The theme for Saturday night’s visit by the Columbia Lions to Jadwin Gym was “HISTORY.”
The Tiger faithful gathered to celebrate history, honoring at halftime the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Final Four team, captained by the incomparable Bill Bradley. Sensing the significance of the occasion, Columbia’s Maodo “The Chairman” Lo determined to make a little history of his own. More on that below.
The 1965 Tigers reached the Final Four in an Eastern Regional matchup facing the Providence Friars at their place. The night before the final, the Friars celebrated their win in the semis by cutting down the nets in what remains the most egregious example of early chicken counting in this writer’s memory. (The back-slapping of James Jones and his staff in the last minute at Harvard Friday night is a recent contender.) Stung by the snub, the Tigers thrashed the Friars, 109-69. A request for the previous evening’s nets was declined.
Bradley’s 58-point outburst in the Third Place Game against Wichita State remains the highest single-game total in a Final Four.
Now we turn to Maodo Lo. Columbia’s superfan, IHO On The Vine majordomo Peter Andrews, was a most interested courtside observer last night. Prior to tip-off he offered the off-hand suggestion that “Lo might go for 40 tonight.”
Fortunately for the Tigers, Peter was way off. Lo could manage only 37, as his last second three-point effort for the win, and 40 points, missed by a whisker. Down by two with four seconds left, Lo maneuvered to nearly the exact spot from which then-Lion Meiko Lyles launched his game-winning three at Princeton last season.
The Chairman’s 37-point night included a league and school record 11 three-pointers, assuring this remarkable player a line in the history books. Believe me, he’s going to turn that line into a page or two before he’s finished.
Lo’s historic performance almost overshadowed a stunning comeback effort by the Tigers. Down nine with 2:08 remaining in the game, the Tigers outscored the Lions 11-0 to grab a most unlikely win, preserving their hopes of a winning season. Senior Clay Wilson, truly an unsung hero lately, made a huge three of his own on what was the last field goal attempt of his Jadwin career to draw within one inside a minute remaining. Hans Brase capped off his extraordinary 23-point night with a tremendous move to the basket for the go-ahead score. Lo’s heart-stopping near-miss ended the festivities.
The Tigers made 30 of 39 free throws to the Lions’ 14 of 15, a statistic of obvious significance in a two-point game.
Princeton, the league’s third-place finisher again, can clinch a winning season and a possible postseason appearance with a win at The Palestra Tuesday. Judging by the way the Quakers have responded to the firing of coach Jerome Allen with a weekend sweep at home, the outcome Tuesday is anything but a foregone conclusion.
Retired Princeton Athletic Director Gary Walters, a member of the 1965 Final Four team, was asked if Lo’s performance reminded him of Bradley in his prime. Without hesitating he replied, “Bill played like that every night.” And the rest is history…