Friday's Best

Jeremy Lin and Spike Lee took in the riveting overtime contest between Harvard and Columbia Friday night at Levien Gymnasium. (Photo Credit: newsday.com)

A truly dramatic Friday night in the Ivy League ended with all the favorites pulling out victories.

Best Game: We were treated to a classic Ivy battle at Levien Gymnasium last night as Harvard prevailed 77-70 over Columbia in overtime. A packed gym that included Jeremy Lin and Spike Lee created a raucous atmosphere for a contest with massive title implications and the Crimson and Lions did not disappoint. Harvard jumped out to an early ten-point lead behind easy inside scores from Keith Wright and Kyle Casey. Late in the first half, Columbia settled down and started taking away the inside pass, creating turnovers that helped the Lions get back in the game. Freshmen Alex Rosenberg and Cory Osetkowski combined for 12 critical first-half points to bring the Lions within 34-30 at the half.

The second half was a back-and-forth affair as Harvard alternated between the block and the perimeter, showing their versatility. Columbia countered with Brian Barbour, who solidified his spot on the All-Ivy First Team with a jawdropping performance down the stretch against the League”s best backcourt defender in Brandyn Curry. Time after time, Barbour managed to penetrate, get to the bucket and finish from tough angles at the rim.

With four minutes to go, Harvard led 59-53. With Columbia on the ropes and needing a bucket, Harvard forced the Lions into a long possession. As the shot clock wound down, Cisco kicked the ball to the top of the key to Cory Osetkowski, the 6″10″ big man who had yet to hit a three all year. Osetkowski banked home the critical trey ball and Levien erupted. Columbia

added a Barbour jumper on its next trip down the floor before Brandyn Curry nailed a three to push the lead back to four with less than two minutes remaining. Columbia got it down to two and got the ball back after a Wright travel, and Barbour found a way to tie the game with another shifty drive. Harvard held for the final shot, but McNally”s three didn”t fall.

In overtime, the teams traded defensive stops for three minutes before Laurent Rivard and Kyle Casey hit two dagger threes that gave Harvard an advantage that they wouldn”t relinquish. The result was a clutch, hard-fought victory for Harvard, drawing them within one win of another Ivy title, and yet another heartbreaking loss for Columbia. Harvard now faces Cornell. A win gives the Crimson at least a share of the league championship, while a win coupled with a Penn loss to Yale would give Harvard the outright title and the NCAA bid. Columbia will host Dartmouth on Senior Night.

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IHO Power Poll: February 27, 2012

Harvard remains number one in our final IHO Power Poll by the narrowest of margins, but Zack Rosen's Quakers are charging hard in the rear-view mirror. (Photo Credit: pennathletics.com)

Welcome to the ninth and final IHO Power Poll (based on games through 02/27/12). Please note that these rankings are based off of our best guesses of how the Ivy League picture will sort itself out. We always love to hear your gripes and whines in the comments below.

1. Harvard (10-2), (24-4)- Saturday’s loss to Penn was painful for the Crimson for a number of reasons—Senior Night, the home winning streak, the title implications—and it may grow even more so depending on the results of next week. In a matter of minutes, Harvard went from being assured of at least a share of the Ivy crown to potentially watching the NCAA Tournament from home. Credit Zack Rosen for carrying the Quaker squad, but the Crimson handed Penn the opportunity as a result of turnovers (11 in the first 12 minutes), mental errors (a length of the court layup with three seconds left in the first), and questionable personnel strategy (Corbin Miller on the court and Keith Wright riding pine). As nice as the win over Princeton was, the loss to the Quakers was far worse, and the specter of another traumatic conclusion is, for the first time, beginning to loom over Harvard’s dream season. -C. River Banks

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Saturday's Best

Zack Rosen is a man on a mission. (Photo Credit: philly.com)

Best…Wow: Zack Rosen did it again. Two clutch Rosen free throws with 23 seconds left put Penn up one, and after a rebound off a missed Corbin Miller three ended up in Harvard”s possession, Tyler Bernardini stepped up and drew a charge on Kyle Casey with only seconds remaining. Penn was able to run the clock out on the inbounds, securing a 55-54 victory and breaking Harvard”s 28-game home winning streak. More importantly, the Quakers are now a half-game back of first place, and tied with the Crimson in the all-important loss column. A Penn victory seemed unlikely late in the second-half as a Curry back door pass to Saunders put Harvard up 7 with only five minutes to play. Cue Rosen. The soon-to-be Ivy Player of the Year once again one-upped himself, knocking down a three on the wing, an elbow jumper, and the game-winning free throws in the final minutes to lift the Quakers. Rosen finished with 20 points on 6-14 shooting (4-7 from deep), while Miles Cartwright added 8 points. Props must be given to Tyler Bernardini who despite playing with an ankle injury, stepped up with great help defense to draw the pivotal charge on Casey. For Harvard, Casey led the way with 12 points

and 6 rebounds, with Keith Wright adding 9 points and 5 rebounds. Wesley Saunders had 10 off the bench and Laurent Rivard had 8. The Crimson outrebounded the undersized Quakers 24-15, but only shot 2-11 from three. Harvard now goes on the road to Columbia and Cornell for its final weekend. Penn returns home to face Yale and Brown before closing out the season against archrival Princeton. It”s worth noting that half of the league remains alive for the title as we enter the final weekend. Yale needs a sweep and one Harvard loss; Princeton needs to win out, have Harvard lose both, and have Penn lose one. It should be a fun finish to the Ivy season.

