Penn men pick up first Ivy win, defeating Columbia, 72-70

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, N.Y. – “I thought it was a heck of a college basketball game,” announced Penn head coach Steve Donahue as he walked into the postgame press conference following his team’s 72-70 victory over Columbia.  “I thought the level of execution, in the second half in particular, was amazing.”

Penn held on despite red-hot shooting from Columbia in the second half, collecting its first win in Ivy play after Gabe Stefanini’s would-be game-tying shot for the Lions missed the mark just before the buzzer.

Read morePenn men pick up first Ivy win, defeating Columbia, 72-70

Columbia men fall to Penn in disappointing close to back-to-back homestand

Live by the pull-up jumper, die by the pull-up jumper.

Columbia lost the second game of back-to-back homestand to Penn, 72-70, a hard-fought contest that had both coaches praising the grit of the Ivy League.

Gabe Stefanini scored 27 points on a variety of jump shots and remarkable finishes, but clanked a last-second attempt to tie off the iron, leaving Columbia winless in back-to-back losses to Princeton and Penn. Quinton Adlesh added 15 points and shot 5-for-5 in the second half.

Read moreColumbia men fall to Penn in disappointing close to back-to-back homestand

Penn claims share of first Big 5 title since 2002, is back on track

For the uninitiated, I can tell you the Big 5 is a Big Deal. The Philly City Series is as important and frequently more difficult to capture than the Ivy Crown. The teams are generally better, the crowds are bigger and the games are significantly fewer. Villanova has owned the Big 5 for more than a decade, and rightfully so. To play the national champions every year is no easy feat for anyone. Since Penn’s last title in 2002, St. Joseph’s has been ranked number one in the nation, and the John Chaney-Fran Dunphy Temple Owls as well as La Salle are almost always solid squads from deep conferences.

So when Penn, coming off a four-game losing streak, faced Temple (14-3 and coming off a four-game winning streak) Saturday, a lot was on the line. In my opinion, it was a masterful performance by the Quakers. I would argue that it was even better than the Villanova win. Of course, Penn was still without last year’s leading scorer, Ryan Betley. Max Rothschild played only a few token minutes, Michael Wang does not appear to have fully regained his soft shooting stroke and the Quakers were playing away from home, before a full house, on national television. Still, Steve Donahue’s squad maintained complete control of the game. Their four-game hiatus from victory looked like a thing of the past. (I consider the losses to Princeton just a low point in a season where low points inevitability happen.)

Read morePenn claims share of first Big 5 title since 2002, is back on track

Report: Columbia’s Mike Smith out for season with torn meniscus

According to an Associated Press report on Columbia’s 82-73 loss at Boston College Wednesday night, Lions coach Jim Engles announced that star point guard Mike Smith has a torn meniscus and will miss the remainder of the 2018-2019 season. Smith’s injury occurred in the first half of last Friday’s game against Bryant.  The junior point guard ends his season as one of the Ivy League’s top performers with 15.8 points, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Read moreReport: Columbia’s Mike Smith out for season with torn meniscus

Penn basketball is playing team basketball – and it’s a whole lot of fun to watch

Question: How many Ivy League hoops squads could lose their leading scorer from the preceding year in the first five minutes of a nascent season and still go on to beat KenPom No. 44 Miami as well as the AP No. 17 defending national champions, all the while compiling an overall 9-2 record?

Answer: None — except Penn.

The fact that the Quakers have been so successful so far this season appears to be less a factor of overall talent (which is substantial nonetheless), and more of a function of overall depth and system.

Nowhere were these latter two qualities on full display than on Tuesday night before a packed house when the Quakers knocked off Villanova, thus ending the Wildcats’ 25 game Big 5 winning streak as well as their painful 16-year reign over Penn.

Before the season started, I wrote for IHO, “Clearly, the marquee game will be against the Wildcats. I can tell you from experience, anything can happen in a Big 5 game. I just hope it happens this year.”

And it did.

