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Penn senior guard Charlie Copp fends off Princeton freshman forward Harrison Schaen (left) and sophomore guard Scott Greenman in the Quakers' 67-52 win at Jadwin Gym Tuesday night. The Red and Blue travel to New York to face Columbia tonight and Cornell t

This season of Ivy League men's basketball is becoming a familiar storyline.

Just two years ago, the Quakers dropped two early games. Just two years ago, Penn stormed back to tie for the Ivy League title and eventually won the right to go the NCAA Tournament.

It's not difficult to identify the similarities to present day. The usual suspects are still around -- Penn is refusing to die and ... Princeton and Cornell are tied for first in the league standings?

This weekend the Quakers (10-8, 3-2 Ivy) will square off against a struggling Columbia squad and a formidable Cornell lineup.

All this, just three nights after defeating league-rival Princeton at Jadwin Gymnasium, a daunting task every year.

"It's one of the quirks of Ivy League scheduling," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "A couple of weeks ago we had nine days off without playing -- one game in 16 days. And now we have five games in nine days.

"It's just one of those things you have to deal with."

As per NCAA rules, the Quakers were required to take a day off from practice this week. And so, the Red and Blue rested Wednesday, leaving only yesterday for preparation.

"We tried to enjoy the win on Tuesday as much as we could," senior Adam Chubb said. "But we know we really have to get ready for this next game, start really focusing in.

"From here on it's going to be a big game."

This is yet another important weekend for the Quakers, as they face off against two unsuspecting opponents on the road, their Achilles heel thus far.

Penn's biggest game of the season could happen, oddly enough, in Ithaca, N.Y., where the Quakers will face off against a surprisingly talented Cornell squad.

The Big Red (10-9, 5-1 Ivy) have the best scoring offense in the Ivy League, with its prolific point totals coming largely from senior guard Ka'Ron Barnes. Barnes leads the Ivy League in scoring average, with nearly 21 points per game.

Cody Toppert, a junior guard from Albuquerque, N.M., is second on that list with an average of 17.7 points per game.

With the help of junior center Eric Taylor, a Cornell player appears at the top of nearly every Ivy League stat chart.

The weekend is big for Penn, but it may be even bigger for Cornell, which has yet to play both Penn and Princeton this season.

"The season is going to start right now," Cornell coach Steve Donahue said. "This is a great test for us to see what we're really about."

Like Dartmouth, Cornell will aim to shut down Penn's three-point shot -- but the Big Red acknowledge that it takes more than just that to top the Quakers.

"Penn has good players that freelance and work well with each other," Toppert said. "We have to play a high-pressure type defense, but if you get off-balance or out of position then they take advantage of it."

"They're playing well, they're improved, they're playing hard, they're coming after you," Dunphy said about Cornell. "They have the best scorer in the league -- Ka'Ron Barnes -- and some very good three-point shooting to go along with that.

"They are a confident team."

But before the Quakers can formulate a game plan for the Big Red, they first have to make a stop in New York City.

Penn opens the weekend at Levien Gymnasium against the Columbia Lions (6-13, 2-4 Ivy). Despite the Lions' weak record, they have improved drastically this season after finishing with a 2-25 record just a year ago.

Under first-year head coach Joe Jones, the Lions are not to be looked over, a crucial point in Penn's game plan for the weekend.

"Columbia comes with a lot of energy," Chubb said. "We're going to have to try and match that."

The Lions have battled valiantly in their league match-ups thus far, nearly edging Yale last weekend in a 63-58 loss. Columbia handedly defeated both Harvard and Dartmouth, the Ancient Eight's cellar dwellers.

Lions' forward Matt Preston could present a problem for Penn's big men. The 6-foot-5 junior averages 14.7 points and five rebounds a game, and has led the Lions in scoring in 10 of 19 games throughout his career.

"We're going to spend a lot of time today on the pressure that Columbia throws at you," Dunphy said. "They play a lot of guys and try to turn you over a lot, so we'll work at that."

The Ivy League standings will look a lot different after this weekend, no matter what happens. One of the league's top three teams is going to walk away from the weekend with at least one more loss.

"These guys know that their backs are against the wall," Dunphy said. "We've got to respond."

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