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Friday's Best

Kyle Casey led Harvard to the brink of an Ivy title with a big 20-point, 8-rebound performance against Princeton on Friday night. (Photo Credit: gocrimson.com)

Best Clutch Defense: The Crimson pulled this one out thanks to a late-game stretch of lockdown defense. Between 8:17 and 2:02 remaining in the game, Harvard held Princeton scoreless, a stretch during which a 55-54 Tigers lead turned into 59-55 Crimson advantage (Harvard wasn”t exactly lighting it up late in this one either). The Cantabs went 8-8 from the line down the stretch to seal the victory. The scoring was provided by the big men on this night, as Kyle Casey went for 20 pts and 8 rbs, while Keith Wright pitched in with 12 pts and 6 rbs. Brandyn Curry gave Harvard a key second half spark and finished with 15 pts, 6 ast, and 0 turnovers. Oliver McNally also added 13 including going 6-6 from the line in the final eighteen seconds. For Princeton, the scoreless drought doomed the Tigers, who stopped getting the good looks that had been so plentiful in the first half. The ball stopped moving crisply and the shots were contested, and they just didn”t fall. Ian Hummer and Doug Davis each had 14 and Patrick Saunders had 12 points in a huge first half, but didn”t get any looks in the second half. With the loss, Princeton falls out of the Ivy title race. Meanwhile, Harvard”s home win streak moves to 28 and the Crimson can now turn its focus to Penn. Harvard can clinch at least a share of the Ivy title with a win tomorrow night.

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Ivy Postseason Possibilities

Half of the Ivy League has a chance to play in the postseason with just four games to play.

With only four games to play, five Ivy teams have a good shot of finishing the season with a winning record. Unfortunately for Columbia, the bad computer numbers, lack of quality wins and disappointing conference record will keep the Lions off the court in mid-March. For the league”s top half, let”s take a look at what could be in store after the final Ivy weekend:

Harvard: The Crimson remain heavy favorites to win the league outright. A sweep at home this weekend would virtually end all doubt regarding Harvard”s ultimate March destination. A split that includes a victory over Penn would probably do the trick too. IHO says: The Crimson are headed to the Big Dance.

Penn: The 15-11 (7-2) Quakers have a pretty comparable profile to the second-placed Princeton team from 2010. Those Tigers (RPI #133) finished 20-8 with a significantly weaker strength of schedule as this year”s Quakers and were invited to the CBI, where they knocked off Duquesne and IUPUI before falling to Saint Louis. This Penn team is on track to finish in second in a significantly better league, has better computer numbers (RPI #108) , a Top 100 win in the victory over Saint Joe”s, and the draw of one of the country”s best point guards in Zack Rosen. If you”re a Penn fan with NIT hopes, you may be out

of luck. Last year”s NIT at-large selections had an average RPI of 67 with Nebraska squeezing in with the worst RPI at #89. The CBI, on the other hand, took teams with an average RPI of 119 last year. While the CBI is a bit more unpredictable with the pay-to-play format, Penn still seems like a good fit as a road team, or even a home team if they”re willing to put up the cash. IHO says: Zack Rosen and the Quakers will play on into March in the CBI.

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IHO Power Poll: February 20, 2012

Keith Wright's Harvard Crimson has been the wire-to-wire #1 team in the IHO Power Poll this season. (Photo Credit: thecrimson.com)

Welcome to the eighth IHO Power Poll (based on games through 02/20/12). Please note that these rankings are based off of our best guesses of how the Ivy League picture will sort itself out. We always love to hear your gripes and whines in the comments below.

1. Harvard (9-1), (23-3)- Harvard took care of business this weekend with its best back-to-back performances in a month. A depleted Brown team did not put up much of a fight on Friday night, and the next day the Crimson weathered Yale’s best shot

to pull out a 15-point victory. Keith Wright was the leader on the court, averaging 11 points and nine rebounds in just 23 minutes per game, but Harvard got standout performances from Steve Moundou-Missi (14 points off the bench against the Bears) and Brandyn Curry (a season-high 18 points against the Elis) as well. Now holding a game-and-a-half lead over the competition, the Crimson can effectively wrap up its second Ivy title in as many years if it can beat the Killer Ps next weekend at Lavietes, where Harvard now owns a 27-game winning streak. -C. River Banks

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Saturday's Best

Brandyn Curry led the Crimson to a season sweep over Yale with 18 points on Saturday night in Harvard's 66-51 victory at Lavietes. (Photo Credit: thecrimson.com)

Best Domination of a Rivalry: Another efficient offensive performance from Harvard (1.22 points per possession) coupled with yet another lockdown defensive effort kept the Crimson in the driver”s seat. That”s 27 in a row at Lavietes and a season sweep of archrival Yale. This time, Harvard got out to a 35-15 first half lead, but Yale responded with an 11-0 run to close the half. The Bulldogs got within four early in the second half, but Harvard pulled away behind Curry”s scoring, Wright”s inside finishing, and Miller”s shooting off the bench.

