February 16, 2005

Men's Cagers Still Hunt Ivy Title

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After snapping a 19-game losing streak at Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium, the men’s basketball team was riding high. All it needed to do to make the Ivy race a true competition was to beat Penn at The Palestra the next night. That didn’t happen, as the Red relinquished a halftime lead and lost by 14 to the Quakers. But there are voices out there. Voices of hope — despite the fact that the second-place Red is 5-3 against Ivy opponents, while the Quakers stand at 7-0. Voices that think the Red still can make a run at the Ivy’s automatic invitation to the NCAA tournament. Voices that also play their home games at Newman Arena. “If we take care of our deal, we can be right back in this thing,” said senior Cody Toppert. “It’s real important for us to handle our business first though.” The Red’s mission begins this weekend when the team will travel to Dartmouth, who the Red beat, 63-58, and Harvard, who beat the Red, 74-65. After that, the Red will host a weekend with Penn and Princeton, before closing the season with a road trip to Yale and Brown.

Meanwhile, the first-place Quakers will make three more road trips this season — to Brown for a pair of games this weekend, to Cornell and Columbia, and to Princeton for the season finale. And when the Newman faithful hear that, the voices start talking again. They will say the distance between Cornell and Columbia happens to be the furthest trip between travel partners, while the cellar-dwelling Tigers will surely be looking for an upset after coming into the season as Ivy favorites.

“Anybody can beat anybody else in this league,” Toppert said. “It doesn’t matter what place you are in, any team can fall.”

The reason any team can fall — including Penn — are the stars of the Ivy League. Brown boasts last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year, Jason Forte, who is averaging a league-leading 18.2 points per game. Columbia’s Matt Preston, junior Lenny Collins, and Princeton’s Judson Wallace all average at least 14 points per contest and will battle Penn and its star Tim Begley, who averages a league-high 4.95 assists per game, once more before the season is through.

But for the Red, it doesn’t matter who the competition is, the team is itching to get back onto the court to make one last-ditch effort at the league crown.

“Losing to Penn left a bad taste in our mouths,” Toppert said.

“But we didn’t get down on ourselves. [Instead] our urgency level has skyrocketed. We can’t wait to get back out there.”

If the voices begin to speak louder as the season progresses, they might be speaking come March — but for now, they’re just whispering.

Archived article by hris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor