Phillips | Time to forget Penn basketball's flaws

· February 10, 2014, 4:33 pm   ·  Updated February 10, 2014, 9:20 pm

Osama Ahmed | DP

Despite a disappointing season thus far, senior forward Fran Dougherty and the rest of Penn basketball are looking to fight through the rest of the Ivy League season. The numbers don’t particularly favor the Quakers, but Dougherty wasn’t entirely wrong when he said that the team is still in the championship race.


This is the time of year when you suspend all the cynicism.

You have a date on Valentine’s Day, you were lucky enough to get a good reservation at a great restaurant downtown and you are excited.

As you buy your date the standard chocolate and roses, you forget about that time you were sick a few years ago on Valentine’s Day and may or may not have ruined your date’s dress, and the time when your blind date turned out to be your best friend’s sister (awkward).

Penn basketball takes on Yale on Friday, a matchup of young squads trying to keep the illusion of relevance up for yet another week. Each team wants a chance at turning a fling into something real.

The Quakers always struggle against Yale, and this particular group of players still have a bad taste in their mouths from last year’s 68-59 loss in New Haven, a night which ended with tempers flaring for the squad on and off the court for the Red and Blue.

Heartbreak has been common thus far for teams throughout the Ivy League, a reminder of how grueling and how much of a marathon the 14-game tournament known as the Ancient Eight can be.

While the numbers said that going into this weekend, Penn wasn’t even part of the conversation, one sweep later, Penn is left in contention.

The Ancient Eight is a visceral experience for all involved — like seeing your date for the first time and being wowed, or that pit in your stomach you feel when you realize she doesn’t feel the same way.

Just listening to those on the losing end of a Saturday night Ivy League loss, it becomes clear how emotionally draining the 14-game tournament is.

After last night’s loss to Penn, Columbia coach Kyle Smith was asked how he felt. Rather than sparing words, he simply said he felt crappy. After the presser ended, he said he wanted to get a cheesesteak, but he didn’t know if he’d be able to enjoy it after that loss.

For the record, that’s the Philadelphia equivalent of drowning one’s sorrow in ice cream.

Up in Cambridge, Harvard co-captain Brandyn Curry told the media following his team’s loss to Yale, “We feel that the league is won on Saturday nights. Those are always the toughest games, people are tired [since] you played last night. But it is definitely not an excuse.

“Saturday nights, that is when you have to bring it and unfortunately we did not.”

Yes, the 14-game tournament is a stomach-turning, heart-pounding marathon — the ultimate drama.

For Harvard, whose lofty expectations of a perfect Ivy record were impossible to live up to.

For Cornell, who is just trying to get to the season’s finish line.

And for Penn, whose fortunes fluctuate seemingly minute by minute.

Numbers say that the Quakers, based on the amount the team coughs up the rock and their poor defensive efficiency, don’t have a shot.

But don’t tell that to Penn.

“We’re still in the Ivy race,” Penn senior captain Fran Dougherty said, and he’s right.

In the Quakers’ first sweep at an Ivy weekend since March 2-3, 2012, the Red and Blue won in different ways, with offense on Friday and strong defense Saturday. They are finally starting to look like the team that fans and critics expected to see at the start of the year.

Just as millions of people around the world put their hang-ups about relationships on hold, ignore all the reasons why Penn will probably lay an egg and break hearts in the process.

For a week, enjoy Dougherty’s performance from Saturday. That urge that Penn fans are feeling to circle Friday the 21st, when Harvard enters the Cathedral? Embrace it.

There will be time for heartbreak. It could happen on Friday at Yale, or Saturday at Brown, or later.

But just like everyone else around this time of year, ignore it for a week and get your hopes up for this odd, emotionally taxing companion that is Penn basketball.

JOHN PHILLIPS is a senior English major from Philadelphia and is a senior staff writer for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at jphil2010@gmail.com.

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