It’s a do-or-die weekend for the men’s basketball team. With only four games remaining in the regular season, the Red (11-12, 6-4 Ivy) needs to run the table to have a shot at the Ivy title, and it will get a chance to make up some ground on league-leading Penn (15-8, 8-1 Ivy) when the two teams meet tonight at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena. Tomorrow, Princeton (12-11, 3-6 Ivy) comes to town for a 7 p.m. contest that will be televised on the YES Network. This weekend’s games come just two weeks after Cornell played at Princeton and Penn. Also tomorrow, seniors Eric Taylor, Cody Toppert, and Chris Vandenberg will be honored as part of senior night.
“Princeton’s only played three games since we played them, and Penn’s only played two games,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “It’s different because we know each other. Even in those two weeks for us, we’ve changed dramatically, just with injuries and guys playing.”
After splitting last weekend’s games against Dartmouth and Harvard, the Red needs four wins plus three Penn losses to clinch at least a share of the league title. If the two teams finished tied for first, they will then play each other in a one-game playoff at a neutral sit e. However, the last time Cornell beat Penn twice in one season was in 1989.
Against Dartmouth last Friday, the Red fell behind early and could not recover, losing 67-54. With sophomore point guard Graham Dow hampered by injury, freshman Jason Canady stepped up with a career and team-high 20 points against the Green, including 16 in the final nine minutes. Starting the following night, Canady put up 15 more points in the Red’s 67-63 win at Harvard, and was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his efforts. Junior Ryan Rourke also had a big night against the Crimson, posting a career-high 27 points.
This weekend presents a formidable challenge for the Red, as the team has not swept Princeton and Penn at home since its Ivy title season in 1988. Two weeks ago, Cornell won its first game at Princeton since 1985, beating the Tigers 66-58. The next night at the Palestra, the Red had a chance to become only the fourth team ever in league history to sweep the Tigers and Quakers on the road, but dropped a 64-50 contest. Serving as an assistant coach at Penn for 10 years, Donahue is still winless against his mentor and Penn head coach Fran Dunphy.
“We have to do the things we do well to win games, and for me, that’s doing a real good job on the defensive boards, taking care of transition defense, and taking care of the ball, ” Donahue said. “When we take care of the ball and our turnovers are in the 10-12 range, we usually are a very good basketball team, and that’s what we need to do this weekend.”
While Penn looked like it was ready to run away with the league title last weekend, Yale stunned the previously-undefeated Quakers with a 78-60 win in New Haven, CT. The Bulldogs built on a five-point lead at halftime, and limited Penn to 28.1 percent shooting in the second half.
“It’s a revenge game for a team that I know physically is able to match up with Penn. [Yale’s win] doesn’t surprise me,” Donahue said. “[Penn’s] a team that I think really understands how to win games, gets the maximum amount out of each guy — one of those teams. But on any given night, anybody in this league can beat anybody. When Yale’s at home and Penn has to go there after really beating [the Bulldogs] easily at the Palestra, that was a good opportunity for Yale to jump them.”
Penn is led by senior guard Tim Begley, who has compiled a team-leading 14.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. Sophomore guard Ibrahim Jaaber has upped his scoring average by almost five points per game from a year ago, and is second on the team in scoring with 11.0 points per game.
“Obviously, we can really look at our film and what we did well and what we didn’t do well and try to correct it,” Donahue said. “We’re trying to execute and maybe come up with a wrinkle here and there to make us more successful than [when] we were down there.”
Since its loss to Cornell two weeks ago, the Tigers have gone 2-1, most recently beating up on Brown 69-52 last Saturday. The reigning league champion, Princeton, is currently sixth in the conference standings. Senior center Judson Wallace is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, with 12.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, while senior guard Will Venable is second in scoring with 10.5 points per game.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach
Sun Staff Writer