February 6, 2009

Men’s Basketball Set to Face Ivy League Foes on the Road

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Last weekend, the men’s basketball team made history with blowout wins over Brown and Yale. This weekend, as the team travels to Penn and Princeton, the Red could make history again with two wins regardless of the margin of victory.
Traditionally the toughest road trip for any Ivy League basketball team, the Penn-Princeton road trip has put many winning streaks to rest since the Ancient Eight’s inception in 1956. After sweeping each team last year, however, Cornell (14-6, 4-0 Ivy) could become the first-ever squad to sweep the Penn-Princeton road trip in back-to-back seasons.
The Red will also look to build on its nine-game winning streak — including seven straight by double figures.
Easier said than done, however. Princeton (7-8, 2-0) joins Cornell as the only two unbeaten Ivy squads and is off to its best start since 2004. Penn (5-10, 1-1) added more talented freshman to an already up-and-coming young squad.[img_assist|nid=34815|title=Basketball Jones|desc=The men’s basketball team will take on Penn and Princeton this weekend.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
One step at a time, though. The Red will tackle the Tigers tonight, facing off against a team that has finally settled into second-year coach’s Sydney Johnson’s version of the methodical Princeton Offense.
“They’ve gotten used to a different coach and a slightly different philosophy,” Donahue said. “They’re more aggressive on the offensive end trying to make plays, not really playing the clock as much. And the addition of a couple young players has really helped them.”
Key to the young influx of talent has been freshman Doug Davis. He has played the most minutes, averaging a team-high 13.7 points per game.
“We saw him back in high school and knew that he was a good player,” Donahue said. “He’s very aggressive in looking for his shots and his teammates look for him. He’s done a terrific job taking shots within the context of the offense, but at the same time being very aggressive.”
Sophomore Dan Mavraides has also provided a jolt after not seeing much action his rookie season. Chipping in 10.7 points per game, Mavraides has lead Princeton in scoring four out of its last six games.
“He didn’t play much last year, so I don’t see that much there,” Donahue. “But he’s one of those Princeton guys that if you give him a little bit of daylight, he has deep range and he’s a strong physical kid who can take it off the dribble. He’s intelligent and makes plays.”
And while Princeton might seem the less intimidating of the two games, seeing as Cornell has won its last four matchups at Jadwin Gymnasium, it, not Penn are coming off a weekend sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth. The Quakers, after downing Harvard to open their Ivy League schedule, blew a late lead to the Green. It was Penn’s first loss to Dartmouth in 23 games.
“Last weekend they had the game won at Dartmouth and then had a couple of key turnovers,” Donahue said. “But I thought they played well.”
Traditionally, Penn has dominated this weekend in its schedule, hosting Columbia followed by Columbia. Only twice since 1990-91 has the squad not swept the two games. Last year was one of those two as the Red squeaked out a 94-92 win over the Quakers in its penultimate conference matchup.
“We played two hard games with them [last year],” Donahue said. “We had double-digit leads in both of them and they don’t give up. They play hard, [Penn head coach] Glen [Miller’s] teams always do. They’re scrappy and not going to give you an inch. We expect a real hard-fought game without question. That building is a very difficult place to play as well.”
Indeed, the Red has not traditionally fared well at the 8,772-seat Palestra. And with the addition of freshman Zack Rosen to a talented backcourt lead by sophomore Harrison Gaines, a win against the Quakers is no sure thing. Rosen is leading the Ivy League in assists per game (5.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.15).
“He really pushes the ball and finds teammates,” Donahue said. “ … [Junior] Lou [Dale’s] going to have to do a good job, and it’s not just Lou, we’ll probably put multiple guys on him. In general, in team defenses it’s very important that you can contain him in transition, and other guys are sprinting back are watching for his passing lanes and building that wall to prevent his penetration. That’s everybody’s job.”
Penn is deep at every spot on the floor, according to Donahue, who added that the Quakers go nine-men deep. He pointed to sophomore Jack Eggleston and senior Brennan Votel as the key cogs in the Quaker’s frontcourt. Both are shooting over 50 percent from the floor and averaging just over 10 points per game.
“Obviously, they’re getting scoring in other spots as well as from [Penn leading scorer Tyler] Bernardini,” Donahue said. “They’re still a young team. They’re one of the most talented teams we’ll play in the league, if not the most talented.”