For Yale, it was Mangano once again getting the buckets as the big man made it happen all over the court, knocking down 3 of 4 three point attempts and finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds. A lack of depth hurt the Bulldogs (Mike Grace was not 100% after injuring his ankle) and Harvard did a great job of limiting Yale”s backcourt production. Austin Morgan and Reggie Willhite were held to 4-13 from the field and 15 points. For the Crimson, a balanced attack did the trick, though it was Brandyn Curry with

18 points and 5 assists leading the way. Wright finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds. It seems like we”ve had a game with serious title implications every weekend, and the Crimson will face one more when Zack Rosen and the 7-2 Quakers come to town on Saturday. One more sweep at home will virtually clinch the first solo title in Harvard history.

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Friday's Best

Mack Darrow's huge night off the bench helped lift Princeton over Columbia last night. (Photo Credit: goprincetontigers.com)

Best Second Half: Princeton rode a 50 point second half to an impressive 77-66 victory over Columbia at Jadwin. The Tigers limited Mark Cisco to 4 points and 5 rebounds, as Doug Davis notched 20 points and Ian Hummer added 16 to lead Princeton into the top half. The Tigers stuck with a short rotation of eight players and it allowed their guys to get in a shooting rhythm, as the team shot 51% from the field on the evening with all eight getting into the scoring column. The game was all tied up at 27 at the half, but a 14-3 run in the middle of the second half pushed the Tigers ahead to stay. Mack Darrow contributed 19 points off the bench (4-6 FG, 9-9 FT) in 26 minutes to provide an important spark. For the Lions, Brian Barbour continued to showcase his ability as a scorer with 22 points (5-12 FG, 11-13 FT), and Blaise Staab took advantage of the start by pouring in 12 points to go with 6 rebounds. Princeton takes on Cornell in a critical matchup at Jadwin tonight as the Tigers try to climb back up the standings.

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IHO Power Poll: February 13, 2012

Fans stormed the floor at Jadwin Gymnasium Saturday night as Princeton knocked off previously unbeaten Harvard, keeping the league race interesting for at least one more weekend. (Photo Credit: dailyprincetonian.com)

Welcome to the seventh IHO Power Poll (based on games through 02/13/12). Please note that these rankings are based off of our best guesses of how the Ivy League picture will sort itself out. We always love to hear your gripes and whines in the comments below.

1. Harvard (7-1), (21-3)- Harvard had the Ivy League all but wrapped up after winning at the Palestra on Friday. Then Saturday happened, and now it’s game on once again. The Crimson’s performance at Jadwin was very uncharacteristic. The Tigers torched Harvard’s vaunted defense for 1.11 points per possession, time after time finding easy buckets on backdoor cuts. Not only that, the Crimson’s normally reliable free-throw shooting allowed the game to slip away, as Kyle Casey missed four of five from the stripe (including the front end of a one-and-one) to watch a tie game turn into a five point deficit. Harvard will have a chance to regroup with its next four games at home, but, thanks to its 23rd straight loss at Princeton, the Crimson is no longer the only team that controls its own destiny. -C. River Banks

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Saturday's Best

Best Upset: Princeton. The Tigers made sure that there would be no undefeated champion of the Ivy League this year, defending Jadwin from the Crimson for the 23rd consecutive year,  70-62. This may have been the most unlikely of those 23 home victories, as the jubilant Princeton crowd rushed the court at the buzzer. It was a back-and-forth affair the whole way as Harvard led by five at the half before Princeton finally pulled away in the final four minutes. The Tigers had five players in double figures, led by Ian Hummer”s 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Point guard TJ Bray had 12 points, while big man Brendan Connolly pitched in with 11 points and 6 rebounds. Denton Koon didn”t miss a shot, adding 10 points in 18 minutes (4-4 FG, 2-2 FT), and Mack Darrow rounded out the double-digit scoring with 10 to go with 5 boards. Princeton only missed one field goal and had one turnover in the game”s final five minutes. For Harvard, Keith Wright provided much of the offense, scoring 16 on 7-11 shooting, while Brandyn Curry had 15. Harvard yielded 70 points to an opponent for only the second time this season (Seattle scored 70 in a 80-70 Crimson victory back in early December).

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