Princeton can’t hang on at California

Princeton played its best half of the season at California Saturday evening, shooting a sizzling 62 percent from the field, including 8-for-14 from three-point range, to lead 37-28 at intermission.

The second half was far more typical of the Tigers’ season, however, as the Golden Bears stepped up the defensive pressure and unleashed NBA prospect Tyrone Wallace, who scored 20 of his game-high 23 points after the break. The game was closer than the final score (67-57) suggests.

Terrific ball movement gave the Tigers numerous open shots early in the game. Four different players accounted for the first seven shots, all good, giving the Tigers a lead that reached 11 points.

Read morePrinceton can’t hang on at California

How Penn basketball can keep us from forgetting about it

Penn's win over Marist Tuesday marked its first victory at the Palestra in six tries. (upenn.edu)
Penn’s win over Marist Tuesday marked its first victory at the Palestra in six tries. (upenn.edu)

Like many, I was a bit shocked that Jerome Allen has not placed on ESPN’s “10 Best-Dressed Coaches List.” Anyone who has seen the man up close knows his elegant sartorial choices are beyond reproach.

I was equally shocked when this very forum expended more than 51 minutes of last week’s On the Vine podcast discussing Ivy League basketball and spent exactly two seconds on the Quakers. In fact, after discussing six other teams, host Peter Andrews at one point says, “There’s only one other team that we haven’t talked about, Dartmouth.”

Shame on you gentlemen…

These two incidents, albeit small, point to one thing: the current irrelevance of Penn basketball.  Both mainstream and social media blather on and on about everything from the overall strength of the league to the beauty of the Yale offense, to the disappointment of the Brown defense, to the burgeoning diameter of Mitch Henderson’s bald spot.

But nothing about Penn.

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Columbia is playing Uglyball – and it’s working

Kyle Smith's Uglyball approach is paying dividends for the Light Blue. (Columbia Athletics)
Kyle Smith’s Uglyball approach is paying dividends for the Light Blue. (Columbia Athletics)

What is the most memorable basketball offense of all time? Chances are your mind just jumped to memories of the Showtime Lakers, the Seven Seconds or Less Suns, the Stockton and Malone pick and roll, or the present-day Spurs. Visions of great ball movement, transition dunks and helpless defenders are probably dancing through your head like sugarplums at this very second.

The offense Kyle Smith and the 2014-15 Columbia Lions are running more resembles the Four Corners offense which, while ultimately leading to many victories, sucked the life out of the game and ultimately led to the implementation of the shot clock. Despite playing at this snail’s pace, only four teams in the NCAA have attempted a higher percentage of three-pointers than the Lions. This combination of a slow tempo and an absurdly high percentage of threes taken has created a painful-to-watch offense that is the key to Columbia’s season.

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Watch out for Harvard’s Corbin Miller

Corbin Miller has scored in double figures in three of Harvard's past five games. (gocrimson.com)
Corbin Miller has scored in double figures in three of Harvard’s past five games. (gocrimson.com)

On Monday night, Harvard’s tough defense and late-game toughness pushed the Crimson over Boston University, 70-56, at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. For the first thirty minutes of the game, Harvard and BU traded leads and the scrappy Terriers just would not go away. Then halfway through the second half, Harvard pulled ahead for good on a Wesley Saunders three-pointer, and the game was never in doubt after that. BU’s head coach, Joe Jones, noted after the game that Harvard played like a “winning team” down the stretch, and BU simply did not.

Once again, Saunders had an outstanding night, with 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Great performances from Saunders are becoming the norm (he is currently the only player in the NCAA averaging at least 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game), so it was another Harvard player’s performance that caught the attention of Crimson fans.

