Pennsylvania (9-7, 2-0 Ivy)
The Quakers’ early season struggles seem like ancient history now, as the perennial Ivy League favorite has settled into a groove with league play beginning this weekend. Penn had the most trouble slipping by fellow Philadelphia denizen St. Joseph’s Tuesday night, before absolutely terrifying the first two Ivy League teams to visit the Palestra this weekend. The Bulldogs, playing their first game in almost two weeks, were the first victims Friday night. The Quakers jumped out to an 11-0 lead and never looked back, storming to a 37-22 halftime advantage and leading by as much as 30 late in the second half. Sophomore Steve Danley kicked off a monster weekend by scoring a career-high 16 points in the 65-41 rout, and overall team points leader Tim Begley right behind him with 15. The night after holding Yale to its lowest point total this season, the Quakers welcomed a Brown squad playing its eighth straight road game. Danley’s personal scoring record lasted less than 24 hours, as the young forward, averaging 9.8 PPG this season, bested his previous night’s total by six and sunk 22 points. He was part of a Penn onslaught that helped the Quakers jump out to a commanding 21-7 advantage and shoot 63.5 percent from the floor in the eventual 83-60 win. Penn was winless against Brown last year, but still hold a lopsided 89-18 edge in the all-time series. The Quakers head up I-95 next weekend to play their first Ivy road games against Harvard and Dartmouth.
Columbia (12-5, 3-1)
Despite the recent run of a resurgent Penn squad, the Lions still hold the best overall record in the Ivy League, following a very impressive weekend at home. Saturday brought a woeful Dartmouth team into Morningside Heights, and, surprisingly enough, Columbia had its hands full through the first half. The Big Green darted out to a 24-14 advantage before a 19-2 run, led by team points leader Matt Preston (18 points, six rebounds) and freshman guard Mack Montgomery, put the Lions into the drivers seat. Outscoring the visitors 42-19 in the second half, Columbia strolled to a 64-45 win. Though on the other side of a second-half rally this time, the Lions were able to withstand the Crimson at home yesterday. Preston dropped 19 on Harvard as the Lions seemed to have the game wrapped up at 54-40 with 7:52 to go. Then senior guard David Giovacchini keyed a rally, with eight of his 12 total points, to bring Harvard within one with 1:16 to go. Montgomery’s free throw with 2.4 seconds left brought the score to 57-55, and it stayed that way as Ivy League rebound leader Matt Stehle’s buzzer beater clanged off the rim. The Lions’ dream season rolls on as Yale and Brown come to visit next weekend.
Harvard (7-10, 2-2)
The Crimson had a bit more luck upstate than in the Big Apple as they traveled to western New York this weekend. On Saturday afternoon in Ithaca, Harvard had five players score in double digits in a game that was remarkable for its impressive shooting from the field. After settling into a comfortable 31-21 lead at the break, the Crimson exploded, shooting 79 percent from the field in the second half. Yet the Big Red nearly matched Harvard’s precision in the second half, with their 43 points only one less than the Crimson’s 44, and it took eight points from the free throw line for visiting Harvard to seal the deal in the last minute. Team points leaders Stehle and Brian Cusworth combined for 31 points in the 74-65 win. The next day in Manhattan, the Crimson mounted a 15-4 run at the end of the game, but despite the late momentum and an amazing day for Cusworth under the boards (15 rebounds), the Lions closed it out 57-55. Leaving the Empire State with a 1-1 split in hand, Harvard heads home for a weekend stand against surging Penn and Princeton teams this weekend.
Princeton (10-6, 1-1)
After a three-week break that gave the Tigers plenty of time to stew over their loss to No. 5 Duke Jan. 5, the Tigers headed back into action against Division III Haverford Tuesday night. The well-rested Tigers were unforgiving hosts, forcing 18 turnovers and allowing their lowest opponent point total in three years in the 60-33 romp. Their entry into Ivy League competition was not quite as impressive Friday night as they faced off against Brown at Jadwin Gym. The Tigers and Bears matched each other through the first half, as they broke for intermission with Princeton leading by two. But 33 combined points from Brown’s Jason Forte and Luke Ruscoe, the core of the Bears’ 60 percent shooting performance from the field, and a 14-5 run to start the second half were too much for the Tigers, who lost their first Ivy opener in nine years and only their second game in Brown’s last 54 visits to Princeton. A visit from the ailing Yale squad Saturday afternoon was all the Tigers needed to snap out of their brief funk. Despite yet another impressive performance from league points leader Edwin Draughan ’05 and a 26-24 Bulldog halftime lead, the story of the day was Princeton senior Mike Stephens, who scored a career-high 23 points. Stephens’ 15 second half points were the key in Princeton outscoring Yale two to one after halftime, and the Tigers rolled to a 58-43 victory. The Tigers hit the road next weekend, visiting Harvard and Dartmouth before crossing the Delaware to visit Penn Feb. 8.
Brown (8-8, 1-1)
After breaking even in their first 14 non-league games, the Bears continued the trend by splitting their first Ivy League games this weekend. First came a visit to Princeton Friday night, where Brown had performed woefully over the last decade. The Bears shocked everyone by their intense performance from the field, hitting 22-for-37 shots and subduing the favored Tigers 57-52. Unfortunately for Brown, their first trip to Penn this season coincided with the Quakers taking off on their hottest streak of the season. The game was well out of reach by the time senior guard and team points leader Jason Forte turned it on in the second half, hitting all of his 15 points and sparking a 16-7 run that still left the Bears behind by 12. The road-weary Brown squad finishes off its eight-game run away from Providence with visits to Cornell and Columbia this weekend.
Cornell (7-10, 2-2)
Coming off their satisfying rout of the powerful Columbia squad last weekend, the Big Red hoped to continue their winning ways as Harvard came to town Saturday. The Crimson’s shooting was just too strong, as they hit a whopping 79 percent from the field after the break and left Cornell in the dust in a game that seemed pretty close well into the second half. A visit from Dartmouth Sunday afternoon was good medicine after their frustrating Saturday, as the Big Red nailed down their third straight win against the Big Green and their hundredth win at Ithaca’s Newman Arena. Lenny Collins, fourth in Ivy League scoring, hit a game-high 15 points, and the Big Red fended off an early 17-10 deficit to eek out a 63-58 victory. Cornell stays at home for another weekend, as it tries to improve its 1-1 league record against Brown and Yale this weekend.
Dartmouth (4-13, 1-3)
Nothing was different for the Big Green after they returned from their three-week hiatus from Ivy League play. Dartmouth was pounded at Columbia Saturday afternoon, even after looking very strong in the first half. Center David Gardner, hampered by a bad flu, looked impressive with eight points off the bench, but Columbia’s second half explosion overwhelmed the Big Green in an eventual 64-45 loss. The Big Green stuck close for much of their game against Cornell Sunday, with Gardner valiantly putting down another 14. Despite early leads, Dartmouth fell for the 10th time in 11 games as its nightmarish season drudges on. The league’s two southernmost teams come to Hanover next weekend, as the Big Green hopes for season-changing performances in their games against the hot Quakers and Tigers.