The men’s basketball team’s spirits were soaring on Feb. 4.
The Quakers had just dispatched Dartmouth with a 31-point beatdown at the Palestra, and showdowns with Ivy League favorites Harvard and Princeton were on tap.
“This is the exciting part because in the next two games, we control where our season goes,” captain point guard Zack Rosen said postgame.
“There’s nothing better than this,” senior Tyler Bernardini put it.
Eight days and four losses — three in overtime — later, the tone has decidedly changed.
Speaking about Penn’s fatigue after the most recent loss Saturday to Columbia, coach Jerome Allen said, “When you’re tired, that’s the most important time to hold on to your basic principles and for us, it’s a process. We’re just not there yet.
“But it’s okay — I think we’re moving in a forward direction,” Allen added.
Penn’s prospects for the season appear to have made a 180 — from a team poised to make noise atop the League to one trying to move in the “right direction.”
And now it’s time to get back to the drawing board.
That’s the Quakers’ only option, especially when you consider how their performance has steadily declined in each of their last four losses.
First came the valiant comeback against Harvard on Feb. 5. The Quakers played brilliantly in erasing an 18-point deficit, but ran out of gas in double-OT. A loss is a loss, but their efforts had people talking.
Next came the heartbreaker. The following Tuesday, the Red and Blue came back from a 15-point deficit to the Tigers, but mental mistakes in overtime sealed Penn’s fate.
The blunders followed the Quakers into Ithaca, N.Y., where they suffered an even worse loss, considering it came against a 5-15 Cornell squad.
And then the worst of all, Saturday night in New York. A back-and-forth first half turned into a mauling by the Lions — Columbia never looked back after a 10-0 run to start the second half.
The brutal four-game stretch dropped Penn to 3-4 in the Ancient Eight and sent the team’s title aspirations all but down the drain. The Quakers will need Princeton and Harvard (a combined 14-1 in League play) to start losing — and fast.
As a result, Penn’s battle for the rest of the season will not be one against its opponents, but rather one against itself.
With the league title now much further from their grasp, the players must focus not on ousting Princeton, but on winning the game in front of them.
After the Lions vindicated themselves with the win over Penn — they lost by 30 to Princeton the night before — Columbia coach Kyle Smith spoke about the team’s mindset coming into the game: “We’re coming off our worst effort of the year so far … it was very short-term goals, possession by possession, let’s make sure we’re in this thing.”
Now, after Penn’s own worst effort of the Ivy season, the Quakers, surprisingly enough, have to be in that same New York state of mind.
What a difference a week can make.
KEVIN ESTEVES is a junior communications major from the Bronx, N.Y. He is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. His email address is esteves@theDP.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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