Men's Basketball Begins Three-Game Big 5 Set at La Salle

Penn at La Salle

Thursday, Jan.18*7 p.m. *Tom Gola Arena * Philadelphia
Radio/Internet: (Brian Seltzer, Vince Curran)
TV: None
Penn Game Notes in PDF Format

PHILADELPHIA - After a pair of dominating performances to start the Ivy League season, the Quakers take a break from conference play with three, um, “conference” games. As in Philadelphia Big 5. As in City Series. As in bragging rights. No NCAA Tournament bids are at stake, but that does not make these next three games -- beginningThursday with La Salle -- any less important.

Penn was picked to win the Ivy League title for the third-straight year and the fifth time in the last six seasons. Last weekend, the Quakers showed why.

Starting the Ivy season with arguably the conference’s toughest road trip -- at Cornell Friday night, on a bus for four hours through the night, then at Columbia Saturday night -- Penn not only gained a sweep but did so in convincing fashion. Both the Big Red and the Lions are expected to be among the challengers for the Quakers’ crown, but the defending champions sent a message with an 18-point win at Cornell and then a 26-point victory at Columbia.

The catalyst for both wins -- and, in fact, in all ofPenn’s three wins in its last three games -- has been defense. Since North Carolina dropped 102 points on them January 3, the Quakers have allowed their last three opponents (Elon, Cornell, Columbia) to score just 163 points (a 54.3 per-game average) and held them to 36.8 percent shooting from the field (57 of 155) -- all on the road. The highlight came at Columbia Saturday night, when Penn held the Lions to 43 points and 27.3 percent shooting (15 of 55).

Thursday night’s game with La Salle tips off another chapter in Penn’s 2006-07 season. With only a loss to Villanova so far in Big 5 play, the Quakers can get a leg up on the rest of the city schools with a victory over the Explorers. That sets the stage for next week’s highly-anticipated Big 5 “doubleheader,” as Temple and Saint Joseph’s come to The Palestra next Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. The SJU game -- which is the Big 5’s annual Hall of Fame Game -- is already sold out, and the Temple game figures to be one of the most emotional games in Big 5 history as the Owls are led by former Penn coach Fran Dunphy, whose entire staff at Temple is not even a year removed from this Quaker program.

All Big 5, All The Time: Penn is playing three Big 5 games in a row, something the Quakers have done just three other times in the 51-year history of the round-robin city series (1969-70, 1980-81, 2004-05). Looking at the schedule even closer, this run marks just the second time Penn has played three Big 5 games within a 10-day span. In 1970, the Quakers played Temple (Jan. 21), Saint Joseph’s (Jan. 24) and La Salle (Jan. 27) within the span of a week. Penn won all three of those games.

Ivy Domination: Penn began the 2003-04 Ivy League season with a pair of losses, at Yale and Brown. Since then, the Quakers have gone 37-5 in league play (19-2 at home, 18-3 on the road). Beyond that, all but one of the five losses the result could have gone either way. They were: 78-74 to Brown (2/20/04); 76-70 in OT to Princeton (3/9/04); 78-60 at Yale (2/19/05); 59-57 at Columbia (2/17/06); and 60-59 in OT at Princeton (3/7/06).

Surveying the Opponent
• Thursday’s meeting between Penn and La Salle is the 60th between these intracity rivals, with the Quakers holding a 37-22 advantage including wins in each of the last five meetings.

• Last year, the Quakers defeated the Explorers, 73-65; four Penn players scored in double figures, led by Mark Zoller’s 25 points. Steve Danley had 14 points and Ibrahim Jaaber added 10.

• Penn enters this week with an all-time record of 109-140 against the other Big 5 schools, including a loss to Villanova (99-89) earlier this season.
La Salle37-22
Saint Joseph’s33-42

• Penn is 104-121 all-time against teams from the Atlantic 10, including a 77-60 loss to Fordham at The Palestra earlier this season. Following Thursday night’s game, the Quakers remain in A-10 action with Temple and Saint Joseph’s next week.
G. Washington0-1
La Salle37-22
Rhode Island1-1
St. Bonaventure2-1
Saint Joseph’s33-42
Saint Louis0-1

Scheduling Tough!
• The six teams to have beaten Penn this year -- UTEP, Syracuse, Villanova, Fordham, Seton Hall and No. 1 North Carolina -- had a combined record of 75-31 (.708 win percentage)after Wednesday night's action.

Veteran Leadership
• No wonder they are captains! Ibrahim Jaaber has started all 73 games played by Penn the last two-plus years, while Steve Danley has started 71 of the 72 games he has played in that span (he sat for Senior Night in 2004-05, and missed a game to injury in 2005-06). Mark Zoller, meanwhile, has 78 career starts.

Download: 0607 Notes 16 (@La Salle).pdf