After missing the 2012-13 season due to personal reasons, Meiko Lyles posted 5.7 points per game last year. (GoColumbiaLions.com)
Columbia issued a statement from head coach Kyle Smith announcing the departure of senior guard Meiko Lyles and sophomore forward Zach En’Wezoh from the Columbia basketball program.
Smith’s statement reads as follows:
“Meiko Lyles and Zach En’Wezoh have decided to leave the program. They both will remain enrolled at Columbia. Meiko decided to take his last year and focus on his academics and securing a job after graduation. Zach’s situation is more medical. He has battled through a series of injuries since he’s been here and, despite his best efforts, does not believe his body can make it through the rigors of another season. Meiko and Zach have been great representatives of our program. We respect and support both of their decisions and wish them nothing but the best.”
While the sting of En’Wezoh’s departure will be mitigated by Columbia’s deep frontcourt, the loss of Lyles is a big one for a program universally thought to be on the rise following last season’s 21-13 finish. Lyles came on strong down the stretch in the regular season last year, hitting a game-winning three to give the Lions a win at Princeton, posting 21 points on 80 percent shooting from the field in a 70-68 win against Brown and providing solid perimeter defense on a consistent basis.
Lyles’s absence will put pressure on freshman guards Kyle Castlin and Nate Hickman to contribute in perhaps greater roles than previously expected, but Lyles’s tight defense will be missed regardless. His D was a factor in Miles Jackson-Cartwright and Tony Hicks’s combined 3-for-15 performance from the field for Penn at Levien Gym late in the season and he helped contain Armani Cotton in Columbia’s 16-point win over Yale.
But that win over Yale may also provide an answer for how replace Lyles going forward.
Steve Frankoski notched 17 points off the bench against the Bulldogs, and the senior guard will have to help fill Lyles’s shoes in 2014-15.
Yale’s James Jones has led the Bulldogs to 14 consecutive top-half Ivy finishes. This past season’s 9-5 team will return most of the rotation and may be Harvard’s biggest competition once again. (Photo credit: yalebulldogs.com)
Friend of IHO and author Richard Kent– whose basketball work includes Big East Confidential and Lady Vols and UConn: The Greatest Rivalry– sat down this week with Yale head coach James Jones to chat about next season for the Bulldogs. Some of the highlights from their conversation are below.
Richard Kent: The Ivy will be tough next year. Can you envision two NCAA bids?
James Jones: That will be tough, but could happen if two teams tie and have a playoff. We will certainly have some strong teams who will be in the postseason.
RK: Any defections or losses from this year’s team next season?
JJ: Well, Brandon Sherrod is taking a year off to sing and travel with the Whiffenpoofs. He will be back after that.
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Murray State 65, Yale 57. Without Justin Sears, the Bulldogs battled hard, dominating the boards as usual. But cold shooting was too much to make up for as the Racers claimed the CIT title at home.
Yale put forth a valiant effort with high-usage star forward Justin Sears sidelined with a hand injury, but the Bulldogs were unable to create enough offense to keep up with the Murray State Racers, falling 65-57 on the road in the CIT championship.
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Yale 75, VMI 62. The Bulldogs lost Justin Sears to a scary injury in the second half, but managed to hold on to advance to the CIT Final.
The way this postseason has gone, the Yale Bulldogs probably wish they could play into the month of May. After winning the program’s first ever game in April on Tuesday, the Elis will play for a postseason trophy on Thursday at Murray State in the championship of the CIT.
Javier Duren was masterful again, taking the reins for the Bulldogs in the game’s nervous final minutes. With Justin Sears back in the locker room nursing a right hand injury suffered during a violent mid-air collision, the depth of the Bulldogs paid off again, as the poised squad held on despite the full-court pressure of the Keydets and the noise of their supporters.
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There’s no sugar coating the dire state of the Penn program here, but The AQ supports the Quakers through thick and thin.
“You don’t want to lose to a team that doesn’t play well, that isn’t well coached, that doesn’t play with class…..Penn plays hard, is well coached, and they play with class.” -Princeton’s Basketball Coach, 2014.
Unfortunately, the above quote was referring to Penn’s 2014 Ivy Champion women’s basketball team. In the span of four short years, Mike McLaughlin has remarkably turned the women’s basketball program from worst (2-26) to first– in almost the same time frame that Jerome Allen has managed to coach the men’s team into the Ivy cellar.
In my opinion, none of the attributes quoted above can be used to describe the Quaker men. Even watching the NCAA Tournament, it looks like other teams are playing 21st Century hoops while Penn is now mired somewhere in the Mesozoic Era. The turnovers, the fouls, the loss of poise, and the lack of hustle and awareness have made them impossible to watch. Just as disturbing is the complete lack of growth, discipline, and maturity, particularly among the second and third year players. Here is a brief laundry list of recent events.
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Yale 72, Columbia 69, Final. Javier Duren was the best player on the court on Wednesday night, putting forth a breathtaking second half performance to lead the Bulldogs into the CIT Final Four.
There was a great game played on the campus of Columbia on Wednesday night. Two great teams playing their best basketball in late March faced off in front of a raucous crowd of passionate fans. It was a banner night for the League and it meant little to anyone in Levien Gymnasium that the tournament was one of little prestige.
Columbia and Yale played their hearts out with the Bulldogs ultimately emerging victorious thanks to one of the Ivy’s most impressive individual performances of the season. Javier Duren, after halftime, took his game to a new level, setting new career highs (vs. D-I opponents) in points (33) and rebounds (9). Duren was everywhere, slashing through the lane and getting to the rim against Columbia’s staunch defense, nabbing rebounds, and controlling the game for the Elis. This kind of transcendental performance was the only way Yale was going to pull this game out as the Lions, spurred on by an incredible showing from the Columbia faithful, would not go quietly into the Morningside night as they attempted to extend this historic season.
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