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Ivy League Notebook

February 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Ivy League Notebook

by Owen Bochner

Every year, one team emerges as the surprise contender in the Ivy League. Two years ago, that team was Yale. Last year, it was Brown. This year’s contender is Cornell. After one weekend of exclusive Ivy play, the Big Red is sitting at the top of the league standings at an impressive 4-0. However, the real shock of this young Ancient Eight season is not the Red but the Quakers of Pennsylvania. The two-time defending champions sit at 0-2 in conference play, having lost a pair of very close games to Brown and Yale this past weekend.

There is no question that things are changing in the Ivy League. The question, though, is just how different will things be at the season’s end? That answer will likely not be known for quite some time.

Streaky

This past weekend in Ivy League action marked the end of a couple of very notable streaks. With its losses to Yale and Brown, Penn ended its 23-game conference winning streak and opened the season 0-2 for the first time since the 1981-82 season. Columbia, on the other hand, with its road sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard broke its 19-game conference winning streak. It was the first time the Lions had a two-game road winning streak since the 1999-2000 season. The future is looking ever brighter for Columbia with each passing day.

Brotherly love

Another first will take place this coming weekend when Yale plays host to Columbia on Friday. It will be the first game between Eli coach James Jones and his younger brother Joe, head coach of the Lions. The last time two brothers coached at the same time at current Ivy League schools was from 1924-1928, when Ed Wachter coached at Harvard and his brother Leonard coached at Dartmouth, both schools then members of the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League. To make the meeting between the Joneses even more special, the Ivy League is celebrating Black History Month throughout February.

How They Stand

Cornell is tops at 4-0 after sweeping through league bottom-feeders Columbia, Harvard and Dartmouth. Princeton stands at 2-0 one weekend into its conference schedule having swept Brown and Yale while Brown, Columbia, Yale, Dartmouth, and Harvard fill out the predictably tight standings. Defending champ Penn sits surprisingly in eighth place at 0-2, two full games behind league-leading Cornell.

Game of the Week:

Cornell at Brown; Fri., Feb. 6, 7 p.m. EST.

It will be a matchup between two of the league’s top teams as well as its best two point guards as the Red continues its road trip at the Pizzitola center. The matchup between Cornell’s Ka’Ron Barnes and Brown’s Jason Forte will certainly be fun to watch, while the game itself will almost certainly have a tremendous impact on the league’s final standings.

Player of the Week

Will Venable, Princeton

The junior guard played a crucial role in the Tigers’ nail-biter against Yale Saturday night, completing a three-point play with three seconds remaining in the game. The night before, he put up a season-high eighteen points in Princeton’s victory over Brown. He also had a game-high eight rebounds against Yale.

Rookie of the Week

Leon Pattman, Dartmouth

Pattman is very quickly becoming the overwhelming favorite to be named Ivy League Rookie of the Year after picking up his fifth weekly honor this season. After sitting out the Green’s embarrassing loss to Columbia Friday night with an injury, Pattman came back with a vengeance Saturday night against Cornell, scoring 21 points and adding a game-high twelve rebounds, playing the entire game. He also had four assists, two steals, and a blocked shot.

Brown Bears (7-10, 3-1 Ivy)

Brown split the weekend, falling 64-49 to Princeton, the upsetting Penn, 92-88, in overtime. Jason Forte continues to star for the Bears, having scored eighteen in the loss to Princeton. He is averaging 22.3 points per game in league play, and currently sits in 23rd place on the Bears’ all-time scoring list. A sellout crowd of 2,957 saw the Bears upset Penn Saturday night, and stormed the court at the game’s conclusion to help celebrate. Brown continues its homestand, welcoming Cornell and Columbia to the Pizzitola Center this coming weekend in a series that is suddenly much more challenging than Brown originally expected.

Columbia Lions (6-11, 2-2)

The Lions proved that the 2003-04 is absolutely nothing like 2002-03 in convincing fashion this past weekend with a pair of impressive wins. First, the Lions blew Dartmouth out of there own arena, crushing the Leon Pattman-less Green, 78-42, Friday night. Then, Columbia repeated the trick Saturday night, winning its second straight game in double digits, 78-67, at Harvard. In beating the Crimson, Columbia completed a come-from-behind victory for the first time this season, as sophomore forward Dragutin Kravic had an enormous second half, scoring thirteen of his 21 points in the game. The Lions visit Yale and Brown this weekend before returning home for four straight.

