By Sean Kennedy
(Editor’s Note: I will be out of town the next couple days so this will be the last Daily Cup until Feb. 4. We have a guest post filling in for tonight’s Sixers-Pistons game so make sure to check back for that recap.)
Dartmouth 67, Pennsylvania 58
New portion of the schedule, but conference play bore an unfortunate resemblance to non-conference play for the Quakers. Penn found themselves with another second-half lead that they let fall to the wayside, as a 7-point halftime lead vanished just three minutes after the break and Dartmouth kept going to coast to an easy victory. Alex Mitola led the charge for the Big Green during that run, finishing with a game-high 25 points with 23 of those points coming in the second half.
Fran Dougherty had a solid game for the Quakers, nearly posting a double-double with a team-high 19 points on 8-9 shooting and 9 rebounds. Unfortunately for Penn, the team struggled to take care of the ball, committing 18 turnovers, and also couldn’t find the range from the perimeter, going 3-16 from three. Miles Jackson-Cartwright had a particularly off night, as the team’s best three-point shooter went 0-7 behind the arc. Unable to beat a Dartmouth squad missing its best player, the Quakers will really have their work cut out for them when they face Ivy elite in Harvard tonight.
4:00 PM: Villanova (18-2, 7-1 Big East) @ Temple (6-13, 1-7 AAC) – CBS Sports Network
The Wildcats take a brief hiatus from running through the Big East to try and move to 4-0 against Philly opponents and win this year’s Big 5 championship. Temple has plenty of motivation for this contest as well, as the Owls sit at 2-1 in Big 5 play, and would assure themselves at least a split of that city title with an upset win over Villanova. In the middle of a disappointing season, a Big 5 title would be a nice thing for Temple to hang their hat on.
All eyes defensively for Villanova will be on Temple’s Dalton Pepper, who is averaging 26.5 points over the last two games, including his 8 threes against Cincinnati. Even beyond those games, Pepper has really emerged as the go-to option for the Owls, now leading the team at 18 ppg. For the Wildcats, they’re all about balance, with four players averaging double figures and a number of players coming off the bench capable of exploding on any given night. When it comes down to it, even with Temple back to full strength, Villanova just has too much they can throw at a team and I’d look for them to secure the Big 5 title for the 2013-14 season.
4:00 PM: La Salle (11-9, 3-3 A-10) vs. Duquesne (10-9, 2-4 A-10)
The Explorers looked to have figured things out as the calendar turned to 2014, winning their first 5 games of the new year. However, La Salle followed that streak up with a 3-game losing streak that currently has them sitting in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10. They’ll next face a Duquesne team that has won two straight and features one of the better offenses in the country. A pair of 6’8″ big men lead the way for the Dukes as Ovie Soko averages 18 points and 8 rebounds and Dominique McKoy sits at 11 points and 8 rebounds, while ranking second in the country shooting 66% from the floor.
However, as good as Duquesne is on the offensive end, they’ve even worse defensively and where La Salle can really do some damage is behind the three-point arc. The Dukes are the second-worst team in the country in three-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 41%. Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills, and Tyrone Garland should all find themselves open for plenty of free looks from downtown; if there was ever an opponent for Garland to shake off a 1-14 shooting performance, it would be Duquesne. Ultimately, the Explorers are just a more balanced team than the Dukes and if there big men Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack can stay out of foul trouble and keep the Duquesne forwards in check, La Salle should shoot their way to victory.
4:30 PM: Drexel (11-9, 3-4 CAA) @ Towson (13-8, 4-2 CAA) – NBC Sports Network
Drexel earned a much-needed win earlier this week on the road at Hofstra and will have another road test ahead of them as they seek some revenge against a Towson club that beat them two weeks ago. The Dragons had no answer for Jerrelle Benimon in that contest, as the Tigers star went off for 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists in the victory. Marcus Damas also did some serious damage in the Towson win, scoring 26 points behind a 4-5 performance from behind the arc.
The one solace Drexel can take from that game is that they were without three starters in Tavon Allen, Kaz Abif, and Dartaye Ruffin due to injury. All three guys have since returned to the court, even if they’re not quite 100% back to health. It still doesn’t mean they’ll be able to stop the 6’8″ Benimon, who averages 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists, with as well-rounded a game as the Dragons will see from a guy his size all season. They’ll need Frantz Massenat to continue his recent hot streak as the senior has 2 30-point efforts in his last 4 games. This game should be a close battle and I think the relative health of Tavon Allen may be the deciding factor. The Dragons need that third scorer out there to help Massenat and Chris Fouch; if Allen is still limping around out there, I don’t think Drexel has the firepower to stay with Benimon and the Tigers.
6:00 PM: Saint Joseph’s (14-6, 4-2 A-10) vs. Massachusetts (17-3, 4-2 A-10) – CBS SN
The Hawks are still looking for that marquee win on the season and will have a number of chances over the next couple weeks as they enter a brutal stretch of games against UMass, St. Louis, and VCU. St. Joe’s let a victory slip away in the final minutes in Massachusetts earlier this month after leading the majority of the game. Chaz Williams caught fire late for the Minutemen in that one, as the diminutive guard finished with a game-high 22 points. The Hawks will need to do a better job corralling his high-energy play tonight.
For St. Joe’s, Langston Galloway has been on fire from long-range lately, hitting at least 3 threes in 6 of his last 7 games. With the big men having to battle down low with the 6’10” Cady Lalanne, one of the better offensive rebounders in the country, throughout the game, more of the scoring burden may fall to Galloway and fellow wing DeAndre Bembry. The Minutemen are a solid team on both sides of the ball and I think the Hawks may have missed their chance to grab a victory from them already this season.
9:00 PM: Pennsylvania (4-12, 1-1 Ivy) @ Harvard (16-3, 3-0 Ivy)
We just discussed Penn’s struggles to take care of business against Dartmouth and a quick turnaround against the defending Ivy League champions will just make things more difficult for the Quakers. Harvard just defeated Princeton last night, probably the second-best team in the conference (loss to Penn a few weeks ago aside). Harvard is a well-balanced team but really excels on the defensive end, where they rank top-30 on the year at over 8 steals per game.
That defensive prowess is spearheaded by junior Wesley Saunders, who averages over 2 steals, while also leading the team in scoring at 15 ppg. The swingman is shooting 48% from the field on the season and nearly posted a triple-double last night against the Tigers with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. The Quakers able to steal a victory from the Crimson at home last season, but at Harvard and the way both teams have been playing, it’s hard to see Penn keeping this one close.