Read moreWatch out for Harvard’s Corbin Miller

The Ivy League isn’t struggling, but Princeton is

Mitch Henderson is looking to right the ship for the 3-7 Tigers. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)
Mitch Henderson is looking to right the ship for the 3-7 Tigers. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)

Princeton turned a nine-point first-half lead into a 14-point deficit at the end of last night’s clunker in Jersey City. Desi Washington, the Peacocks’ leading scorer, returned after missing eight games due to a wrist injury. Washington dominated this one, scoring 18 to lead both teams in the 60-46 St. Peter’s victory. Although tied at the half at 25, the Peacocks (4-6) seized control early in the second stanza in what must have been an eerie reminder to the Tigers (3-7) of their second half meltdown last week at FDU. The Tigers now face their second West Coast trip in less two weeks as they head to Berkeley to face California this weekend. Probably won’t be a happy flight … in either direction.

Read moreThe Ivy League isn’t struggling, but Princeton is

Penn registers another Ivy Rookie of the Week

Freshman guard Darnell Foreman was named Ivy Rookie of the Week Monday for his nine points, two blocks and two steals in 28 minutes at Navy and 11 points, eight boards and two steals at Binghamton. The Quakers won both games, their first two victories of the season.

Forward Mike Auger and guard Antonio Woods also received Rookie of the Week honors earlier this season, putting Penn in the highly unusual position of boasting three different rookies of the week – just three weeks into its season. In part due to junior guard Tony Hicks’ foul trouble, Woods is averaging the most minutes per game of any Quaker (30.4), and four of the top eight Quakers in minutes per game are freshmen. The ultra-young Red and Blue will have a chance to string together three consecutive wins for the first time in three seasons tonight against Marist at the Palestra.

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Steven Cook leads Princeton past Stony Brook

Steven Cook notched 28 points and seven steals in a pull-away victory over Stony Brook. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)
Steven Cook notched 28 points and seven steals in a pull-away victory over Stony Brook. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)

PRINCETON, N.J. – On a night when the Ivy League generally beat up on the America East Conference, Princeton did its part, besting the Stony Brook Seawolves at Jadwin in the Tigers’ return home after almost two weeks on the road. A little home cooking was just what the Tigers needed, especially after Wednesday’s disaster Fairleigh Dickinson.

The storyline for Saturday, a come-from-behind 77-64 victory, starts with a formula developed when we began to keep score in basketball:  Find the guy with the hot hand and keep getting him the ball. Steven Cook, the rangy Tiger sophomore from Winnetka, Ill., was that guy.

Cook scored a career-high 28 points, doubling his previous best, shooting 5-for-7 from three point territory. He added an impressive seven steals, mostly from the top of the Tigers’ 1-3-1 zone, a total exceeded only one time in the last 40 seasons.

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Columbia’s “Chairman Maodo” lays down the law in win over Bucknell

Maodo Lo posted 20 points in a win over Bucknell Saturday. (gocolumbialions.com)
Maodo Lo posted 20 points in a win over Bucknell Saturday. (gocolumbialions.com)

NEW YORK – “Maodo Lo” is a combination of syllables that practically begs for a nickname. After a brief flirtation with “Lo Library” — a clever reference to the central building on Columbia’s campus, but not the most intimidating name for a slashing shooting guard — the Levien denizens (led by the raucous Columbia University Marching Band) seem to have settled on “Chairman Maodo.” The reference to the founder of the People’s Republic of China seems appropriate for the politically engaged student body in Morningside Heights.

On Saturday night, “the Chairman” gaveled the meeting between Columbia (4-2) and Bucknell (3-6) to order with a trio of three-pointers in the first six minutes, pacing the Lions to a 62-39 rout of the visiting Bison.

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“A signature win” for Yale basketball

Yale's victory over UConn marks a signature win on the Elis' resume. (yalebulldogs.com)
Yale’s victory over UConn marks a signature win on the Elis’ resume. (yalebulldogs.com)

Yale had a Montague, but UConn had no Capulet to defend. And as such, Yale defeated UConn, 45-44, at Gampel Pavilion, in a stunner to most of the 9,538 in attendance.

Jack Montague hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 1.7 remaining on the clock to give Yale the win. Montague was 50-95 in threes entering the game but had not made one against the Huskies. The Elis were only 3-for-21 from three for the game.

If there was any doubt about how good, tough and athletic Yale is, it was answered by the middle of the first half, when the Elis held a 22-9 lead over the defending national champions.

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