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Know! Your! Foe! - Penn.

For the latest installment of the site's popular Know! Your! Foe! series, I exchanged emails with Mr. Jonathan Tannenwald (pictured above with a special friend), Sports Producer for, editor of the top shelf Soft Pretzel Logic blog and an expert on Big 5 basketball. He was kind enough to provide some knowledge on tonight's opponent, the Penn Quakers.

Penn has only one home win this season (1-7), but it was a stunner against the then-nationally ranked Cornell Big Red on Friday night. What happened at the Palestra?

I still don't really know. I was there, and it definitely happened, and the students rushed the court, and all that. But it still astounds me. Penn played out of its mind. All those shots that have missed over the last two and a half years went in the basket, especially for Jack Eggleston. Penn shot 56.3 percent from the field.

Penn led at halftime even though Cornell shot 56.5 percent in the first 20 minutes. I figured it couldn't be sustained, but the Quakers uncorked a 15-0 run to start the second half.

Then I started getting IMs from Andy Glockner and a Tweet from Pat Forde. I looked across the floor and saw that the usually barren Palestra student section was at least double its regular size. And the crowd was much louder than it had been in a while.

I've been battling a cold for a week or so, and Friday was close to the worst of it. As the second half wound down, part of me honestly wondered if I was seeing things.

In a way, I wasn't absolutely convinced of what happened until Penn came out really sluggish against Columbia on Saturday. Then I - and everyone in the building - knew the team had truly given everything it had against the Big Red.

How have the Quakers changed, either in personality or performance, since Jerome Allen replaced Glen Miller on December 14?

The wins aside, it's hard for me to really quantify what's happened. It's clear though, that the psychological side of the team is way better than before.

Something was broken in the locker room, especially during the first half of the season. It's not that the players didn't play hard for Glen Miller. They wanted to win just as badly in November as they do now.

As soon as I and the other reporters walked into Weightman Hall on the morning of December 15, it was clear that things were different. Then we went to talk to Zack Rosen, and we were hit with the full effect of what had happened.

I asked Rosen whether things felt different than it did before Miller was dismissed.

Rosen paused for a moment, then quickly and quietly answered: "Yes."

It still took a long time for the team to build up to the point where it could win a game. But this team has made more progress since Allen took over than anyone could have reasonably expected. It all built up to last Friday.

Whether or not you think the court-storming Friday night was fair, the emotions that came from the players and coaches were certainly real.

The Penn team defensive numbers on the Pomeroy web site are dreadful. Have they improved on this side of the ball since Allen arrived?

Yes, but I'm not an expert at reading defenses. I'll leave that to Howard Gensler.

Sophomore guard Zack Rosen - as good as advertised?

Without question. He can score and distribute, but his leadership qualities are what has really come through lately. No one in the league that I know sees him as a sophomore, and it would not surprise me if he wins Ivy League Player of the Year. That is not to dimish Lin's incredible talent, but in my opinion, Rosen has done as much if not more with less help than Lin enjoys.

Off the court, the interview I referred to above is one of the most composed and perceptive I've ever seen an Ivy League athlete give, especially given the circumstances of that day.

The other thing I appreciate about Rosen is his understanding of Penn basketball history. I don't root for the team, but I have been concerned for some time now about the low attendances at the Palestra. You and your readers know full well what the place is like when it's full and rocking, and Penn hasn't had that for a few years now.

It's worth noting that Rosen has an op-ed in today's Daily Pennsylvanian encouraging the students to come to tonight's game. That's the first time I've ever seen something like that in the DP.

Rosen has spoken a number of times of wanting to experience the kind of atmosphere that Allen enjoyed when he played at Penn. For as far as Penn and Princeton have fallen in recent years, it would be great if tonight can be a step towards bringing the crowds back to 33rd Street.

Mike Howlett has grabbed a whole lot of rebounds when healthy. How much of a difference does he make?

I suspect Steve Donahue and Joe Jones can answer that question better than I. Howlett's impact was certainly a big reason why Penn won Friday. The offense flows much better with him (and Dan Monckton) on the floor.

Howlett is a better rebounder and ballhandler than Conor Turley, and Howlett's movement around the floor forces opposing defenses to account for him. That frees up more space for Jack Eggleston, and it also gives Rosen another receiver of the ball in the post.

You were at the Penn/Brown buzzer-beater. What did you see?

I saw Dan Monckton release his shot after the light went on. I can't tell you when the horn sounded. It was all very fast, of course. But I also saw Matt Mullery release his buzzer-beating layup before the light went off at the end of the first half, and a few people told me afterwards the basket was fair.

So don't take my word for it.

Describe how Penn beats Princeton tonight.

They could shoot 56.5 percent from the field again, and Princeton could play rather like St. Joe's did when the Tigers went to Hagan Arena. A big student turnout would also probably give the players a boost.

There isn't much else I can think of. Even the ghosts (if you believe in them) can only do so much with how well Princeton has been playing lately.

What occurs for the Tigers to trip the Quakers?

I was really impressed by how Princeton played at Harvard. The defense was strong, the passing was crisp and the scoring was efficient. Most importantly, though, I felt like Princeton could easily continue to play at that level. It seems that they have, save for the hiccups against Columbia.

I also don't think Penn's defense is ready for the Princeton offense's cuts and movement, especially given how young many of the regular players are. Fran Dunphy rarely played underclassmen against Princeton because of the amount of work that is required to follow the movements for all 35 seconds of the shot clock.

Sydney Johnson's interpretation of the system seems more liberal to me than the interpretations of some of his predecessors, Joe Scott in particular. But the Tigers' discipline has really impressed me, and if they play to their capability tonight I expect them to win.

You've seen a lot of Penn basketball and a fair amount of Princeton over the past decade. Is there a single moment that stands out, either on the court or in the stands?

If I may, I'd like to offer one of each. My moment on the court was the Big 5's 50th Anniversary celebration in 2006. Every living City Series player and coach was invited, and many turned out. I got to meet such legends as Bob Weinhauer, Corky Calhoun and Bill Melchionni. It was a really amazing experience.

My moment in the stands was the first Penn-Princeton game I ever attended, in 2003. It remains near the top of the list of the loudest atmospheres I've heard in the Palestra. Only the 2006 and 2008 Villanova-St. Joe's games have matched it.

Plug time! Let people know about your web sites!

As long as your readers are still awake, I'd be happy to. My primary job is overnight editor of the sports page of, the shared website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

I write two blogs for Soft Pretzel Logic, covering college sports, and The Goalkeeper, covering soccer. The latter blog launched in January of this year to coincide with the arrival of Philadelphia's new Major League Soccer and Women's Professional Soccer teams.

Both blogs have their own Twitter feeds: @pretzel_logic and @thegoalkeeper, respectively.

My personal Twitter handle is @jtannenwald. My favorite use of it is requesting songs on WPRB's 24-Hour Holiday Radio Show.

Aw. Thanks for your time, Jon! We'll share a couple slices of completely average pizza before tipoff under the Palestra bleachers, I'm sure.

If you cover a team the Tigers will face down the line, let us know. We'd love to talk with you.

larry said,

February 16, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

I'll post the obvious. THIS IS A HUGE GAME.

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