It’s never smart to make these kinds of predictions too early, but Penn men’s basketball has shown enough.
Coming off four consecutive victories, the Quakers headed up to Ithaca, N.Y. on short rest to face Cornell on Sunday afternoon. They were without the services of senior guard Ryan Betley, who was injured in Saturday’s win over Columbia, and multiple players, in particular freshman forward Max Martz, were forced to play more minutes than they have for the majority of the season.
In addition, Cornell was coming off a double-digit win over the previously unbeaten Ivy League team in Princeton (a team that has already defeated the Red and Blue twice this year). The Big Red had lots of momentum, and they came out on Sunday making all kinds of long and off-balance shots, with two players in their starting lineup recording career-highs in points.
Despite that, the Quakers were able to find a way to win once again. Senior captains Devon Goodman and AJ Brodeur had their typical reliable performances, combining for 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. Freshmen Martz and guard Jordan Dingle stepped up in a big way, putting up 17 points each and giving the Red and Blue much needed offensive production without Betley in the lineup.
With the help of those strong showings, the Quakers pulled out another tight victory in the final minutes (all five of the games in their current winning streak have been decided by single-digits). A team that was winless in the Ivy League just a week and a half ago is now 4-2 and tied for third, just one game back of conference leaders Yale and Princeton.
The other team in that tie for third is Brown, which has similarly won four consecutive Ancient Eight games after dropping its first two. That makes the game between the Bears and the Quakers on Friday night at the Palestra even more important than it normally would be. The winning team will move to 5-2 in the Ivy League, tied for second with the loser of the Yale-Princeton game on the same night and just a game back from first.
A win would essentially make the Red and Blue a lock for the Ivy League Tournament given the way they are currently playing. At 5-2, the Quakers would have at least a game cushion on both Harvard and Brown, and unless Cornell, Columbia, or Dartmouth makes an unexpected run, they would only have to finish ahead of one of those two teams to make the Tournament. They would also be the current holders of tiebreakers with both the Crimson and Bears with a victory on Friday.
This also doesn’t seem like a Penn team that is likely to collapse down the stretch of the season. With Brodeur, Goodman, and potentially Betley on the court, the Quakers have strong senior leadership that knows how to deal with the grueling nature of Ivy Weekends, especially on the road. Talented freshmen like Dingle and Martz should also be able to provide an important source of scoring, with players like junior Eddie Scott, freshman Lucas Monroe, and senior Ray Jerome giving the team key minutes on both ends as well.
Last year, Penn and Brown faced off at the Palestra on the final night of the regular season for a spot in the Ivy League Tournament. Their matchup comes much earlier this season, but the stakes might be the same.
MICHAEL LANDAU is a Wharton junior from Scarsdale, N.Y. and a Senior Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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