Heading into the last two days of the regular season, Columbia and Princeton were tied for first, while Penn held a one-game lead over Harvard for third place. After the Lions, Tigers and Crimson each grabbed a win, the Ivy League Tournament semifinal matchups of Columbia against Harvard and Princeton versus Penn had been set. What needed to be determined was the seeding of the four teams and the timing of the two matchups.
When the updated NCAA NET rankings were posted on Sunday morning, Princeton’s convincing road victory over upper division Penn combined with Columbia’s narrow escape at home against seventh-place Cornell resulted in the Tigers overcoming an 11-position difference from last week and taking the No. 1 seed away from the Lions.
For the second time in two consecutive televised Friday night games, Princeton used its defensive intensity to break open a close game and come away with a victory. While Harvard managed to keep things close at Jadwin the week before, Penn, playing on its home court, succumbed to the pressure.
The Tigers’ pressure forced the Quakers into 12 of their 24 overall turnovers in the third quarter, helping to turn a two-point Penn lead at halftime into an 18-point Princeton advantage with only 10 minutes to go. The Red & Blue couldn’t find a way to recover, never getting closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
The Tigers, winners of five straight regular season titles and 13 consecutive games, hoisted the Ivy League trophy on the Palestra floor, while the Quakers could look forward to at least one more game next weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, Columbia had a sold-out crowd of 2,602 ready to celebrate the final regular season home game for their seven seniors, as well as the program’s possible first-ever championship. Unfortunately for the home team and their fans, Cornell was primed to rain on their parade.
The Big Red shot 64% in the opening quarter to open up a 21-12 lead. The Lions cut the deficit to three midway through the second frame but found themselves down 31-24 at halftime.
After Cornell extended its lead to a game-high 12 points, 39-27, with 6:50 to go in the third, Columbia regrouped and took a 46-45 advantage into the final 10 minutes of regulation.
The Lions still held a one-point lead, following 10 lead changes and three ties over the first 7:15 of the final quarter. An Abbey Hsu three-pointer from the top of the key made it a 61-57 game for the hosts with 90 seconds to go, and it looked like Columbia would escape.
Twenty seconds later, Kaitlyn Davis picked up her fifth foul and Cornell made both free throws. A missed Lions attempt from three resulted in a scramble and out of bounds ball that would eventually go to the Big Red. On the ensuing possession, Emily Pape got a feed from the top of the arc and sank the tying layup with six seconds on the clock. The Lions couldn’t get a good shot off at the buzzer, and the Empire State rivals were headed to overtime.
Hsu hit a mid-range jumper from the free throw line to put Columbia on top, 63-61, at the start of the extra session. With the Lions ahead 67-64 in the final 35 seconds, Jaida Patrick missed a three-pointer, but Kitty Henderson came down with the crucial offensive rebound. Carly Rivera drained precious seconds off the clock, then drove to the lane and dished a no-look pass to a streaking Patrick for the game-clinching layup.
Not only did the win give the Lions their first title in program history, but it gave coach Megan Griffith her 94th win, which tied her for the most wins at Columbia.
As the game was ending in Morningside Heights, Harvard was starting its final regular season game against Dartmouth.
The Crimson jumped out to a 20-6 start after the first quarter and made it a 33-16 game at the half. The Big Green never got closer than 13 in the third quarter and the home team extended their lead to 30 points in the final frame. After the starters were taken off the court, Harvard finished with a comfortable 24-point victory.
While the Crimson and first-year coach Carrie Moore head to Jadwin next weekend, Dartmouth and second-year coach Adrienne Shibles will need to immediately start looking for ways to improve upon a winless last-place conference season.
In the remaining Ivy League contest, Yale welcomed Brown in a game that had no impact on the Ivy League Tournament picture.
The Bears opened up a 23-14 lead with just under six minutes left in the opening half, before the Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run and went up one three minutes later. The home team would extend that advantage to five, 33-28, after the first 20 minutes.
After Yale made it a double-digit lead, at the 3:30 mark of the third quarter, Brown would not get it under double digits the rest of the night, and the Elis had their seventh league victory.
