All season, Yale has relied heavily on IHO Player of the Year Justin Sears. So it only made sense that with the season on the line, down two points to Quinnipiac with the game clock winding perilously low, the Bulldogs would find Sears– even if it wasn’t in his natural zone of dominance in the paint.
Instead, Sears caught the ball out on the wing, took a few dribbles, stepped back, and let fly on his 10th three-point attempt of the season (for reference sake, he’s taken 307 two-pointers). The ball hit glass, then net as the Yale crowd erupted in astonished euphoria, while Quinnipiac supporters that had made the trip down from Hamden stood slack-jawed. Yale 69, Quinnipiac 68. The referees reset the clock to :00.7, but the Bobcats’ full-court heave was picked out of the air by (who else?) Justin Sears and the Elis moved on to the second round of the CIT.
After two straight big baskets from Cory Osetkowski got Columbia the lead back, Valparaiso’s Vashil Fernandez hit 1 of 2 from the stripe to tie the game at 56 with just :28 on the clock. Holding for one shot, Maodo Lo let the clock tick under five seconds before making his move at the basket. He maneuvered just above the foul line, stepped back, and nailed the game winning jumper to send Columbia into the second round of the CIT as his teammates mobbed him at center court. The road victory was the Lions’ 20th win of the season, the most since 1970. The postseason triumph was Columbia’s first since 1968.
After tallying up the ballots of six IHO writers, I am happy to unveil the 3rd Annual IvyHoopsOnline.com End of Season Awards.
IHO Player of the Year: Justin Sears, Yale
No player in the Ivy this year was more critical to his team’s success than Justin Sears. The Bulldogs’ sophomore star was one of the highest usage players in the league, and never shied away from putting Yale on his back. Sears ended up tying for the league scoring title, averaging 19.5 ppg during the 14-Game Tournament. The Eli forward also led the conference in rebounding with 7.9 boards per Ivy contest. On the defensive end, he was second in the league in blocks with 2.0 per game. A physical beast, Sears got to the line more than anyone in the Ancient Eight, save for Alex Rosenberg, fighting his way to the stripe for nearly 10 FT attempts per Ivy game. He connected on 76% of those, improving upon one of the few weaknesses in his freshman campaign.
He managed to score in double-figures in 13 of 14 Ivy games and put together four double-doubles, guiding Yale to a 2nd place finish. Even once it became clear that teams were focused on stopping him, Sears continued to score efficiently, finishing the season with 25 points per game in his last four contests on 34-53 FG (64%).
The final Ivy weekend is in the books, and as always, what a ride it’s been this season. Let’s get to the weekend’s big winners.
Harvard: Well, it certainly didn’t always feel like a runaway season, but by the time all the dust settled on Saturday night, Harvard had won the league by a full four games, which is about what we thought might happen all the way back in November. While the Ivy gods were nice enough to tease us with a final weekend with title implications, Harvard put an end to all of that quickly, racing out to a 16-2 lead against Yale and never letting the Bulldogs get all the way back into it. It’s sort of a shame Yale couldn’t pull out a victory on Friday because we would have had some remarkable drama last night if the Bulldogs had pulled within one game.
The Crimson needed overtime in an old-fashioned barnburner to dispatch of pesky Brown on Senior Night for Sean McGonagill. The Bears’ star guard went out with a bang, tallying 26 points, 8 assists, and just one turnover, but it wasn’t enough to steal the victory.
Down the stretch, Siyani Chambers stepped up and knocked down a huge three to put Harvard up 87-85 with just one minute to play in regulation. Rookie of the Year candidate Leland King then battled in the paint and knocked down a short jumper to tie the game before Chambers’ fading baseline jumper was way off at the horn.
In overtime, it was a one-possession game until Brandyn Curry came up with a steal and Laurent Rivard, just like the night before, knocked down the backbreaking three pointer that sealed it up for the Crimson. The 98-93 final was the highest scoring game in the Ivy this season. The Crimson big men, Moundou-Missi and Casey, both finished with double-doubles as Brown had no answer for their size and strength when the ball got down low.
Harvard, at 26-4 and #51 in the RPI, appears to be looking at an 11 or 12 seed based on most bracketologists’ projections. That would put the Crimson in a relatively reasonable position to advance to the Sweet 16, facing no #1 or #2 seeds in the first two rounds.
Friend of the site, Wesley Cheng, from over yonder at SUJuiceOnline.com, was nice enough to review Ed Breslin”s new book about the 2011-12 Yale basketball season. Neither Wesley nor IHO received any compensation for this review.
Let me be clear before the outset of this review: I did not attend an Ivy League school, nor did I previously have an appreciation for it. Save for a few friends who worshiped Penn hoops, my loyalties remain in the old Big East and the current ACC. So it is with that lens that I review Ed Breslin”s The Divine Nature of Basketball: My Season Inside the Ivy League, his look at the 2011-12 Yale Bulldogs basketball team, led by head coach James Jones. Breslin petitioned Jones to be a special assistant coach, essentially shadowing the team throughout the entire season. What follows is an insider”s look at one of the more entertaining Yale basketball seasons in recent memory.
As the calendar year winds to a close, let’s look back at some of the most exciting Ivy League basketball finishes in 2013.
February 2, 2013: Cornell over Penn, 71-69. Galal Cancer’s bank shot in the closing seconds lifted the Big Red to a big win in the Palestra.
February 2, 2013: Harvard over Brown, 89-82 2OT. On that same night, Harvard battled Brown through two thrilling overtimes at Lavietes. In regulation, Sean McGonagill’s jump shot with one second left completed a seven point comeback in the final 1:57. In the first OT, Steven Albrecht’s trey sent the game to a second extra period with just :20 on the clock. The Crimson grabbed the W behind Wes Saunders and Christian Webster’s efforts in the second OT.
