La Salle set for Big 5 battle with Quakers

La Salle has not beaten Penn since Speedy Morris was coach. No current Explorer knows what it is like to beat the Quakers. Penn has gone through some changes since they last met. Fran Dunphy is out and Glen Miller is in as the Quakers coach. One thing is unchanged. To beat Penn you need to control standouts Ibriham Jaaber and Mark Zoller. This meeting will be no different in that respect.

Penn Probable Starters: (9-6)

2 Ibriham Jaaber 6"2 SR. G
15 Kevin McGee 6"3 SO. G
21 Brian Grandieri 6"4 JR. G
3 Steven Danley 6"8 SR. F
24 Mark Zoller 6"7 SR. F

Penn enters the game on a three game winning streak including a 69-43 thrashing of Ivy-rival Columbia. Three Quakers were double-figure scorers led by Ibby Jaaber's 17 points. Jaaber is coach Glen Miller's (1st season) general. He is the engine that makes the Quakers go. He is second in scoring at 15.5 pts/game while shooting an incredible 55% from the floor. How can the point guard shoot such a high percentage? Jaaber is a master at penetrating the basketball and getting to the rim. Deny him to the rim and he uses his excellent passing skills to get the ball out to the wings and feed two more double-digit scorers in 6"4 junior Brian Grandieri and all everything 6"7 Ivy League Player of the Year candidate Mark Zoller. Grandieri is primarily a spot-up shooter but shoots three pointers at a 46% clip. Zoller, averaging over 18 points/game can score in a variety of ways. He can shoot from the perimeter or post up down in the low blocks. He is heady and willing to sacrifice scoring for the little things to make his team better. He is also a good rebounder despite his smallish size getting 8 boards a night on hustle and smarts for the most part. He completely destroyed the Explorers in last year's meeting getting 25 points on 10 for 17 shooting from the floor and 4 for 6 from the arc. 6"8 pivot man Steve Danley is an active post man who scores mostly from Jaaber passes in the paint and second chance opportunities. 6"7 sophomore Tommy McMahon is the top bench player on a team which gets very little production outside their starters.

La Salle is coming off a 78-59 win over N.J.I.T. A win against the Quakers would get the Explorers back to an even record with a short-term favorable Atlantic 10 schedule approaching. Coach John Giannini continues to see development from his versatile and talented freshman class. Rodney Green led the way against N.J.I.T. with 18 points and is currently second on the team in scoring averaging just less than 14 pts/game. Junior Darnell Harris leads the way at 14.6 pts/game. Ruben Guillandeaux continues his improved play scoring in double figures in two of the last three games while shooting the ball very well.

This game is a real gut-check for the young Explorers. The Quakers are a team that can make veteran teams look bad with their excellent play and leadership. La Salle plays 4 freshmen and a junior a lot of the time and their inexperience could be exposed in this game. Still, the Explorers are deeper and more athletic and getting transition baskets could help even the playing field. The biggest match-up to watch is Ibby Jaaber against any La Salle defender. Successful dribble penetration will allow Penn to get open looks at the basket where they can be deadly. La Salle is incredibly the top 3pt defensive team in the A-10 despite facing Jimmy Baron of Rhode Island and Brian Roberts of Dayton. This should give Explorer fans some hope but will it be false hope as neither of those teams have a penetrator like Jaaber. Giannini has already called this a huge week for his young team. A win could catapult them into a higher level with confidence at their back. A loss could send the Explorer faithful back to wondering if this team is ready to take the next step in their development.

Keys to Victory:
Stop Jabber's dribble penetration
Get Danley in foul trouble
Contest outside shots