Some Ivy updates before heading into Final Four weekends in Tampa and Minneapolis:
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.
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.
Saturday’s rematch between Cornell and Columbia had a very similar flow as last week’s game in Ithaca. This time, though, it was Cornell tasked with making a comeback that ultimately fell just short.
The Big Red were down 11 points with 8:18 to go after a Patrick Tape post move, with all the momentum cutting against them. Columbia opened the second half shooting flawlessly, led by Gabe Stefanini and Quinton Adlesh, hitting 12 of its first 13 shots from the floor.
But down 67-57 with 6:14 to go, the dynamic duo of Matt Morgan and Jimmy Boeheim hit back-to-back threes, and it was quickly a four-point game.
Gabe Stefanini finished with 24 points as the Columbia Lions held on for their first conference win of the season in their Ivy League home opener.
Here are eight thoughts for eight Patrick Tape offensive rebounds in the 73-70 win over Cornell:
As the great Renaissance humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam said: “Damn, Columbia just can’t buy a win.”
Columbia fell 87-86 in double overtime to Delaware Sunday at Levien Gym, leaving the Lions a frustrating 1-5 and the only team in the Ivy League under .500 and still searching for answers. The talent is there. The wins are not.
After an exceedingly comfortable win over St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn) of Division III, the Lions fought back multiple times against the 7-2 Blue Hens. Mike Smith scored five points late in regulation to force overtime. Gabe Stefanini hit a huge three to force a second overtime. Columbia earned the chance to win the game by getting a tie-up with 1.9 seconds to play. But the inbounds set remained unchanged despite a Delaware timeout; a lob to Patrick Tape, not corralled, and an off-balance Stefanini jumper, not converted, closed the books on a good start to December. Conference play, obviously, is the key, but Columbia is yet to prove a formula that might prove effective therein.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
1. Penn (21-7, 11-1 Ivy)
Penn shot a blistering 76 percent from two-point range in claiming sole possession of first place in the Ivy League standings with a 74-71 win over Harvard Saturday night at the Palestra. Penn’s AJ Brodeur lured Chris Lewis out of the paint at times, and the Red and Blue attacked the basket when Lewis was on the bench. Brodeur had four assists and no turnovers, with senior guard Darnell Foreman notching five assists on senior night himself.
Penn has now shot a combined 40-for-60 (66.7 percent) from two-point range in two games versus a Harvard defense that characteristically values rim protection and ranks first in the league in defensive two-point percentage (48.1 percent). Not surprisingly, Penn ranks first in the conference in two-point percentage and assists per field goals made. Anyone who’s watched Penn ping pong passes in the paint knows that this team is capable of getting high-percentage shots even against a defense as stout as Harvard’s. That’s something to keep in mind should these squads meet at the Palestra again in the Ivy League Tournament championship game on Mar. 11.