March 8, 2013: Penn over Brown, 66-64. In a bizarre finish after Penn rallied from six down with two minutes left, Brown had a foul to give with 1.1 seconds left in a tie game. Steve Albrecht fouled Miles Cartwright immediately on receiving the inbounds, but Cartwright managed to draw the shooting foul by chucking the ball at the hoop. He sunk two of three with :00.7 on the clock to win it for Penn.
November 22, 2013: Siena over Cornell, 71-70. Up 10 with 3:54 to go, Bill Courtney picked up a technical foul and Siena went on a 10-1 run, completing their comeback with 6.5 seconds to play on a putback. Tarwater’s three missed at the buzzer as Cornell’s winless streak dragged on.
5. November 12, 2013: Manhattan over Columbia, 71-70.
Game Reset: The Lions led their NYC rival 70-67 as the clock dwindled under 10 seconds. Michael Alvarado’s pump fake got Maodo Lo in the air, earning the Jaspers three shots at the stripe with :4.0 to go. Alvarado’s first missed. His second was good. His third shot drew the back iron, and fell toward the left block. Emmy Andujar grabbed it and missed long on the putback, but George Beamon was on the weak side and his follow-up banked home as the buzzer and whistle sounded. Though it took some sorting out in the chaos, Beamon had tied the game while being fouled right at the buzzer. The officials put 0.5 seconds back on the clock, and Beamon stepped to the stripe and calmly drained the free throw for a 71-70 lead. Columbia’s desperation alley-oop to Luke Petrasek just missed and Manhattan escaped Levien with an unlikely victory.
Princeton entered the last week of November riding the wave of its best start under Mitch Henderson, one possession at Butler away from opening the season at 4-0. T.J. Bray’s welcome return to the line-up promised to stabilize the rotation. Tests against two highly-respected coaches, George Mason’s Paul Hewitt and Bucknell’s Dave Paulsen, promised Henderson an opportunity to establish his team’s identity for the rest of the season.
Playing perhaps the best half of Princeton basketball in three years, the Tigers roared to a 40-23 lead at home against GMU. Hewitt made some smart adjustments during the intermission and his team overcame the deficit to force a tie inside of two minutes. But they never gained the lead, as the Tigers called upon Bray to make some big plays. He did, with a great feed to Hans Brase and a tough bucket of his own inside, as the Tigers held on 71-66. This was the kind of game Princeton had trouble finishing in previous seasons under Henderson. Bray earned his first career double-double, scoring 18 and dishing out 10 assists. Seven rebounds, for good measure, bolstered the senior’s impressive stat line. On to Lewisburg to end the November schedule.
Bucknell under Paulsen, has become something of a rivalry for the Tigers, matching two very competitive mid-major programs with a lot of pride and pedigree. Last year’s victory at Jadwin was the highlight of Princeton’s non-conference season and one of two wins the Tigers posted against NCAA Tournament entries. Although off to a slow start, the Bison came in ranked by Pomeroy about 30 places higher than the Tigers on Saturday. On Sunday, after the Tigers’ convincing 66-53 win, the teams essentially switched places in Ken Pomeroy’s list, the Tigers moving up to 73, while the Bison slipped to 105.
In Coach Martin’s first season at the helm, the Bears overcame an unthinkable number of obstacles, playing at times with just seven healthy players, to finish top half for the first time since 2007-08. A dangerous and talented team when everyone was healthy (it was quite a rare occurrence), Brown seemed on the verge of something great in 2012-13. A thrilling final-minute comeback against crosstown rival Providence pushed the Bears to new heights as Tucker Halpern’s eighth three pointer splashed through the nylon in the final seconds, sending the Pizzatola Center into delirium and shock. They followed that up with a quality overtime victory over eventual MAAC champions, Niagara.
Once Ivy play came though, the short roster started to take its toll. Four of the Bears’ seven conference losses were in overtime or by one possession. Still, the players lifted one another up when someone had an off-night.
Against Columbia at the Pitz, Sean McGonagill, Stephen Albrecht, and Halpern combined to go 1-15 from the field for four total points, yet the Bears managed to eek out a win on the backs of Matt Sullivan (27 points, 5 steals) and Cedric Kuakumensah (19 points, 7 rebounds). Other nights, it was McGonagill carrying the load, like on Senior Night when the Bears pounded Princeton to clinch 4th place behind 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists from the sophomore point guard. Albrecht pitched in with 17 points and 5 rebounds despite a chronic back injury. It was perhaps the gutsiest .500 season in recent Ivy history.
In 2012-13: 13-18, 5-9, T-6th place, No Postseason.
Believe it or not, there are teams not named Harvard playing basketball in the Ivy League this season. I know, shocking. One of these teams is the kids from Ithaca. I use kids almost literally. That’s what you’re going to see a lot of this season from Cornell: kids. Robert Hatter, Nolan Cressler, Devin Cherry, Dwight Tarwater, and David Onuorah are Cornell’s opening day starters, a lineup that includes two freshman and just one senior.
There are a lot of firsts here. This is the first time since the start of the 2008-09 season that Cornell did not start at least two seniors. That night, Jason Battle was the lone fourth-year player in the starting lineup, contributing four points in 17 minutes to a ten point victory over South Dakota. This is the first time since the start of the 2006-07 season that Cornell has had a freshman in its starting lineup. That night Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale combined for 25 points en route to top Northwestern.