly had the luxury of looking beyond their first-round opponent, Northern Colorado (whom they beat 104-54), while the Tigers couldn't afford to look past pre-season Patriot League favorite Bucknell, whom they defeated 61-48.

Penn looked good in the first-round of the pre-season NIT, defeating Quinnipiac, picked by Blue Ribbon to finish seventh in the eleven-team Northeast Conference (where the favorite is Monmouth), 74-60.

So, I ask again, what does it mean? Probably that at this point in the season Princeton is the better team. They have fewer question marks, and they have fared better in a thus-far tougher schedule.

But, going into the season, all Ivy hoop fans knew that already. The question remains whether the Penn Quakers can harness their great reservoir of talent (relative, of course, to the Ivies) and take the Ivy title away from Princeton. To do so, they'll need consistent inside play, a solid eight-or nine-player rotation, and solid production from the point guard position.

So, really, nothing is new. Princeton needs to develop its freshmen into productive players, especially on offense, where some players looked a bit lost in the Syracuse game. Tiger coach Joe Scott took the responsibility for the performance of the frosh, saying that he had focused much more on defensive schemes than on offense, and that, basically, Princeton frosh have to figure out the offensive system. Translated, that means they just need more playing time. And with senior PF Andre Logan out for a while (recovering from knee surgery) and would-be soph PF/C Harrison Schaen taking a year off from school, they'll get plenty of opportunities.

And Joe Scott will be certain to have them ready.

The same way Fran Dunphy's Penn Quakers will be.

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