I don’t care.
It doesn’t matter that Penn basketball swept Cornell and Columbia this weekend. Not yet anyway.
The Quakers followed a tepid effort against Cornell — the worst team in the country — with a nearly complete game against an upstart Columbia squad. Penn did what it needed to do, outrebounding the Lions 37-26, shooting 54.2 percent from the field and holding a lead for all but the first five minutes of the game.
“I guess after a solid first 20 minutes, we’re 20 minutes away [from a full 40-minute effort].” Penn coach Jerome Allen said.
But what Penn really needs to put together is a complete Ivy weekend. It’s safe to say that Penn didn’t do that this weekend based on its inexplicable inability to put Cornell away with authority on its home floor.
We’ve seen this see-saw from the Quakers before. Last year, Penn split each of its six Ivy weekends, following up upset wins with disappointing losses. This season has been more of the same, with the Quakers squeezing in an upset victory over Princeton (which doesn’t look so impressive after the Tigers’ 1-4 start to conference play) between blowout Big 5 losses against La Salle and St. Joseph’s at home.
A solid win over a solid Ivy opponent at home is just that and nothing more until the Quakers prove they can value the basketball, play stout defense and operate with remarkable offensive efficiency on a nightly basis in Ivy play.
Like Yale this weekend, for example. The Bulldogs have notched back-to-back Ivy weekend sweeps, with the exclamation point coming in the form of a 74-67 win Saturday at Harvard, where Penn lost by 30 the week before. The Bulldogs snapped Harvard’s 20-game home winning streak by playing punishing defense, holding Harvard to 39 percent shooting from the floor while shooting 51.2 percent themselves.
That’s what Penn needs to do, and more importantly, can do. It’s clear from Penn’s wire-to-wire victory over the Lions that the Quakers are athletic and experienced enough to be Ivy title contenders, and thanks to Yale’s win, they still can be. At 3-2 in Ivy play, Penn now sits just a game and a half behind first-place Harvard.
“We’re still in the chase,” senior captain Fran Dougherty said. “I felt like [this weekend] brought back confidence for a lot of our guys.”
That’s crucial, and if the Quakers believe again, that’s absolutely the most important step.
But that step is behind them now, and Penn basketball fans can only truly believe in this veteran club again once it proves that it won’t take two steps back for this one pivotal step forward. After a season and a half of frustrating stagnancy, one can only believe in consistency when one sees it. Let’s see it.
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