On Friday night, Penn clinched a berth in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament with a 47-34 victory over Cornell at the Palestra. The Red battled back from Penn’s initial 7-0 start, but could not counter the Quakers’ 11-0 run at the start of the second quarter. Both teams shot poorly (Cornell 24 percent overall and 18 percent from three; Penn 37 percent overall and 29 percent from three), but Penn’s more dominant inside game proved to be the difference.
The sudden resurgence of the Penn Quakers men’s basketball team has been one of the biggest stories of the Ivy League season. After an 0-6 start to conference play, including a four-game stretch where they lost by 12 at the Palestra to (preseason eighth-place) Brown, gave up an early 15-point lead in a defeat at Harvard, were upset by previously winless Dartmouth and got beat by 15 points at home to Princeton, many people (including this writer) were ready to write off the 2016-17 campaign. After the last two weekends, the team has regrouped and is now tied with Columbia for the final spot in the Ivy League Tournament.
Over the last four games, not only has the team played its best basketball of the season, the performances may have been the program’s most dominant in the last decade. The numbers that Penn has put up have been staggering.
Penn came into the weekend with a 7-0 record and was fortunate to escape with a split. On Friday, Brown used a 12-0 run to take a 15-point lead after the first quarter. Penn chipped away and took a two-point advantage into the fourth quarter. The Bears then went on a 15-6 run to take a seven-point lead with 4:16 to go. Penn tied it at 66 with 1:05 on the clock. Following a Brown bucket, the Quakers got an old fashioned three-point play to take the lead and two free throws to ice the 71-68 victory.
With three weeks left in the regular season, we’d like to update the readers on the women’s basketball results.
After a crazy first full weekend of conference play, a definite separation has developed between Princeton, Harvard and Yale and the remainder of the league .
1) Princeton 8-0 (wins versus Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Penn x 2)
T-2) Yale 6-2 (wins versus Columbia, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown x 2)
T-2) Harvard 6-2 (wins versus Yale, Brown, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth x 2)
4) Columbia 4-4 (wins versus Harvard, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth)
T-5) Brown 2-6 (wins versus Penn, Cornell)
T-5) Penn 2-6 (wins versus Columbia, Cornell)
T-5) Cornell 2-6 (wins versus Columbia, Dartmouth)
T-5) Dartmouth 2-6 (wins versus Brown, Penn)
Looking at the standings, nine wins will give a team an automatic spot in the four-team postseason tournament. At this time, Princeton is one win away, while Yale and Harvard are three away. Barring a complete collapse from any of these teams, three quarters of the tournament are close to being set.
Despite being swept by Penn and Princeton this past weekend, Columbia still has the upper hand for the last spot in the tournament since the Lions have a two-game lead and is the only remaining team that can get to nine victories. If Columbia cannot win at least five of its last six, then things get more complicated.
For Cornell’s first-year head coach Brian Earl, the 2016-17 campaign was going to have challenges typical to many new Ivy League coaches. In addition to bringing some new staff and a different playing style, the coach was not able to recruit any of his own players. With only one first-year coming to East Hill in the fall, the team was similar to the one that went 10-18 overall and 3-11 in the conference last year.
While hundreds of thousands of people came to New York to protest Penn’s first-ever President of the United States on Saturday, the Cornell basketball team came to the Big Apple to challenge its own Ancient Eight foe. Depending on one’s political views, the results for the marchers was inconclusive. No matter which Ivy Leaguer one supported in the recent election, however, there was no disputing the Big Red’s victory in avenging their loss to Columbia one week earlier.
With the Columbia students back from winter break, Levien Gymnasium was packed and the crowd was ready for the Lions to move to 2-0 at the start of conference play. With Robert Hatter, Cornell’s second leading scorer and primary ball handler, on the sidelines with a knee injury, things looked good for Columbia. Even with the loss of another starter, the Big Red looked calm and relaxed as the team completed its warmups. The Lions, however, appeared more serious as game time approached.
After two weeks of league competition, Penn has lost its first three contests, including two at the Palestra. The most surprising was a loss to Brown, the eighth-place team in the league’s preseason poll, which was Bears’ first road conference win in almost two years. (Brown very nearly upset Yale Friday night in Providence, but that doesn’t change Penn’s current 0-3 hole in league play.)
Looking at where things stand, were Quakers fans viewing the team through Red and Blue-colored glasses as the Ivy League slate began?
With the first-ever Ivy League Postseason Tournament, the regular season has focused on which teams would make it into the top four. In the preseason and the first two months of the campaign, Princeton, Yale and Harvard appeared certain to get to the Palestra for the second week of March. The first two weekends of conference play has confirmed those ideas. For most of the nonconference season, Penn seemed to take control of that fourth spot. While losing to Princeton at Jadwin Gym on the opening night of the league schedule, the Quakers showed enough on the offensive and defensive sides to justify those predictions. However, the Quakers’ two home losses this weekend showed that their path to the Palestra is uncertain and opened the fourth spot for all five lower division squads. After Saturday’s action in Philadelphia and Ithaca, Brown and Columbia took strong steps towards claiming the last spot in the top tier.
Prior to the start of conference play, Penn coach Steve Donahue sat for an appearance on Penn Basketball Weekly. In the Penn-Princeton preview, the coach emphasized the main difference between the two teams in last year’s close contests was the fact that Princeton competed better. The Tigers made the necessary plays late, when the game was on the line. He felt that the Quakers had improved on that end, but Saturday’s result shows that Penn is just not at the Tigers’ level at this time.