Many Ivy fans had been clinging to the minutest of chances that this season would deliver more than the two-horse race between Harvard and Princeton that we”ve all been expecting. That final hope was extinguished this weekend, as both the Tigers and the Crimson cruised to road sweeps, eliminating all other contenders by every realistic measure. Still, the Other Six still have plenty to play for as Cornell and Columbia still have small chances of earning a postseason bid, Yale looks to finish top half for the 13th straight year, and young teams look for some momentum to carry into next year. Meanwhile, the spotlight now turns to Jadwin Gymnasium, where on Friday, the next chapter in the Harvard-Princeton rivalry will be written. A Harvard victory will essentially put a ribbon on what has turned into a dominant conference season for the young Crimson. If Princeton can hold court (as they will be favored to do), then we will most likely head to the final weekend all square in the loss column, perhaps destined for another dramatic playoff for the NCAA bid.
In the meantime, let”s look at this weekend”s big winners and losers.
This Weekend”s Winners:
Denton Koon and Princeton- There”s no way around it. Denton
Koon is putting together an absolutely ridiculous Ivy League season. The sophomore has shot 50% or better from the field in all nine Ivy contests this year. He kept that streak going this weekend with a 9-13 performance for 23 points at Columbia, and followed it up with a quiet, but efficient 2-3 night for 11 points at Cornell. For a guy who couldn”t crack the starting lineup at the beginning of this season, Koon is putting forth a serious First-Team All Ivy candidacy. Mitch Henderson allegedly challenged his team to “” this weekend, suggesting that champions play “with some anger.” His words hit the spot as the Tigers came to play this weekend, holding both opponents under 35% FG shooting, while shooting over 55% FG
both nights. Ian Hummer went 17-23 for 17 and 23 points, respectively. Just another couple nights at the office for the Princeton star.
Wesley Saunders and Harvard- This remarkable finish landed the Crimson sophomore at #3 on the SportsCenter Top 10. Once upon a time, we didn”t get to see much of this kind of athleticism in the Ancient Eight, but Harvard has really brought the Ivy”s dunking level to new heights in recent years with impressive throw-downs from Steve Moundou-Missi and Kyle Casey. Saunders” cupped slam might take the cake though. More importantly though, the Crimson played with the necessary intensity for a full 40 minutes and kept their inferior opponents from hanging around–something they were unable to accomplish in the first half of conference play. The Crimson”s ability to get high-percentage shots and get to the line is a huge reason for its success this season. At Brown, Harvard shot 37 FTs and at Yale, 26 FTs. It”s hard not to score when you earn that many freebies. Not surprisingly, Harvard leads the league in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) comfortably and is 2nd in the entire nation (48.5%).
This Weekend”s Losers:
Cornell- The Big Red had all the momentum coming into this weekend, sitting alone in 3rd place with a chance to create havoc in the Ivy race. All they had to do was handle a depleted Penn squad at home to set up a huge game with Princeton on Saturday with actual title implications for both sides. Instead, Tony Hicks earned his stripes in Ithaca, torching Bill Courtney”s defense for 29 points including 5-6 from three, as the Quakers came from behind to shock Newman Nation, 79-71. The next night, Princeton raced out to a massive first half lead and Cornell was never able to claw all the way back. Johnathan Gray did not suit up for the Big Red in either game this weekend for undisclosed reasons. The sweep sends the Big Red back into the middle clump of the league where teams 3 through 6 are separated by one game.
Dartmouth- The Big Green looked so promising five games ago, sitting at 2-3 after knocking off Columbia at Levien. Since then, Dartmouth hasn”t even played anyone close. Following a less-than-competitive effort at Yale (who they had beaten at Leede), Dartmouth”s nine-point loss on Saturday at Brown was the Big Green”s closest defeat in five straight Ls. Dartmouth”s defense is the most obvious culprit for its failings, as opponents are shooting a league-high 56% from inside the arc in Ivy play. That number is far too high to stay competitive. On offense, Dartmouth does have guys who can put the ball in the bucket (Boehm, Mitola, Maldunas, even Melville), but the Big Green lack the necessary aggression to get to the line: Dartmouth”s conference-play free throw rate is far and away the league”s lowest (28.5%).