February 16, 2007

M. Cagers Prepare for Ivy Road Trip

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First place in the Ivy League standings will be on the line this weekend when the men’s basketball team takes to the road. Cornell will face Princeton in Jadwin Gym tonight andwill do battle with Penn at the Palestra tomorrow night.

Cornell (13-9, 6-2 Ivy) is currently tied for second place in the conference after defeating Yale (10-11, 6-2) last Saturday night. The Red will have a chance to improve its situation against the best and the worst of the league, as Princeton brings up the rear of the Ivies with a 1-6 league mark (10-11 overall). The Quakers (15-8, 6-1) stand alone atop the rankings after handing the Tigers a 48-35 loss this past Tuesday night.
[img_assist|nid=21445|title=Dish it off|desc=Senior Graham Dow (3) looks to make a pass during Cornell’s 60-59 win last Saturday night against Yale.|link=none|align=left|width=79|height=100]
In the first round of Ivy play, Cornell split with the league’s perennial powerhouses, dropping a 74-56 decision to Penn on Jan. 12 before rebounding for a 55-35 win over Princeton the next night. Since then, Cornell has had its most successful run this season, going 6-1 and winning four games decided by five points or less.

“We are such a young team in general,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “I think it helps that they saw these teams already. … Any time we’ve done well, we’ve learned from the experience.”

Despite its dismal league record, Princeton leads the Ancient Eight in scoring defense, as the Tigers have held opponents to just 52.8 points per game.

“I think Princeton is starting to execute a little better,” Donahue said. “They are playing better defense than they were playing, and their young guys are playing better.”

Even with this recent improvement, the Tigers are still without junior forward Kyle Koncz, who leads the team with 8.8 points per game. However, Donahue said his team is not taking a win tonight for granted.

“We don’t have the luxury of looking past anybody,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine not being fired up to play Princeton with all their tradition.”

Since Cornell won its lone league crown in 1988, either Princeton or Penn has claimed every title since. Penn, the favorite of the preseason polls this year, is making another run at a championship behind the league’s most potent offense.

“The basic guys are still leading [Penn],” Donahue said. “[Senior Ibrahim Jabber] has done such a great job of leading them … [and] helping set up his teammates.”

Jabber, the defending Ivy League Player of the Year, has averaged 15.2 points per game and leads the league in both steals per game and assists per game with 3.13 and 5.48, respectively. But classmate Mark Zoller, a 6-7 forward, has been the most potent scorer for the Quakers, leading all Ivy players with 18.2 points per game.

Despite the high stakes this weekend, Donahue says that it will be business as usual for the Red, regardless of whether it is the first-place or last-place team on the other bench.

“We haven’t done enough in building this program to think we can … look past Princeton or think if we win this game we’re O.K.,” he said. “If we get the opportunity to play a great team, we want to take advantage of that.”