Read morePenn basketball is playing team basketball – and it’s a whole lot of fun to watch

Ivies take Manhattan for MSG Holiday Festival

NEW YORK – Back in the day, the MSG Holiday Festival was a premier two day four team bracketed event that featured several of the nation’s top teams.  In addition to the classic 1964 Festival featuring Princeton (Bill Bradley), Michigan (Cazzie Russell), Syracuse (Dave Bing) and St. John’s (Coach Joe Lapchick), there were years like 1995, when Penn won the title and used it as a stepping stone to the AP Top 25; 1997, when Princeton was victorious on its way to a top 10 AP ranking; and 2009, when Cornell took the title on its way to a Sweet 16 appearance.  Over the last few years, the event has morphed into a one day double-header featuring the Johnnies and three other local mid-majors.  This year, the “worlds most famous arena” was home to a quarter of the Ancient Eight as Columbia took the subway and Princeton came up the NJ Turnpike to take part in the annual pre-Christmas tradition.

Before the Garden was cleaned up for the Knicks nightcap versus the Hornets, the Lions held off Iona  and the Tigers succumbed to the Red Storm.  While neither team was perfect and the results were spit, both teams had solid efforts and hope to use the day as a motivator as the Ivy schedule quickly approaches.

Read moreIvies take Manhattan for MSG Holiday Festival

Not-so-classic weekend for Columbia at Fordham

Can Columbia buy a win?

More importantly, can Columbia buy a stop?

In the first 10 games of last season, Columbia allowed just three teams — not even Villanova among them — to score 80-plus points. This year’s squad has thrice conceded opponent totals of at least four score and seven years ago. Seems about right for the last time the Lions won a game.

The team dropped three consecutive games at the Johnny Bach Classic at Fordham over the weekend. Kendale Hampton scored a career-best 32 points to lead Youngstown State to a 94-83 win in Columbia’s opener. FIU rode several double-doubles to an easy 98-87 win over Columbia on Saturday despite Gabe Stefanini’s 33 points. The denouement came Sunday, when Columbia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a 70-69 heartbreaker against host Fordham.

Read moreNot-so-classic weekend for Columbia at Fordham

Columbia comes up short on the Hudson Shore

The Columbia Lions men’s basketball team started the season with more of a whimper than a roar, dropping their opening game 82-76 to Marist Saturday night in Poughkeepsie.

To take a page out of Jason Lloyd of The Athletic’s book, here are seven thoughts for Mike Smith’s seven field goals, as well as a bonus two looking ahead to Columbia’s participation in the 2018 Johnny Bach Classic …

Read moreColumbia comes up short on the Hudson Shore

2018-19 Ivy League Preseason Power Rankings

Another college basketball season is upon us. So what can we expect from the Ancient Eight this season coming off a down year for the league overall?

With so much returning talent across the conference, anticipate higher quality of play from both the Ivies who make the conference tournament and those who don’t.

1. Harvard

The Crimson missed their two highest-usage players on offense down the stretch of the Ivy League Tournament final versus Penn at the Palestra: Bryce Aiken, who suffered a knee injury and missed 18 of the final 22 games of the season, and Seth Towns, who suffered a knee injury with around eight minutes left and did not return. Of course, Penn edged out Harvard in the end, the Crimson coming up just short in the face of the Red and Blue’s home-court advantage even without the 2017-18 Ivy Player of the Year (Towns) and 2016-17 Rookie of the Year (Aiken).

Harvard would have likely punched a NCAA Tournament ticket if it had those two standouts in tow, and they’ll probably do the same if they have them in tow this season.

If.

Read more2018-19 Ivy League Preseason Power Rankings

Former Columbia forward Jeff Coby signs with New York Knicks

 

The New York Knicks announced Sunday night that they have signed former Columbia forward Jeff Coby, making Coby’s Knick status official.

Ian Begley of ESPN reported Sunday that Coby and the Knicks had reached a verbal agreement prior to training camp.

Coby averaged 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game during his four seasons as a Lion, providing strong rebounding for Columbia’s 2015-16 CIT champion squad.

Read moreFormer Columbia forward Jeff Coby signs with New York Knicks