Ivy Madness: An appreciation

Constance Cotton and her son, Yale first-year guard Matthue Cotton, with Yale first-year forward Isaiah Kelly and his mother Beverly (from left), as they share a moment of familial celebration on the floor of the John J. Lee Amphitheater following the Bulldogs’ 97-85 championship victory over Harvard in Sunday’s Ivy League Tournament final. (Photo courtesy of Constance Cotton)

With the Yale men and the Princeton women winning their respective divisions on Sunday, another Ivy League Tournament is in the books.  Here are a few of my personal highlights that were not found on the television or the box scores:

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No. 1 Harvard proves too deep, too strong for No. 4 Penn in Ivy League Tournament semifinal

Tommy Amaker summed things up simply when he stepped into today’s postgame press conference: “We had to do everything we could to make winning plays to win the game.”

But they did.

Harvard took Penn’s best punches in each of the two halves but proved to be too strong and too deep for a Quakers team that has been depleted by injuries all season long. Bryce Aiken, a two-time first-team All-Ivy guard, epitomized this for the Crimson as he scored 17 of his team-high 19 points in the last eight minutes of each half.

The game started out well for Penn, which used a 7-0 run to jump out to a 14-4 lead at the 13:21 mark of the first half.  Harvard chipped away and eventually took its first lead of the game, 31-28, after a Noah Kirkwood three with 3:56 left in the first half.  The Crimson held on and went to the locker room, up 36-34.

Read moreNo. 1 Harvard proves too deep, too strong for No. 4 Penn in Ivy League Tournament semifinal

More Ivy Madness media day tidbits

Tommy Amaker, Harvard men’s coach, on what he and his team have learned from their first two experiences in the Ivy League Tournament: “We’ve learned how hard it is (to win).  We learned how hard it is to play in tournament atmospheres, tournament environments.  We’ve played well, but haven’t been able to win the championship.  You need to be a little bit lucky as well as playing well.  We’re hopeful for both this weekend.”

Read moreMore Ivy Madness media day tidbits

Ancient Eight thoughts – Ivy Saturday men’s edition

Eight thoughts on the Ivy men’s basketball, which, per KenPom, gave us the highest percentage of games decided by three or fewer points or in overtime in all of Division I for the second straight season:

Crimson are No. 1 for a reason 

Harvard conquered its house of horrors, Levien Gym, 83-81, after an obligatory overtime period to claim its seventh Ivy League championship under Tommy Amaker and the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League Tournament. But is Harvard a vulnerable No. 1 seed?

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Harvard emerges victorious at Yale in Ivy heavyweight thriller

There are probably three tiers in the parity-filled Ivy League this season. They tend to conflate at times, but there is no questioning that the top tier is comprised of Yale and Harvard. So why not expect them to play the game of the year at John J. Lee Amphitheater before a sold out, whiteout throng?
And the tier one battle played out consistent with its script, although perhaps the last act of the game was a bit of a surprise to Ivy fans and scribes. But should anyone by now be surprised by anything Harvard’s Bryce Aiken accomplishes, injured or fully healthy?

Read moreHarvard emerges victorious at Yale in Ivy heavyweight thriller

Ancient Eight thoughts – Ivy Friday men’s edition

Eight thoughts on the men’s side:

1. Columbia was due

Columbia hadn’t won an Ivy road game since its very first under Jim Engles at Cornell on Jan. 14, 2017: 17 such games ago. The Lions were 3-8 in games decided by one possession this season, including a 72-70 loss to Penn at Levien Gym three weeks prior, and were 4-20 in games decided by six points or fewer dating back to the start of last season. So when Maka Ellis’s stunningly easy layup off an inbound pass went in with 0.4 seconds left in overtime to clinch the 79-77 win for the Lions at the Palestra, it was a long overdue coup de grâce for a program that had long been far more competitive under Engles than its win-loss column showed. Kudos to Gabe Stefanini for coming up just two rebounds shy of a triple-double (20 points, 10 assists, eight boards) and Ellis for pitching in five of his 14 points in the final 1:24 in overtime as a rookie on the road to erase Penn’s 77-72 lead at that point.

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Harvard pushes past Princeton, 78-69

Spirits were high at Jadwin Gym as last night’s battle for second place between the Tigers and Harvard got underway before a hyped up home crowd and a national TV (ESPNews) audience. Most knowledgeable observers and the oddsmakers predicted a one-possession game in the final minute, the type of game in which home court advantage might be crucial. For the most part, the somewhat limited success Princeton coach Mitch Henderson has enjoyed against Harvard coach Tommy Amaker has been at home.

