By the the end of tonight's men's basketball action, the Ivy title hopes of both Brown and Yale might be dead and buried. Then again, if both the upstart Bears (13-11, 7-4 Ivy League) and Elis (10-14, 7-4) manage to win at home tonight, there will be a four-way tie at the top of the league and the stage will be set for a wild finish to the Ancient Eight season. The permutations are heady, but Penn (11-15, 8-3) knows that a pair of wins on its I-95 swing can go a long way to securing a third-straight Ivy crown. "We definitely want to take care of these games," Penn sophomore forward Ugonna Onyekwe said. "We can't worry about what Princeton does or whatever else happens. These are two games that we have to have." Penn will have its hands full when visiting this weekend's pair of Ancient Eight challengers. Brown and Yale are a combined 14-3 overall and 8-1 in Ivy League play on their home courts. The Bears started their league season an unimpressive 1-4, but they are riding the crest of a six-game conference winning streak into tonight's showdown with Penn at 7 p.m. at the Pizzitola Sports Center. This streak, the longest in the league this season, marks the first time Brown has swept three straight Ivy weekends since 1975. Last weekend, the Bears squeaked out a pair of two-point victories at Columbia and Cornell. In the first showdown between these teams this season -- a 59-50 Penn win at the Palestra on February 3 -- the Bears hung tight, but never really put the Quakers in much jeopardy. Brown coach Glen Miller, however, thinks his players have undergone some changes since then. "We've been improving gradually the entire season," Miller said. "I think we've become a much better team than when we played Penn at Penn. And we're a much better team at home, as far as I'm concerned." Brown's leading scorer against Penn the first time around was 6'5" sophomore forward Earl Hunt, who tallied 15 points on the night. Hunt currently leads the Ivies in scoring (20.2 points per game) and is just 55 points away from becoming the first player in Ancient Eight history to amass 1,000 points before the end of his sophomore season. Saturday night in New Haven, the Quakers will have to keep their eyes on a slightly larger target -- the 6'11" frame of Yale senior center Neil Yanke. Yanke, who was named Ivy League co-Player of the Week on February 19 after scoring 38 points and making 17-of-22 shots in wins over Harvard and Dartmouth, missed Yale's first game against Penn due to injury. At the Palestra on February 2, the Red and Blue beat the Elis, 61-51, in a game that was nip-and-tuck most of the way. According to Elis coach James Jones, his team could have had a much better shot of winning that game if Yanke had been healthy. "Right now, Neil is playing like one of the best players in the league. When we were playing without him before, it was like playing without Ugonna or Lamar [Plummer] or Geoff [Owens] or one of their other big players," Jones said. "With him back, we're a different team." Penn coach Fran Dunphy doesn't seem overly concerned about the presence of Yanke in the lineup. "Defensively, he adds something to their team," Dunphy said. "He's not the greatest shot-blocker in the league, but he's a presence. He's another guy that they have in the post." Yale and Brown's success on their home courts this season should be worrisome for the Quakers. Penn has gone 6-1 at home this season against Ivy League competition -- with its one loss coming at the hands of arch-rival Princeton -- but the Red and Blue are just 2-2 on the road in the Ancient Eight. With three road games left on their schedule, the Quakers will need to do better than .500, if they want to three-peat as league champions.Comments powered by Disqus
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