February 8, 2008

Red Seeks to Remain Unbeaten in League

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In a year where Penn and Princeton were supposed to fall back to the pack, it still seems to be those same two teams that are lingering around the top of the standings as they travel to Ithaca this weekend.
The Red currently paces the league with a 4-0 conference record, but the two traditional league powers are not too far behind, both maintaining 2-0 records.
With the rest of the league holding 1-3 marks — except Brown at 2-2 — this weekend could easily set the Red apart from the league or bring it back to the crowd.
“Its huge,” said sophomore forward Alex Tyler. “We started the season really well in the first two to three weeks, but with Penn and Princeton undefeated, a sweep this weekend would put us in a really good position. It would give us a little leeway.”
The Red will host Princeton tonight and Penn tomorrow. In most seasons, the Red would not be the favorites, but with both teams considered to be rebuilding, the squad is favored to emerge with two victories.
After earning three straight conference road victories, the Red is happy to return to Newman Arena for the first time since Jan. 19.
“We are definitely looking forward to playing at home,” Tyler said. “It will be a lot of fun playing in front of the home crowd because we haven’t been back for a couple of weeks.”
The Red is entering this weekend with a head full of steam, after three straight double-digit victories. Two weekends ago, Cornell dominated Columbia, winning 72-54. This past weekend, the Red defeated Brown by 11 and Yale by 21. For many reasons, one could have considered last weekend the squad’s toughest weekend.
Players and head coach Steve Donahue attributed the solid performance to the Red’s defensive intensity and hustle. In the three contests, the Red outrebounded its opponents 115-95 and held teams to an average of 30.6 percent shooting.
“We are really starting to buy into the system and focusing on [defense] more than offense. [If we play good defense the offense] will come,” Tyler said. “We have a lot of good offensive players on our team.”
With those defensive statistics, it would seem that Princeton would be easy pickings. In the Tigers’ first games of the season, the team shot 39.6 percent from the field and scored an average of 52.6 points a game. Over the past three games, though, the Tigers offense has come together, shooting 46 percent from the field.
Princeton has a balanced offensive attack relying on the guard-center combo of guard Lincoln Gunn and center Zach Finley, who average 10.5 and 10.4 points per game, respectively.
Penn travels to Ithaca tomorrow without former Ivy standout, and Cornell killer, Ibrahim Jaaber.
“Penn is starting to play better, they are going to come in and not expect to lose,” Tyler said. “We haven’t beaten them in a while, we can’t take anything for granted because they know how to win.”
The 2008 incarnation of the Quakers lacks the same star power as its teams in the past few years, but it still poses a threat with the emergence of freshman Tyler Barnardini. He leads the team with 13 points per game, followed closely by Brian Grandieri with 12.5 ppg.