Yale 79, Princeton 75
When you’re hot, you’re hot, and Yale was just that. Yale’s starters shot 54.9 percent from the floor and 61.1 percent from three-point range, and the Elis needed pretty much all of those shots to fall to get by the Tigers, who never folded, cutting into what was a 10-point lead with 3:58 left to play to keep Bulldog fans nervous until the end. In fact, superior shooting was the only thing that separated the Elis from Princeton for much of the game. The Tigers lost despite scoring 43 points in the second half, scoring 19 points off turnovers versus Yale’s nine, outscoring the Bulldogs’ bench 24-3 and making the same number of treys as the Elis (11). Princeton’s ability to keep Yale off the offensive boards for the entire half was impressive as well.
Sometimes, though, your best players happen to play like your best players, and that was Yale’s formula here. Makai Mason went 5-for-6 from deep for 22 points, Justin Sears’ stat line featured 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and three steals, and Brandon Sherrod went 8-for-8 from the floor to come within one field goal of the NCAA record of 26 consecutive field goals made. The next time these two teams play each other, Henry Caruso is going to need more help. Despite getting what he wanted early and often matching up with Sears and ultimately posting a game-high 26 points, Caruso got little help from Spencer Weisz or Steven Cook, who went just 4-for-15 from the floor. The Tigers will need to achieve greater and more characteristic point distribution to force a split in this series Feb. 19. Or maybe all the Tigers need is Yale to succumb to Jadwin’s funky sight lines and cool off a little.
Cornell 77, Dartmouth 73
“When you’re hot, you’re hot” applies to Matt Morgan more than anyone else in the Ivy League right now. The Cornell freshman guard posted 32 points and for the second straight night simply took a game over down the stretch. Just 24 hours after Morgan notched 17 points in the final 10 minutes to steal a win for the Big Red at Harvard, Morgan helped erase a 58-46 deficit for Cornell in the final 10:14 by scoring 21 points in that span – going 16-for-19 from the foul line during that stretch. In fact, Morgan went 17-for-23 from the free-throw line on the night, meaning he attempted one more foul shot than Dartmouth’s entire team, also making the same number of shots from the charity stripe as the Big Green by himself. Who needs any frontcourt offense whatsoever when you’ve got a guy who can do that? Many freshmen would have hit a wall on the second night of a road back-to-back after carrying his team to an emotional win over the five-time defending league champion. Not Matt Morgan, who’ll get some help once Robert Hatter, the only player in the conference who surpasses Morgan in scoring average, returns from injury.
Speaking of freshmen, Dartmouth forward Evan Boudreaux registered 24 points and 16 rebounds in 36 minutes. We’ve got two legitimate potential first-team All-Ivy selections who happen to be freshmen. That’s really something. Less impressive, though, was Dartmouth’s 2-for-17 performance from beyond the arc. There will be nights that piling up rebounds and steals and banging around underneath aren’t enough for the Big Green. They need a sharpshooter, and they don’t seem to have one.
Columbia 55, Harvard 54
Our Sam Tydings has the “Alex Rosenberg revenge” angle covered, so I’ll focus on the other captivating storyline this game gave us – Columbia’s defense! Yes, the Lions have one!
With their backs against the wall after a 33-17 halftime deficit, the Lions turned to a pressure defense predicated on doubling Zena Edosomwan and not yielding any ground on the perimeter. Active hands (Maodo Lo had three steals and a block in the second half, and Mullins had two steals as well in the stanza) and strong one-on-one positioning (Chris McComber refused to let Edosomwan get in position to receive entry passes in the post) frustrated Harvard down the stretch. It certainly didn’t help Harvard that Edosomwan did not play in the final 8:04, after he suffered an ankle injury. Regardless, replicable defense and clutch play from several seniors, not fluky three-point shooting, won Columbia this game. That’s why the Lions are likely to be in the Ivy title chase till the very end, and with the highest offensive ceiling of any team in the conference still in tow, Columbia is well-positioned to win the whole enchilada. A pivotal trip to New Haven awaits now.
Meanwhile, Harvard has now lost three straight Ivy games, getting swept at home in league play for the first time in seven seasons. Someone else is going to represent the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament this season. What Harvard fans need to look for now is some meaningful development on offense. The Crimson simply don’t have enough players who can make their own offense in the face of defensive pressure. They have too many players, specifically in the backcourt, who are only dangerous when they’re open from long range and aren’t dangerous very often because they can’t create that space for themselves. And oh yeah, free throw shooting. Nobody’s good at that, either, as evidenced by the Crimson’s 46.6 percent shooting clip from the charity stripe in league play. Harvard would be 4-0 in Ivy play instead of 1-3 if it was even middle-of-the-pack in that category.
Brown 89, Penn 83
The two worst teams in the conference engaged in a lot of chippy play in Providence, with Cedric Kuakumensah coming alive on offense after Princeton held him scoreless Friday night. The senior incredibly went 5-for-6 from beyond the arc and notched 26 points to go with eight rebounds and five blocks. Both teams were hot from deep in this one, but Brown won courtesy of attempting nine more free throws and making 10 more than Penn, which is in full freshman-by-committee mode now with Darien Nelson-Henry out with a sprained ankle. Freshmen Jackson Donahue and Max Rothschild combined for 33 points on 15-for-25 shooting, but Tavon Blackmon won the day with a 23-point, 10-assist, two-turnover performance, shooting 70 percent from the floor and facilitating a Bears offense that never slowed down. The Quakers are now the only Ivy team remaining without a league win.