If Princeton beats Cornell at Jadwin tonight and the favorites in the other games all hold serve, two Ivy teams will control their own destiny for the league title. One will be the Tigers. And the other would be…
Harvard? Try again.
The mystery team would be the once 0-10 Pennsylvania Quakers, who just registered the first defeat of a ranked opponent by an Ivy team in roughly 13 months, knocking off No. 22 Cornell 79-64 last night.
Penn held a shocking 32-31 lead at halftime, but unlike Brown, which collapsed down the stretch against the Big Red last Saturday, the Quakers knocked down three trifectas during a 15-0 run to start the half, which gave Penn enough of a cushion to ward off the late Cornell runs.
The Big Red got as close as five with under seven to go, but went without a made field goal for almost five minutes, as the Quakers ran off a 13-2 run during the Cornell drought to put the game out of reach.
Penn got 19 huge minutes from forward Mike Howlett, who contributed nine points and nine rebounds in his first game back after a two-month absence due to injury. Jack Eggleston added a career-high 24 points, while Zack Rosen chipped in 22 to push the Quakers to their third win in four games.
The Big Red must regroup quickly, as it faces a Princeton team that it lost to in the same arena last season. Cornell can’t afford a second loss, which would put the Tigers two up in the loss column with just three Ivy weekends left. What Penn managed to do last night was stunning not just in a vacuum (a 300+ Pomeroy team knocking off one which had recently found a home in the Top 50), but rather for what it did to the Ivy race. The Quakers kept themselves in the thick of things for another evening, helped out Princeton by making tonight’s contest a real pressure-cooker for the Big Red, and they managed to give another team a second lease on life.
BIZARRE, PART DEUX
Doug Miller had three fouls. Jeff Georgatos had been ineffective. And Harvard was trailing by nine with just 20 minutes left.
That’s when Tommy Amaker had to get creative.
The combinations were one part ridiculous, one part brilliant, as Amaker went four guards for significant stretches of the second half, while navigating around seemingly endless foul trouble, and he even turned to freshman big man Spencer DeMars, who had never seen a non-garbage time minute all year, in order to find a way to keep an undermanned Crimson team in the contest down the stretch.
The scrappy effort seemed to come up short, as Jeremy Lin fouled out with his team down and just one minute left. But with Yale up 65-62, Amaker thrust Dee Giger, who hadn’t seen a minute all game, onto the floor and Giger delivered with a game tying three with 25 seconds left. In the overtime period, Amaker called on Giger once again – this time after Oliver McNally fouled out – and the freshman responded by sinking 3-of-4 attempts from the line. Giger’s final stat line: two minutes, six points and a steal.
Giger’s free throws forced Yale’s Alex Zampier to heave up two final three-pointers to attempt to force a second overtime. Zampier missed both attempts, about the only thing that went wrong for the senior guard, who finished a dominant offensive performance with 32 points, three assists and three steals.
With Pat Magnarelli, Keith Wright and Andrew Van Nest all missing the weekend with a variety of ailments, Amaker will have to tap his creative side once again, if he hopes to pull out another win in Providence against another dominant frontcourt.
IN OTHER ACTION
Noruwa Agho matched Douglas Davis with 15 points, but had an atrocious shooting night for the Lions, as Princeton used an 18-2 second half run to cap off a comeback from a double-digit first-half deficit.
Ian Hummer continued his impressive freshman campaign with 11 points and nine rebounds in the 55-45 Tigers win. With the Cornell loss, Princeton now leads the Ivy League with a record of 5-0.
Brown got double-doubles out of forwards Matt Mullery and Peter Sullivan, as they finished the game on a 14-5 run to close out Dartmouth 75-60 last night. The Bears led by as many as 14 in the first half, but the Big Green managed to cut that to three in the second half. Dartmouth couldn’t hit its free throws, going just 12-of-19 from the stripe, and gave Brown way too many opportunities at the line and the Bears capitalized going 33-for-37 on the contest.
THE RACE, AS IT WERE
Despite the loss at The Palestra, not much has changed just yet. With a win tonight Cornell will still be the heavy favorite to win the league, it’s just that they’ll be the heavy favorite to win a muddled race instead of the clear favorite to run away with the title that it would have been with a weekend sweep. And far more teams (as many as 4) would control their own destiny than would have otherwise (1).
With a loss by the Big Red, the Tigers would be far ahead of the pack, but the road would not necessarily be smoothly paved. Princeton has a now-tricky date with Penn at The Palestra on Tuesday, a visit from a frisky Yale squad next Friday, a trip to Ithaca on Feb. 26 and a visit from Harvard on Mar. 6.
The Crimson could be a darkhorse in this race now. It must still survive a meeting with Brown without three of its top five forwards, which should be the ultimate challenge, especially after Kyle Casey and Doug Miller logged 75 minutes last night, but if it does, it should start getting healthy bodies back next weekend for what would once again be a crucial date with the Big Red at Lavietes.