Jerome Allen's first win as Penn's interim men's basketball coach also will be the Quakers' first victory of the season.
Tonight, Penn will take its first crack at stopping the bleeding of a 0-7 start as Allen coaches his first game since replacing the fired Glen Miller. Penn's foe will be Davidson (4-8), of the Southern Conference, in Davidson, N.C.
"In this situation, there's no pressure," said Allen, a former two-time Ivy League player of the year at Penn who took over for Miller on Dec. 14. "What I try to tell our guys is that you have an opportunity to play a game that you love, and you're supposed to go out and enjoy it. And from my standpoint, I try to approach it the same way."
But that doesn't mean practice has to mimic the games.
At Allen's first open practice to media Dec. 15 at Weightman Gym, players had their hands on their knees, gasping for air. Since then, according to sophomore point guard Zack Rosen, the 36-year old Allen has continued to emphasize conditioning.
"We ran more. You think that was a lot?" Rosen said. "I think he's found excuses for us to run. But he's demanding a certain level of commitment, and he wants us to be the best we can be."
On Christmas night, Rosen and the Quakers were back on campus practicing.
"It's Christmas Day, but at the end of the day, there are a number of teams out there practicing today," said Allen, who also traveled and watched recruits play during the break.
"It feels like this week was like preseason, was like training camp or something," said Rosen, Penn's leading scorer at 14.9 points per game. "It's a new feel, it's a new vibe."
Davidson started this season 0-4 after losing all-American guard Stephen Curry to the NBA's Golden State Warriors. Penn and Davidson have not met since the Wildcats won a 75-71 overtime decision on Dec. 22, 2001.
The game begins a four-game Penn road trip that includes stops at No. 7 Duke (Dec. 31), Lafayette (Jan. 3), and Maryland-Baltimore County (Jan. 6).
Davidson has Philadelphia-area connections. The Wildcats' leading scorer is 6-foot-10 freshman forward Jake Cohen (14.9 points per game), a former Conestoga High School star.
Bob McKillop, in his 21st season as Davidson's head coach and with a 371-241 record, signed as a free agent and was cut from the 76ers after graduating from Hofstra in 1972.
Davidson lost to La Salle, 84-70, in the Charleston (S.C.) Classic on Nov. 20, and fell to Cornell in overtime, 91-88, at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 20.
"We've got a tough game coming up," Rosen said, "but we're just trying to get a win first. We're just trying to get a win."