IHO staff share favorite NCAA Tournament moments for Ivies

It’s been a long month.

But since this is STILL March, as Jon Rothstein has noted – one without a NCAA Tournament – now’s as good a time as ever for Ivy Hoops Online’s contributors to reflect back on our favorite moments for Ivies in the Big Dance.

Richard Kent:

It was St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, 2016, but more memorably, it was Yale Day at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

Yale made its first NCAA appearance since 1962 against a favored Baylor team. Due to the proximity to New Haven, it was a highly partisan Yale crowd.

What continues to stand out for me is the incredible performance by Yale sophomore Makai Mason, who torched Baylor for 31 points. Baylor coach Scott Drew tried to defend the Elis with a zone and then switched to a man-to-man trapping defense, but nothing could stop the Massachusetts native. He scored six points in crunch time to stave off a furious Baylor rally.

It was one of the great Eli and Ivy League NCAA performances of all time.

What was even more memorable for me was meeting my Yale basketball idol, Rick Kaminsky, who willed his 1962 Yale team to the tourney.

One of the New Haven Register writers told me that Kaminsky was in the crowd. I ventured through the entire Yale crowd and could not find him. I even mistakenly went up to a former Yale football great, thinking he might be Kaminsky.

Off to the refreshment stand I went to get a soda and hot dog and heading towards me, in the narrow corridor was that familiar Kaminsky face, perhaps a bit weathered by the 54 year hiatus and appearing maybe an inch shorter, but
it was him.

I introduced myself,made some small talk about the 62 team and we were off to the races with a telephone and email friendship which continues to burgeon to this day.

I give Rick periodic updates on the Yale team and he even joined me at a November practice with some of his teammates this past season. Quite a thrill.

Kaminsky is a retired doctor and still lives in his native Houston.

What a memorable day in Providence!

Ancient Quaker:

Steve Silverman:

My favorite moment will resonate with many IHO followers.  In 1996, I traveled from Washington, D.C. to Indianapolis to see Princeton, a #13 seed, take on the UCLA Bruins, the reining national champion.  Princeton got off to a slow start and fell behind early, and a feeling of foreboding washed over the small but vocal Tiger cheering section.  But the Tigers clamped down on the Bruins and kept the score close.  We all know how the game ended:  Gabe Lewullis layed in the winning basket off of a classic backdoor cut with only a few ticks left on the clock.  For me, it was the greatest Ivy League moment in the history of the NCAA Tournament.  Two days later, the Tigers were thumped by Mississippi State in the round of 32, but I’ll never forget an arena full of fans chanting, “Thank you, Pete,” as the clock wound down on Pete Carril’s final game as head coach of the Princeton Tigers men’s basketball team.

Nathan Solomon:

Erica Denhoff:

On St. Patty’s Day in 2006, #15 seed Penn played #2 seed Texas. My mind is foggy from that day but I do remember my feelings when watching the game in a friend’s dorm room. We were all big Penn basketball fans but we didn’t have faith that the team would even come close to winning. I had a few friends playing on the team so for me it was super exciting to see them play in front of a national audience in the primetime TV spot. And for me, seeing my friends score even two points against a powerhouse like Texas made me proud of my them and of my school. In the end, Penn lost 60-52 and I felt embarrassed for not having more faith in them. Go Quakers!

George Clark:

My favorite moment in Tiger NCAA tournament history? That’s easy: it happened during the Tigers’ historic upset win over the defending champion UCLA  Bruins in 1996.

A week earlier it was by no means clear that  the Tigers would get to the Big Dance. With a chance to win the Ivy title in the season’s final game at The Palestra the Tigers stumbled to a dispiriting 63-49 loss, the Quakers’ eighth  straight regular season win against Carril’s club, setting up a playoff game for the NCAA bid at Lehigh.

A late Ira Bowman three extended the playoff game, and the season, into an overtime period. Tiger captain Sydney Johnson dominated the extra session with five points and a key steal at the end. The 63-56 victory sent the Tigers dancing. Pete Carril scratched out a note on the locker room blackboard: “I am very happy. I am retiring.”

The NCAA tournament committee, well  aware of the story line created by Carril’s announcement, set up the ultimate David vs. Goliath contest, reminiscent of the “Game That Saved March Madness” against Georgetown in 1989. The RCA Dome in Indianapolis was the scene of  the first round. The Princeton-UCLA matchup was televised in prime time, which meant at that time that it was the only game available to viewers.

The Tigers held the Bruins scoreless for the final 6:18 after a UCLA surge established a 41-34 lead. Most fittingly, the game was decided by a classic back-door layup by freshman Gabe Lewullis, perhaps the most famous play in Tiger history.

My “favorite” moment occurred at the 1:02 mark of the second half. With the score tied at 41 Sydney Johnson turned the ball over in the Tiger front court. UCLA’s Cameron Dollar grabbed the ball and headed for what appeared to be a breakaway basket and the lead. Johnson would not hear of it. His bear hug stopped Dollar in his tracks.

The officials assessed an intentional foul, awarding Dollar two free throws and the Bruins possession of the basketball. I observed the play from my first row vantage point seated between the wife of Tiger assistant and Carril’s successor, Bill Carmody, and one of Carril’s Princeton drinking buddies, the legendary Red Trani.

My reaction to Johnson’s felony was to jump out of my seat yelling, “WHAT A STUPID FOUL!!!!”

Dollar, of course, bricked both free throws. Mrs. Carmody, without averting her eyes from the floor, said simply, “Doesn’t look so stupid now, does it?” The perfect squelch.

That is one moment I shall never forget from a game that was filled with them.

Ray Curren:

The fact that there was a crowd outside the Yale locker room at all was a remarkable sight. Through the 2015-16 season I had the pleasure of seeing almost every Bulldog game (including all 14 Ivy League games), and – with the exception of a national media member searching for news on the Jack Montague situation – it was almost exclusively me and the Yale Daily News.

But there I was was, standing next to some of the biggest names in the national college basketball media world, waiting to talk to Yale, who had just upset (and outrebounded) Baylor in an NCAA Tournament first round game in Providence, in front of an extremely favorable crowd. It was their first NCAA appearance since 1962 and growing up in New Haven, I had seen a lot of mediocre Yale teams over the years in a sometimes empty (but always loud) Lee Amphitheater. Two months earlier, I attended Yale’s game against now defunct Daniel Webster, and – of course – was the only media member there, but couldn’t resist the stark difference.

Yale, winners of an NCAA Tournament game. Never thought I’d see the day. They gave Duke quite the run two days later in front of more Yale fans than I had ever seen (at least outside of a Yale-Harvard football game or possibly hockey game), which was an amazing moment in itself. And it was a great group to deal with: Justin Sears, Brandon Sherrod, Nick Victor, and Khaliq Ghani were the seniors that led the way. There are some moments that take years to reflect on and grasp their true significance, but right after that Baylor win, I knew. James Jones and the team did as well. There is no cheering on press row, of course, but there is no rule against smiling. If there was, I might have broken it anyway.