Where was I?
Oh yeah — Princeton is the little brother.
Look. I know that’s Princeton’s whole shtick: Ignore the century of history and try to claim unfounded superiority. And in the Tigers' defense, the last decade has been pretty damn one-sided on the hardwood in their favor.
Not only did Penn men’s basketball notch its first win against Princeton in the Steve Donahue era earlier this season, it waited a month and then did it again. This time, Penn’s win is the first in Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium since 2009. It’s also the first regular season sweep of the Tigers in a decade.
In each of their previous five conference wins, the Quakers endured nervy moments and inconsistent play. They needed overtime to put Brown away. Yale, Cornell, and Columbia required late-game free throws to hold on. The same went for Princeton the first time around.
Not this time.
The Quakers came out strong, finished the first half strong, and opened the next even stronger. Princeton led for a grand total of 19 seconds, the culmination of the lone five-minute stretch late in the first half where it looked dangerous. In the second half, Penn, and particularly sophomore forward AJ Brodeur, seemed to flip a switch.
It was as if the Quakers simply decided to dominate during halftime. As the 10-point lead turned into 20, the Tiger faithful headed toward the exits. Mission accomplished.
Penn is a 6-0 team. That’s my takeaway. In their last 14 Ivy League regular season games, the Quakers are 12-2. There’s daylight between them and the rest of the Ancient Eight.
Donahue and company know this, but they’re not celebrating yet. They’ve played well, yes, they’re at the top of the standings, yes, they are undefeated, yes, but are they done? Absolutely not.
That was Donahue’s takeaway, the same as it was this time a year ago, “We’re an 0-6 team."
“I reminded them, before this game, remember? We’re 0-6. That’s how I want to play, like we’re desperate, like were hungry, and we are. This is a start. We know how quickly things can change, we got to go and be a great team tomorrow in practice,” Donahue said.
“Starting 0-6 last year, that’s something that I think is so important to us, just to keep that chip on our shoulder. Even at the end of last year when we started to go on a run, we always had to remember that we started the season 0-6, we have so much to improve on. I still think that,” Brodeur said.
When asked what the start meant compared to last season, senior guard Darnell Foreman was blunt.
“It means nothing.”
You know what, Donahue and Foreman are right. Donahue has his team in exactly the right mindset. Penn fans learned last year how quickly a season can turn around. The first six games are important, but not as much as the next eight, or the two after that.
But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to celebrate this milestone — because that’s what it is: a milestone in the Donahue era.
“To get a win in their house? That’s incredible to me," Brodeur said. "Being able to get those two wins for the first time in however many years? That’s an incredible feeling."
“We haven’t beaten them. This is my first year beating them, so this is huge,” Foreman said. “Going to Penn, your rival is Princeton, you want to get those guys.”
Here’s Foreman again.
“We still have a ton of work to do. Our goal is, first off, just beat Dartmouth on Friday. That’s all we can focus on, because we know no matter how the season started or how the season goes, things can change in a minute.”
Contradictory? Maybe. But that is the mentality of a winning team. Celebrate the success for a night. In the morning, it’s back to business.
But this year? Business is boomin’.
On to Dartmouth.
Theodoros Papazekos is a College sophomore from Pittsburgh, Pa., and is a Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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