PHILADELPHIA – The Steve Donahue coaching era tips off this weekend, as the University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team opens the 2015-16 season with a pair of games. The action starts Friday night, when the Quakers host Robert Morris in the first half of a Palestra doubleheader. (The second game pits the Penn women against preseason No. 14/12 Duke.) On Sunday, the Penn men are right back in action, hosting Central Connecticut State at 4 p.m.
GAME 1 – PENN (0-0) vs. ROBERT MORRIS (0-0)
Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 * 5:30 p.m.
Philadelphia (The Palestra)
GAME 2 – PENN vs. CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE (0-0)
Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015 * 4 p.m.
Philadelphia (The Palestra)
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Friday's Game FREE on ESPN3!
The season-opening doubleheader at The Palestra will also air live and for free on ESPN3. Click here to catch the men's game with Robert Morris on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app!
Friday’s season opener pits Penn against a former Quakers player, as Robert Morris is coached by 2003 graduate Andrew Toole. A transfer, Toole was a first-team All-Ivy pick in 2001-02 and a second-team All-Ivy pick in 2002-03 as Penn won the Ivy League title both years.
The Series with RMU
*Friday marks the second meeting between the Quakers and the Colonials. The first took place almost exactly four years ago -- on November 19, 2011 -- when Penn knocked off Robert Morris, 66-60, in The Palestra as part of the Philly Hoop Group Classic.
The Series With CCSU
*Sunday marks the first meeting between the Quakers and the Blue Devils in men’s basketball.
Penn vs. The NEC
With the Quakers opening against a pair of Northeast Conference opponents, this seems like a good time to mention that Penn is 9-4 all-time against NEC teams. (2-0 vs. FDU, 1-0 vs. Robert Morris, 1-0 vs. St. Francis Brooklyn, 5-0 vs. Saint Francis [Pa.], 0-4 vs. Wagner.)
Penn starts the season with a roster that features 11 freshmen and sophomores among its 15 eligible players. According to an informal survey of SIDs conducted by the University of Denver, the Quakers’ percentage of freshmen and sophomores (73.3) is tied for eighth nationally with Marist. One of Penn’s future opponents, Washington, is tied for third (80.0 percent), while fellow Ivy rival Harvard is 11th (62.5 percent).
While the Quakers are youthful, it does not mean they are inexperienced. In fact, four of the aforementioned sophomores played more than 400 minutes last year: Antonio Woods (team-high 889), Darnell Foreman (595), Sam Jones (455), and Mike Auger (420). Throw in upperclass veterans Darien Nelson-Henry (1,688 career minutes), Jamal Lewis (1,059 despite missing last season to injury) and Matt Howard (849), and you’ve got a fairly experienced nucleus.
Quaker Notemeal of Note
*Senior co-captain Darien Nelson-Henry figures to play a major role in the success of the Quakers this season. A starter in 24 of Penn’s 28 games last year, the senior center averaged 8.5 points (including 11 double-figure outings) and 5.1 rebounds per game. Nelson-Henry finished fourth among Ivy League players in field-goal percentage, and ninth in blocked shots per game.
*Senior co-captain Jamal Lewis returns to the lineup this year after missing all of last season with health issues unrelated to basketball. Lewis played in 26 games in 2013-14, starting eight. He averaged 2.8 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, dishing out 44 assists.
*Junior Matt Howard made 24 starts last season, and finished third on the team in scoring (8.4 ppg) while also averaging 3.2 rebounds per contest. He led the Quakers with 28 steals, and tied for third on the team with 11 double-digit scoring games. Howard also finished eighth among Ivy League players in field-goal percentage (.469).
*The other junior on the roster, Dylan Jones, had 22 appearances last year and averaged 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 7.0 minutes per outing.
*Sophomore Antonio Woods was a viable candidate for Ivy League Rookie of the Year last year after winning Ivy League Player of the Week five times during the season. He played in all 28 games last year, starting 15, and played a team-high 31.8 minutes per contest. Woods—who played his high school basketball for former Villanova and 76ers standout Michael Bradley—also led the Quakers with 106 assists and had 12 double-figure scoring games, and finished fourth among Ivy players in overall assist/turnover ratio.
*Sophomore Mike Auger played in 22 games as a freshman, missing six early in the season to injury. He finished 17th among Ivy League player in overall rebounds per game (4.4), and was Ivy League Rookie of the Week after near double-doubles in consecutive games against Rider and Lafayette.
*Sophomore Darnell Foreman saw time in all 28 games, making 16 starts. He averaged 3.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest, and was Ivy League Rookie of the Week after an 11-point game at Binghamton.
*Sophomore Sam Jones played in all 28 games a year ago, with four starts, and led Penn with 51 three-point baskets. He also had seven double-figure scoring games. Among Ivy players, Jones was second in overall three-point field-goal percentage and sixth in overall treys made per game. Jones hit seven treys at Columbia on February 7, the most by a Penn player since Tyler Bernardini hit eight in December 2011.
*Sophomore Dan Dwyer played in 16 games last year, starting at Yale and also seeing good minutes at Brown.
*Freshman Jake Silpe graduated from Cherry Hill (N.J.) East as the program’s second all-time leading scorer, with 1,577 points, and was last year’s South Jersey Player of the Year by the Courier Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
*Penn dipped deeply into the New England prep school scene for the rest of its freshman class; the Quakers recruited a pair of Northfield Mount Hermon players in Jackson Donahue and Collin McManus; Max Rothschild from New Hampton by way of Chicago; and Tyler Hamilton at Cheshire (Conn.) Academy by way of Atlanta.
*Penn also has Matt MacDonald on the roster; however, as a transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson University, he is not eligible to play games this season due to NCAA rules. He will practice this season, then have two years of eligibility left when he starts playing games for the Quakers in 2016-17.