Michael Tony of Ivy Hoops Online was nice enough to answer a few questions about the Huskies upcoming opponent, the Penn Quakers.
UWDP: Most fans on this side of the country rarely get to watch many Ivy league games, and therefore likely know little about this Penn team. Can you give our readers a summary of how the Quakers like to play on the offensive and defensive side of the floor, and what Husky fans should expect to see from first year coach John Steve Donahue's team?
Michael: Steve Donahue is as analytics-friendly as coaches come. On offense, he teaches his players to look for high-percentage shots in the paint and to shoot threes if nothing is available inside. You won’t see very many two-point jumpers from the Quakers Saturday. In Penn’s season opening win against Robert Morris, 26 of Penn's 29 made field goals were either layups or three-point shots, and Penn notched 25 assists on those 29 field goals.Donahue likes every player on his teams to be able to run, dribble and shoot. On defense, Penn sets out to defend the same stuff: limit high-percentage shots, vigorously defend three-point shots.
UWDP: The Quakers seem to be coming off a rather disappointing season that saw them go only 9-19, and 4-10 in conference. However, they seem to be off to a fast start this season, as they have amassed a 3-0 record, what has been the key to their early success?
Michael: Well, the average combined KenPom ranking of Penn’s three vanquished opponents so far is 297, so it’s not as if the Quakers have pulled off any monumental upsets thus far. But Penn blew these kinds of close games to all levels of competition in previous seasons under former coach Jerome Allen, and the Red and Blue’s early success this season is due to their instant grasp of Donahue’s motion offense.
UWDP: Penn lost their leading scorer, Tony Hicks, from last season, to graduation, but seem to have had no trouble replacing him. Sophomore forward Sam Jones seems to have burst on to the scene a little bit this year, as he leads the Quakers in scoring with 18 points per game, but they also seem to get good production from senior big man (and Lake Washington product) Darien Nelson-Henry, Matt Howard, and Antonio Woods. Can you give Husky fans a quick breakdown of each player's strengths of the offensive side of the floor?
Michael: Tony Hicks actually left the team by choice shortly after being named co-captain, seemingly bristling at his new, likely limited role in Donahue’s offensive system. But you’re right, Penn has navigated the post-Hicks transition quite well. Jones, a Jerome Allen recruit, was a natural fit in Donahue’s three-happy offense with his impressive perimeter shooting. That’s what Jones does. Nelson-Henry struggled with injuries and a lack of offensive direction as a sophomore and junior, but he looks healthy and rejuvenated now, scoring more consistently and benefiting from greater off-the-ball movement. He likes to get the ball in the post and get off jump hooks in the lane. He even attempted a three for the first time in his career against Central Connecticut State, so the possibilities are endless for Nelson-Henry. Howard ranked third on the team in scoring and minutes last season and is one of the most athletic players in the Ivy League. Last year’s five-time Ivy Rookie of the Week Antonio Woods is a solid ball distributor and scorer in his own right. You’ll see the offense run through Woods at times, even if Jones, Nelson-Henry and Howard might be the go-to guys.
UWDP: Obviously, Nelson-Henry will be the biggest player on the floor for either team Saturday, as he comes in at 6'11" and 265 pounds. He will be a load for the young-- and skinny-- Husky front court to handle. Will he be the key for Penn if they are going to have some success against the Huskies Saturday?
Michael: Definitely. He’s shooting 60.7 percent and averaging eight boards per game this season, huge improvements. Nelson-Henry will tap into the energy he’s certain to feel playing in front of 100-plus people who will be at Hec Edmundson to support him, and if he can stay out of early foul trouble, he will have a significant impact.
UWDP: What, in your mind, do the Quakers need to do to knock off the Huskies and pull off the upset?