During Rex Ryan’s final season with the New York Jets in 2014, there was often so much chaos on the field I remember TV color analyst Cris Collingsworth lamenting that he often had “no idea what the Jets were doing.” For the past few years, I could say the same thing about the Quakers: the fouls, the turnovers, the fistfights, the lack of spirit and, of course, the confinement sentencings. After this weekend’s games, it appears Steve Donahue appears to have at least restored our dignity.
Princeton 85, Cornell 56
That escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast. The Tigers cleaned out Cornell from wire to wire, racing out to a 33-8 lead in the first 10:20 and never looking back. Princeton shot 50 percent from the floor, anchored as usual by Henry Caruso’s 13-point, seven-rebound, two-assist, two-steal performance, with 13 additional points from Amir Bell. Freshmen Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens combined for 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting off the bench, including 3-for-4 beyond the arc from Cannady.
The theme for Saturday night’s visit by the Columbia Lions to Jadwin Gym was “HISTORY.”
The Tiger faithful gathered to celebrate history, honoring at halftime the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Final Four team, captained by the incomparable Bill Bradley. Sensing the significance of the occasion, Columbia’s Maodo “The Chairman” Lo determined to make a little history of his own. More on that below.
The 1965 Tigers reached the Final Four in an Eastern Regional matchup facing the Providence Friars at their place. The night before the final, the Friars celebrated their win in the semis by cutting down the nets in what remains the most egregious example of early chicken counting in this writer’s memory. (The back-slapping of James Jones and his staff in the last minute at Harvard Friday night is a recent contender.) Stung by the snub, the Tigers thrashed the Friars, 109-69. A request for the previous evening’s nets was declined.
Because Columbia happens to be my hometown Ivy, I attended the Hofstra game tonight. First, a confession: Many years ago, I applied to Columbia, which rejected me. In doing so, the CU admissions office simultaneously displayed amazing good taste while causing permanent and irreparable damage to its institution’s future endowment. Thus, I maintain a certain level of enmity toward this particular school.
In any event, I thought the Lions played a pretty good all-around game—that is if “all-around” refers to Maodo Lo. I was extremely impressed by his ability to control the game. He looked absolutely fearless in handling the point. (I suppose if you’ve stared down No. 1 Kentucky on their home floor and almost won, the Hofstra Pride will not significantly loosen your sphincter tone.) No more Barbour, no more Rosenberg, no more Lyles, the Lions are clearly his team now.
Columbia issued a statement from head coach Kyle Smith announcing the departure of senior guard Meiko Lyles and sophomore forward Zach En’Wezoh from the Columbia basketball program.
Smith’s statement reads as follows:
“Meiko Lyles and Zach En’Wezoh have decided to leave the program. They both will remain enrolled at Columbia. Meiko decided to take his last year and focus on his academics and securing a job after graduation. Zach’s situation is more medical. He has battled through a series of injuries since he’s been here and, despite his best efforts, does not believe his body can make it through the rigors of another season. Meiko and Zach have been great representatives of our program. We respect and support both of their decisions and wish them nothing but the best.”
While the sting of En’Wezoh’s departure will be mitigated by Columbia’s deep frontcourt, the loss of Lyles is a big one for a program universally thought to be on the rise following last season’s 21-13 finish. Lyles came on strong down the stretch in the regular season last year, hitting a game-winning three to give the Lions a win at Princeton, posting 21 points on 80 percent shooting from the field in a 70-68 win against Brown and providing solid perimeter defense on a consistent basis.
Lyles’s absence will put pressure on freshman guards Kyle Castlin and Nate Hickman to contribute in perhaps greater roles than previously expected, but Lyles’s tight defense will be missed regardless. His D was a factor in Miles Jackson-Cartwright and Tony Hicks’s combined 3-for-15 performance from the field for Penn at Levien Gym late in the season and he helped contain Armani Cotton in Columbia’s 16-point win over Yale.
But that win over Yale may also provide an answer for how replace Lyles going forward.
Steve Frankoski notched 17 points off the bench against the Bulldogs, and the senior guard will have to help fill Lyles’s shoes in 2014-15.
There was a great game played on the campus of Columbia on Wednesday night. Two great teams playing their best basketball in late March faced off in front of a raucous crowd of passionate fans. It was a banner night for the League and it meant little to anyone in Levien Gymnasium that the tournament was one of little prestige.
Columbia and Yale played their hearts out with the Bulldogs ultimately emerging victorious thanks to one of the Ivy’s most impressive individual performances of the season. Javier Duren, after halftime, took his game to a new level, setting new career highs (vs. D-I opponents) in points (33) and rebounds (9). Duren was everywhere, slashing through the lane and getting to the rim against Columbia’s staunch defense, nabbing rebounds, and controlling the game for the Elis. This kind of transcendental performance was the only way Yale was going to pull this game out as the Lions, spurred on by an incredible showing from the Columbia faithful, would not go quietly into the Morningside night as they attempted to extend this historic season.
Yale vs. Columbia usually provides fans with a good show. Sometimes the games are meaningful, other times they are for nothing more than bragging rights among two teams separated by a 15 dollar Metro-North ticket which usually leads to a good crowd. This one does mean something. Despite the overtime loss in Ithaca, the Bulldogs are within two games of first place with Harvard still on the schedule one more time.
Penn visits Columbia on Friday night in the conference opener for both squads. Columbia enters the game having won 11 of their last 12, most recently traveling to Elon and knocking off the Phoenix 65-60. Penn comes in off of Tuesday’s 68-57 Big Five loss to La Salle. The Quakers are 4-5 in their last nine games.
Where they Stand
These two teams have just completed very different non-conference slates. Penn, at 7-9, has played a whopping eight teams in Pomeroy’s Top 100. The Quakers are 0-8 in those games, but five of the contests were decided by single-digits and Penn has largely taken care of business against opponents outside of the Top 100.
For the first twenty minutes tonight, Columbia’s offense struggled to create open looks against an energized and determined Holy Cross team. Down 30-14 at halftime, the Lions looked lost and exhausted. And it was completely understandable. No one in the 539 people order diflucan in attendance would have faulted Columbia if the Lions had come back out in the second half and lost by 10 or 15 points. After all, this was their fourth game in five days. Coach Smith’s bunch had just knocked off five opponents in a row, including three in three days on a West Coast trip to Los Angeles. They had no legs in the first half, as evidenced by the 5-21 shooting effort that had yielded them 14 points, led by big man Mark Cisco’s whopping four.