Alyssa Kress | Will Quakers' second life matter?
February 12, 2012, 11:01 pm · Updated February 14, 2012, 11:21 pm·
Katherine Elgin | The Daily Princetonian
As the seconds ticked down and Harvard sealed its win at the free throw line, seniors Rob Belcore and Zack Rosen glanced up at the scoreboard and hung their heads. The race for the Ivy League title seemed to have been won.
Harvard handed Penn its second Ivy loss of the season, 56-50, while Yale suffered an 85-84 overtime loss to Cornell.
The Crimson were sitting pretty atop the Ancient Eight with a 7-0 record, while the Bulldogs and Quakers were left wondering what could have been.
Then, on Saturday night, Penn’s fiercest rival came through.
Princeton handed Harvard its 23rd consecutive loss at Jadwin Gym to destroy the Crimson’s hopes of a perfect Ivy season.
And suddenly, the Ivy League race became interesting again.
Both Penn and Yale escaped Saturday night to remain within a game of Harvard — Penn with a 58-55 win over Dartmouth and Yale with a 59-58 victory over Columbia.
And as much as Penn fans can keep hoping that this might be the season Penn ends its title drought, there is no denying it: the Red and Blue missed a golden opportunity.
Had they won Friday night, they could have been in sole possession of first place in the Ivy League.
Had seniors Zack Rosen, Tyler Bernardini and Rob Belcore shot better than a combined 9-for-34, their final chance at an NCAA Tournament spot might be within view.
Had the 7,462 fans filling the Palestra witnessed a monumental win over the No. 25 Crimson, Penn basketball would finally be back on the map.
Instead, Penn sits in the same position that it did before Friday’s game, one game back of Harvard and with no proof that this team can win big games.
With seven games left, the season is by no means over. But after the way the Quakers played Saturday against the Big Green — with no sense of urgency — it’s hard to imagine them going undefeated the rest of the way, including beating Harvard at a sold-out Lavietes Pavilion.
Penn gave up a 15-point lead in the second half against Dartmouth, a team that remains winless in the Ivy League.
“I’m really, really disappointed in just our appreciation for the opportunity to play college basketball,” coach Jerome Allen said after the Dartmouth win. “The guys take so much for granted … for us to come out and perform the way we did, it’s disheartening.”
“We had an emotional hangover, and it’s inexcusable,” Rosen added.
While Allen and Rosen tried to explain the lackluster win, Princeton fans were storming the court after toppling the Crimson.
Though the Tigers, who have a 4-3 Ivy record, have no hope of winning the Ivy title, their win breathed life back into Penn’s and Yale’s programs.
But it’s still up in the air as to whether Penn will take advantage of its second chance.
It’s hard to feel confident in the Red and Blue after Saturday’s performance, but the Ivy League is unpredictable and it is far from inevitable that Harvard will win the title.
Yet if the Quakers want to dethrone the Crimson and win their first Ivy title since the 2006-07 season, it will take a lot more heart than they showed this weekend.
ALYSSA KRESS is a junior communications major from Abington, Pa., and is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. She can be contacted at kress@theDP.com.