Cornell Big Red (9-8, 4-0)

The Red has continued to show its tremendous resiliency, coming back to win after trailing by at least fourteen points twice this past weekend. After coming out sluggish against a Harvard team playing its first game back from exams, the Red rallied to turn a fifteen-point first half deficit into a 91-79 road victory. Then, trailing Dartmouth by fourteen early on Saturday night, Cornell again picked it up in the second half to win 68-62. Ka’Ron Barnes and Cody Toppert maintained their one-two positioning at the top of the league’s scoring leaders, averaging 23.5 and 22.5 ppg, respectively, this past weekend. It is the first time since the 1964-65 season that the Red has opened Ivy League play with four straight wins. Cornell will hope to extend the streak when it faces its toughest test thus far this season with visits to Brown and Yale.

Dartmouth Big Green (3-15, 1-3)

Leon Pattman may be a stud, but the Green keeps sinking. Several injuries forced junior Mike Liddy and sophomore Pat Cuttica into the lineup Friday night, while Pattman, junior Steve Callahan, and sophomore Mike Lang all sat with various injuries. Things got so desperate for head coach Dave Faucher Saturday night, as he brought Pattman and the also-injured sophomore forward Calvin Arnold back into the lineup for Cornell. But, it was to no avail as the Red came out with a win anyway to hand Dartmouth its third straight league loss and eighth overall. The Green will have the unenviable task of trying to break the streak against Princeton and Penn this weekend.

Harvard Crimson (2-15, 1-3)

Playing its first game in sixteen days, the Crimson raced out to a very fast start last Friday against Cornell, but quickly returned to earth as its fifteen-point halftime lead turned into 91-79 loss. The story was nearly identical the next night. Again, Harvard had a big lead early, remained ahead by double digits late in the first half, and collapsed in the second half, this time falling to Columbia, 78-67. It was the first time since the 1992-93 season that Harvard lost both ends of the Cornell-Columbia series. Junior forward Jason Norman was impressive Saturday night, scoring seventeen points against the Lions, while sophomore forward Mat Stehle had a double-double Friday against Cornell. The Crimson will now hit the road for matchups against Penn and Princeton.

Penn Quakers (7-8, 0-2)

Penn simply did not look or act like the Quakers of old this past weekend, as a 23-game conference winning streak unceremoniously ended in southern New England. Penn lost a couple of close, hard fought battles to Yale (54-52) and Brown (92-88) to fall to 0-2 in conference play for the first time since the 1981-82 season. Despite the overtime loss Saturday in Providence, all five Penn starters scored in double figures, the first time this season the team accomplished the feat. Junior guard Tim Begley was the high-man with 25 points while freshman Mark Zoller and senior Jeff Schiffner each added seventeen. When the Quakers were last 0-2 in conference play, they came back to win the next twelve games to finish the season at 12-2 and with the league championship. The team will attempt to begin a repeat that performance this weekend, when it welcomes Harvard and Dartmouth.

Princeton Tigers (9-6, 2-0)

Unlike its travel partner, Princeton completed a sweep over Brown and Yale. Friday night, the Tigers had little trouble with the Bears, cruising to a 64-49 victory. Things were not nearly as easy the next evening, though, as it took a Will Venable three-point play in the game’s final seconds to push the Tigers past a surging Yale squad, 49-47. Strong defense and rebounding was the difference for the Tigers, who outrebounded their opponents by a combined 65-44. Princeton held Brown and Yale to a combined 36 percent from the floor as well. The Tigers hope to continue the stifling defense against a pair of struggling teams this weekend in Dartmouth and Harvard.

Yale Bulldogs (6-11, 1-3)

The Bulldogs broke their eight-game losing streak against Division I opponents in style last weekend by winning a 54-52 thriller at home against Penn. And just to prove that Friday’s win wasn’t a fluke, the Elis played Princeton down to the wire Saturday night in a game that featured thirteen lead changes. Even after Will Venable completed the three-point play that put the Tigers up by two with three seconds remaining, Yale still almost managed to salvage the win as a desperation half-court shot by junior guard Alex Gamboa narrowly missed. The suddenly rejuvenated Elis will play host to upstart Columbia and Cornell this weekend. Friday’s game against the Lions will feature a matchup of brothers, as head coach James Jones will coach against his younger brother Joe for the first time in their careers.

     

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