Both teams experienced lackluster performances last week. The Tigers lost twice on the road (Yale and Brown) while the Crimson were stretched to the limit in a triple overtime win at home against Columbia, followed by a second-half collapse against Cornell on Saturday. Amaker surprised the Ivy community with a rare public putdown of his team, calling his players’ performance against the Big Red “selfish.”
The shoo-in All-Ivy point guard unleashed a Niagara Falls of scoring last week, including 45 against Columbia, almost willing his team to the win last Friday night.
The following Friday night, Aiken’s work against the Tigers would again prove decisive in a 78-69 victory for the visitors, in which Aiken outscored Princeton 20-19 himself in the final 8:10.
A fast start by the constantly improving Richmond Aririguzoh (RA) pushed the Tigers to a 15-8 lead after seven minutes. Undeterred, Harvard used some excellent ball movement and timely shooting to turn things around quickly. The Crimson reclaimed the lead, 21-19, with 9:33 remaining. From that point, Noah Kirkwood, a dazzling freshman talent, and Justin Bassey stymied the Tigers over the next three minutes, extending the visitors’ lead to 32-25. Jaelin Llewellyn’s lone three-pointer for the evening, followed quickly by a Sebastian Much bomb, one of 4 for the Californian, enabled the Tigers to get within one point, 33-32, at the break.
Aiken’s nine and RA’s eight were high for each team at that point. Henderson was quite satisfied with the defensive work of Myles Stephens on Aiken. Once again, Stephens was assigned to the opponent’s best player. Perhaps ominously for the Tigers, Devin Cannady’s first start at home following his three-game suspension was not going well. He was 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and 0-for-1 from the line. For all that, the Tigers were encouraged by the fact that the statistical battle was a virtual standoff through he first 20 minutes. Harvard’s six made free throws to three for the Tigers accounted for the slim Crimson advantage on the scoreboard.
Harvard controlled the play early in the second half, seizing a 42-37 lead after three minutes. A Much-needed (forgive me!) three-pointer kept the Tigers close. His tough layup at the 13:38 mark restored the lead for the Tigers and spurred a five-minute spurt by Princeton tom its largest lead of the evening 54-48 with 8:33 remaining.
With the Tigers holding a one-point lead at the 13:13 mark, Aiken crumpled to the floor in apparent agony. He had twisted his right ankle and was helped to the bench. Fortunately for the Crimson, he was back on the floor in less than a minute.
His presence turned the game around in a way observers will not soon forget.

An Aiken layup cut the lead to four with 8:10 left. RA countered with a layup. On the next Crimson possession, Aiken found himself isolated on Jose Morales. His eyes widened. With the clock running down, Aiken launched a long three-pointer. Morales committed the cardinal sin, sending Aiken to the line to complete the four-point play. Over the next three minutes plus, Aiken posted 11 points, propelling Harvard to a 10-point lead, 70-60, with 3:53 to play.
The Tigers eventually cut Harvard’s lead to 70-64 but would get no closer.
Aiken’s 24 second-half points showcased another phenomenal performance in his team’s successful effort to hold on to a share of second place in the Ivy standings at 5-2. The Tigers third straight loss leaves them at 4-3, still very much alive in the Ivy race.
For Princeton, RA shared scoring honors with Cannady (15), and both Tigers added three assists. Defensively, Aririguzoh held Chris Lewis to nine points in 18 minutes and Henry Welsh to none in 15. Sebastian Much had 14 points in 19 minutes. Jerome Desrosiers pitched in with seven points and five rebounds, all in the first half. He appeared just briefly in the second stanza. Cannady and Llewellyn combined to shoot 2-for-12 from deep. Harvard’s 10 threes to eight for Princeton spelled doom for the home team.
Looking ahead to tonight’s encounter with Dartmouth, one expects RA to get more touches and Morales less. A win tonight may be a critical component in the Tigers’ bid to return to Ivy Madness. A loss turns a promising start to the Ivy season into a desperate struggle to remain relevant.

Morgan moves to second all-time in Ivy scoring history as Cornell comes back to stun Harvard

Saturday’s contest between Harvard and Cornell was the exact opposite of Friday’s games for both teams, in the sense that offense would come at a premium.

After the Crimson dropped 98 points Friday in triple overtime, they were held to just 61 points on Saturday as Cornell stormed back to erase a 15-point second-half deficit to win the game, 67-61. Despite struggling to get shots all game, Matt Morgan had 15 points, good enough to move into second-place in conference history in career points (2,162), a night after meeting Jim Barton, the man he just surpassed.

 

Cornell moved up to 12-10 (4-2 Ivy) and Harvard dropped to 11-8 (4-2). Cornell has already met last season’s win total, with eight games remaining on the schedule.

Read moreMorgan moves to second all-time in Ivy scoring history as Cornell comes back to stun Harvard

Harvard shuts down Yale, 65-49, snaps Elis’ eight-game win streak

Ever have one of those really bad days at the office?
The copier is broken, the coffee is rancid, your client cancels an appointment and things get worse from there.
Well, Yale had that type of night at Lavietes Pavilion last night.
And Harvard didn’t.

Read moreHarvard shuts down Yale, 65-49, snaps Elis’ eight-game win streak

Harvard avoids sweep with 64-59 win over Dartmouth

After making an impressive runner at the buzzer, Christian Juzang jogged into the Lavietes Pavilion locker room. Despite the acrobatic bucket to end the first period, Harvard still trailed, 26-25.

At press time, coach Tommy Amaker commented on what he told his team at the half. He reminded them of the magnitude of the game, later suggesting that the next 20 minutes had the potential to “define our season.”

Read moreHarvard avoids sweep with 64-59 win over Dartmouth