Friday, February 11, 2011

Daily Pennsylvanian Previews Quakers at Cornell

After the Quakers’ second straight heartbreaking loss Tuesday to Princeton, senior guard Tyler Bernardini saw only one way the team could move on.

“We’re gonna rely on our veterans to help everyone to try to have a short memory,” Bernardini said. “You have to in this league.”

Thursday, players and coaches began that process, boarding a bus bound for Ithaca, N. Y., where the Quakers (9-10, 3-2 Ivy) will face Cornell Friday before going up against Columbia Saturday.

The Princeton and Harvard losses put a damper on a 3-0 Ivy League start, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to senior captain Jack Eggleston.

“The most important game for us is the next game,” Eggleston said. “[It’s] not the Princeton game we just played. It’s not the Harvard game from Saturday. It’s the Cornell game. That’s what we’re focused on, that’s what we’re game planning for, that’s what we’re getting ready for.”

The contests represent the middle stretch of a five-game road trip that will certainly challenge a Penn squad that has gone 2-7 away from the Palestra.

“Every Ivy League road game is going to be a tough game,” Eggleston said. “I don’t think any one has added significance. We can’t overlook any opponents that we have, we’ve just got to come out and know that we’re going to get a battle every night.”

In the Quakers’ first meeting with Cornell last year, Penn upset the nationally ranked Big Red — one of the major highlights of last year’s season. Though Cornell won out to capture its third-straight Ivy League championship, its current squad is nothing like the team of old after the departures of seniors Louis Dale, Jeff Foote and Ryan Wittman and coach Steve Donahue.

New head coach Bill Courtney, a former assistant at Virginia and Virginia Tech, had high praise for the Quakers’ captains.

“[Eggleston’s] the guy we’re looking at most as the toughest matchup,” Courtney told Brian Delaney of the Ithaca Journal, adding that point guard Zack Rosen is “one of the best interior passers I’ve seen for a guard.”

Courtney’s decimated team is led by senior Chris Wroblewski, the lone contributor from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team remaining. Wroblewski is fifth in the league in scoring at 14.6 points per game, while sophomore Errick Peck has stepped into the starting lineup to average 11.6 per game.

Cornell (5-15, 1-5) currently sits in the cellar of the Ivy League and will be an underdog heading into the weekend.

The Lions are a different story. First-year coach Kyle Smith has installed a push-the-pace system, as his team scores and allows the most points of any team in the conference.

The Quakers lost both their matchups with Columbia last year by a combined total of five points, one of those losses coming on a game-winner in the final minute.

Columbia (12-8, 3-3) possesses the league’s most potent scorer in junior guard Noruwa Agho, who leads the conference with 15.8 points per game.

Though Penn refused to even discuss the Columbia game until playing Cornell, Eggleston had plenty to say about his first opponent.

“Cornell’s a good team, they’re coming off a good win. We’re just going to have to go out there and play as hard as possible and see what happens,” he said.

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