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Princeton: Expect to be challenged for league lead by healthy Quakers

An open letter to the students of Princeton University:

A year ago we published an article in your paper filled with insults and personal attacks against your student body because we knew our team was a year away from being ready to compete with your team.

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One year later, the Quakers are ready to resume the premier rivalry in all of Ivy League sports.

Meanwhile, your pathetic writer is too busy thinking of cliched and tired insults – his garbage is on this page somewhere.

In fact, he highlights exactly why Princeton will not run over Penn tonight as it has every other Ivy opponent.

Princeton, and its basketball team, is too interested in its image.

Meanwhile, the 1997-98 Quakers are gritty survivors.

That Penn even has the chance to tie for the Ivy League lead tonight is a testament to its perseverance through injury and setback.

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Sophomore Geoff Owens, who was forced to sit out the season after being diagnosed with hypertension, was just the first and most prominent Quaker player to be confined to the pine. Since then every Quakers' starter has missed playing time due to injury.

Penn coach Fran Dunphy remarked that he has never seen so many injuries on his team at once. In recent weeks it has looked like a hospital ward at practice, with sophomore forward Frank Brown icing his knee, junior starting forward Jed Ryan wearing a cast to hold his broken pinky in place, and Owens' every heartbeat being monitored by computer.

And just before Ryan broke his finger, sophomore Matt Langel's deep thigh bruise left him watching three games in street clothes.

Yet through all of this, the Quakers are 7-1 in the Ivy League, and winners of seven straight.

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Meanwhile, Princeton is watching its national ranking continue to float inexplicably upwards to No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll while its RPI hovers near 30. And its starting five is only being asked to log 20 some odd minutes per game against the weaker Ivy League teams.

Most importantly, Princeton has not faced a must-win game. It's a good thing too, because in tight games its shooting has been abysmal.

A lowly 7 of 27 from behind the three point arc against pathetic Columbia, and 4 for 25 against Drexel in a two-point win – the Quakers beat the Dragons by 14. There was also the 4-for-26 aerial display against North Carolina and the 59-50 final against a Division III school, The College of New Jersey.

Fortunately for the Tigers, even tonight's game really doesn't matter.

If they lose, so what? They will have a chance to redeem themselves two weeks from now at the Palestra.

In contrast, tonight – just as every Ivy game has been since their inexplicable loss to Yale in the opening weekend of the Ivy season– is a must-win for the Quakers.

If they lose, so long. They will have no chance to win a title two weeks from now at the Palestra.

This desperate situation will push the Quakers to victory, just as it pushed them last Friday against Yale. As opposed to Princeton's effort against Brown the same night – in which it screwed around during the second half after another blowout first 20 minutes – Penn fought for its life over the final 10 minutes against the Elis. Penn's pressure defense created a 22-4 run after being 18 down with nine minutes to play before winning the game in overtime.

One final thought:

Saturday night, Quakers senior co-captain Garett Kreitz – who returned to the Dec. 7 game against George Washington just minutes after breaking his nose, kept shooting in an effort to break out of a slump that has plagued him since returning from Christmas break. It worked, as Kreitz hit 10 of 15 from the floor and 7 of 11 from behind the three-point arc on his way to a career-high 33 points.

Langel returned from his injury and drained a career-high 32 points against Harvard.

Ryan returns from injury tonight. Image is nothing. Surviving is everything.

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