Yale 88, Cornell 64
Yale entered into this game with seemingly little momentum despite having won 15 of its previous 16 contests. The Elis eked out an overtime win at home against lower-tier Ivy Dartmouth with Makai Mason shooting just 4-for-18 from the floor and sporting a gimpy ankle, while the program continues to deal with controversy stemming from the team’s show of support for departed ex-teammate Jack Montague. But in Ithaca Friday night, Yale steamrolled Cornell for 40 minutes, building a 30-point lead late in the second half courtesy of another perfect Brandon Sherrod performance from the floor. Sherrod’s 18 points on 6-for-6 shooting led all scorers and anchored an offense that posted 32 made field goals on 54.2 percent shooting, taking advantage of Cornell’s inferior defense early and often. Robert Mischler, Cornell’s only senior, helped spark an 18-9 run for Cornell midway through the first half that brought Cornell to just a 22-20 deficit, but the Elis finished the stanza on an 18-2 run of their own in the final 7:32. That first half featured some promisingly even scoring distribution, with Sam Downey, Anthony Dallier and Khaliq Ghani consistently joining Sherrod and Mason in the scoring action. Yale was additionally rewarded for its efforts when …
Harvard 73, Princeton 71
… this happened at Lavietes Pavilion an hour later. Harvard’s fifth win in conference play came later than usual this season, but it came at just the right time for Yale fans looking for Princeton to lose control of its own destiny in the Ivy title race. That’s just what transpired, with the Tigers’ second Ivy loss setting up one-loss Yale with the opportunity to secure its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1962 in its final league game at Columbia Saturday night. Just as Columbia supporters can point to Devin Cannady as the cause of their team’s downfall this season, so too can Princeton people point to Patrick Steeves as the catalyst for a major letdown.
Steeves did not score in the first 14:17, but Harvard had already garnered a 31-24 lead by the time he did with solid shooting and strong interior offense from Evan Cummins and Zena Edosomwan, who did not play at Princeton earlier this season. And once Steeves got going, Princeton couldn’t stop him. The senior notched a career-high 25 points, 17 of which came in the second half, on 9-for-13 shooting, including 3-for-6 from three-point range. One of those treys came to close the first half, giving Harvard momentum and a 43-35 halftime cushion. It was a Steeves old-fashioned three-point play that ended an 11-0 Princeton run early in the second half and a Steeves drive that drew an Amir Bell foul and resulted in the game-winning free throws with seven seconds left. And it was a block by Steeves that turned away a Myles Stephens shot in the paint in the waning seconds, with Harvard hanging on after a subsequent put-back attempt from Steven Cook rimmed out.
It was a great moment for Steeves, who had been kept off the court for the previous three seasons with a foot stress fracture and a torn ACL. It was an equally devastating moment for Princeton, whose solid performances from Cook, Bell and Henry Caruso were not enough. The Tigers shot just 7-for-21 from deep, and their plus-nine point differential from the free throw line couldn’t counteract that. Edosomwan got back on track after several difficult weekends with 16 points and 14 rebounds in 31 minutes. Now Princeton must win at Dartmouth Saturday night and at home against Penn Tuesday, and hope that Yale bows to Columbia on the Lions’ senior night Saturday night, if it wants to force an Ivy playoff game for the right to a NCAA Tournament appearance.
Dartmouth 72, Penn 64
Host Dartmouth wiped out the Quakers’ shot at their first winning season in Ivy play since 2012 thanks to another dominant performance from freshman forward Evan Boudreaux, whose 26 points and 13 rebounds led all players. The development of sophomore guard Taylor Johnson also bodes well for the Big Green going into next season, considering Johnson’s 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting following steady improvement this campaign. Penn similarly benefited from the return from injury of freshman forward Max Rothschild, who posted 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting in just 21 minutes. Darnell Foreman stat-stuffed as well for Penn, notching 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in 34 minutes. But Dartmouth’s 38-26 advantage in the paint and slightly better shooting clip carried the day.
Columbia 66, Brown 63
The Bears looked like they had it, cutting Columbia’s lead to one three times in the final four minutes and enjoying a career day from JR Hobbie, who shot 7-for-10 from three-point range for 23 points in 35 minutes. But two late free throws from Grant Mullins helped clinch the game for Columbia, which committed six fewer turnovers, shot 10 percent greater from three-point range and enjoyed a 23-point performance of its own from Maodo Lo, who shot 9-for-15 from the floor. KenPom projects a 69-68 loss for Columbia and a 51 percent chance that Yale wins at Levien Gym Saturday night. In other words, Columbia’s senior night should yield an outstanding contest with stark Ivy championship implications.