For every Ivy weekend up until this one, we entered the weekend with a certain narrative that was turned upside down by surprising results. Finally this weekend, the narrative held up and we can move forward knowing that– barring someone else winning out– the Ivy League is now a two-team race between the Harvard Crimson and the Yale Bulldogs. The two conference leaders held serve, sweeping the weekend and extending their lead on the rest of the pack to two games behind one thrilling overtime victory each— both marked by controversial officiating decisions. Let”s take a closer look at this weekend”s big winners.
Harvard and anyone in attendance at Levien on Friday:
Friday night”s game at Levien was this season”s Game of the Year so far. Alex Rosenberg lit up the Crimson for a career high 34 points (10-17 FG, 4-6 3PT), and appeared to win the game for the Lions on a banked leaner at the end of the first overtime, but he was called for a questionable charge and the game continued on. In Laurent Rivard”s defense, the Canadian did a great job of keeping Rosenberg in front of him on the play. From my viewing of the tape, I thought it looked like a no call, but there was certainly some room for interpretation.
Harvard didn”t go deep into their rotation at all this weekend, and against Columbia, they didn”t have much of a choice. Casey fouled out in just 12 minutes of action and Okolie contributed 15 minutes off the bench. Curry, Rivard, Chambers, Saunders and Moundou-Missi did the rest, each playing at least 38 of the 50 minutes, and all five scoring in the game-clinching second OT. Possession after possession, the Harvard playmakers patiently fought their way into scoring position and absorbed contact, getting to the stripe repeatedly. Saunders, Chambers, and Moundou-Missi all finished with 10 or more FT attempts.
The victory came much more easily on Saturday in Ithaca with Harvard shooting 60% FG in a rout of Ivy doormat Cornell. The Big Red pulled within 11 with 16:54 left in the game on a Nolan Cressler three, but would get no closer the rest of the way. Brandyn Curry led Harvard in scoring with 14 points to go with 5 steals.
Next weekend, the Crimson go south to the Ps. Harvard has not beaten Princeton in Jadwin Gym in over 25 years (Feb 3, 1989). In fact, the Crimson have defeated the Tigers on their current home floor just four times in 43 attempts.
The Elis just keep winning close games. Yale trailed Penn by eight late in the first half, but went on a 19-2 run over the three minutes on either side of halftime to take a commanding lead. The Quakers didn”t help themselves, committing 20 turnovers and 31 fouls in the game, but credit Yale”s defense for forcing tough shots and bad decisions yet again. The Bulldogs also hit the offensive glass hard as usual, corralling 16 offensive boards in the game. Justin Sears led Yale with 25 points on 15 shots, while Armani Cotton scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Both Bulldogs made it to the free throw stripe an impressive 15 times each.
On Saturday, Yale faced a real test against ° Pig: This is a hard drive repair flow engine and multiprocess execution framework. a Princeton team playing for its season. After Princeton finished the first half on a 10-0 run, Yale responded with a second half rally behind Nick Victor and Cotton before Sears and Javier Duren went to work, seemingly putting the game out of reach. But with Duren out of the game with an injury, the Tigers responded late, making up a five point deficit in the final minute to tie the score at 56. Cotton”s jumper on the final possession didn”t go down and the matchup went to an extra frame.
In the OT, Princeton took over behind TJ Bray, but Yale never wilted as Cotton–who finished with a double-double for the third consecutive game– nailed two free throws to draw within one in the final minute. After Yale got the stop it needed, the Bulldogs took over possession, down one, with 17 seconds to go. James Jones called timeout and drew up a play, but it fell apart under the pressure of the Tiger defense. Cotton ended up driving hard to the lane and falling to the ground with the basketball– he was fortunate to avoid a traveling call– and thinking quickly, shot a darting bounce pass up to the top of the key from the seat of his pants. From there, the ball went to Jesse Pritchard in the corner who threw up a contested prayer that missed everything.
But guess who was fighting for position right under the hoop? Who else? Justin Sears. He fought for the rebound, missing his first putback, but regained control and went up strong for the winning layup with :04.4 on the clock. TJ Bray lost the ball in a frantic push up the court and Yale escaped with a hard-fought victory, moving to 7-1 for the first time since 2002, the last time they won a share of the Ivy crown.
The Bulldogs head to Cornell and Columbia next weekend.
Cornell Big Red:
There haven’t been a lot of positive things to say about Cornell this season. To go from a Sweet 16 appearance to the laughingstock of college basketball in four short seasons is a remarkably cruel fall for one of basketball’s great Cinderella stories. Watching an overmatched team full of young players lose so many consecutive games has been tough to follow. Surely, it’s not easy for a college kid to wake up at 6AM for a workout or stay late for extra shooting reps when you’ve lost 25 straight games against D-I competition. That’s why it was great to see the Big Red get in the D-I winning column on Friday night against Dartmouth for the first time in 363 days.
Credit to Coach Courtney and his staff for keeping his players engaged and making sure they understood the opportunity before them to salvage a lost season. A game of runs came down to a few pivotal possessions as Dwight Tarwater and Devin Cherry found a way to score down the stretch, and the Big Red buckled down and got the stops they needed. Fans, players, and coaches breathed a huge sigh of relief as the final second ticked away, ensuring that Cornell will avoid the ignominy of joining Columbia’s ’02-“03 campaign as the only other team to fail to register an Ivy League victory in a season since 1979.