The Bulldogs finished the season in fifth place, two games behind third-place Harvard and Penn. Like last year, these three teams were expected to battle for the final two spots in Ivy Madness. After the mid-October announcement that unanimous first team All-Ivy forward Camilla Embso had a season-ending injury, Yale’s chances for a postseason berth took a major hit.
While Embso is off to Duke for her final year of eligibility, she was the only senior on the roster and Yale will return everyone from this year’s team as Dalila Eshe looks to get her team back to the Ivy’s Big Dance in 2024.
Despite the loss, Brown finished in sixth, three league wins and two slots better than last year. With 10 players who averaged double-digit minutes, including three of the league’s top 15 scorers, coach Monique LeBlanc will aim to tighten up the defensive side of the ball so her team can continue its march towards the upper division.
With the Ivy tournament field set two weeks ago and all regular season games completed, the seedings, matchups and times needed to be determined.
Columbia and Princeton were tied at the top with identical 12-2 records and had split their season series. Harvard and Penn also had similar 9-5 records and split their two games.
When comparing the Lions and Tigers to the Crimson and Quakers, they both had the same 3-1 combined records. Both teams also went a combined 8-0 against teams in the fifth through eighth slots. As a result, the team with the higher NCAA NET rankings after the completion of Saturday’s games would be the top seed.
Entering the weekend, Columbia held an 11-spot lead over Princeton. Following the Tigers dismantling of the Quakers, the difference between the Ivy’s top two teams was down to six spots.
While the Lions staff didn’t expect the team to fall behind the Tigers if both teams won, when asked earlier in the week at the program’s media availability, everyone needed to see how things played out on Sunday morning. When the updated numbers were posted, Princeton had, in fact, jumped ahead of Columbia by four slots.
With the Tigers now holding the No. 1 seed and slotted into the earlier semifinal, Harvard and Penn’s record against Princeton started their second tiebreaker. Since the Crimson defeated the Tigers in the Ivy opener and the Red and Blue went winless against their travel partner, Harvard claimed the No. 3 seed and a later matchup against Columbia. As the No. 4 seed, Penn would have to start planning for a third meeting with the five-time Ivy champs.
Friday, March 3
Princeton over Penn, 71-52
Saturday, March 4
Columbia over Cornell, 69-64 (OT)
Harvard over Dartmouth, 64-40
Yale over Brown, 63-53
*^Princeton 12-2 (21-5, overall) – 13-game winning streak
*Columbia 12-2 (23-4)
*&Harvard 9-5 (16-10)
*Penn 9-5 (17-10)
Yale 7-7 (13-14)
Brown 4-10 (11-15)
Cornell 3-11 (10-17)
Dartmouth 0-14 (2-26) – 19-game losing streak
* Clinched spot in Ivy League Tournament
^ No. 1 seed based on higher NCAA NET ranking (41 vs 45)
& No. 3 seed based on better record against No. 1 seed (1-1 vs 0-2)
Ivy League Tournament at Jadwin Gymnasium
Below are 10 of the top performances in the last week of the regular season:
Kaitlyn Chen (Princeton)
vs Penn: 27 points (7-12 2FG, 2-3 3FG, 7-8 FT), five assists, four rebounds, one steal
Jenna Clark (Yale)
vs Brown: eight points (3-11 2FG, 0-3 3FG, 2-2 FT), 11 rebounds, seven assists, one steal
Mackenzie Forbes (Harvard)
vs Dartmouth: 22 points (3-11 2FG, 5-10 3FG, 1-2 FT), six rebounds, two assists, one block
Kitty Henderson (Columbia)
vs Cornell: 11 points (1-5 2FG, 1-3 3FG, 6-8 FT), eight rebounds (five offensive), three assists, three steals, two blocks
Nyla McGill (Yale)
vs Brown: eight points (4-6 2FG, 0-2 FT), seven rebounds (four offensive), six steals, one block
Ellie Mitchell (Princeton)
vs Penn: eight points (4-9 2FG), nine rebounds (four offensive), six steals, one block
Jordan Obi (Penn)
vs Princeton: 19 points (7-8 2FG, 1-3 3FG, 2-2 FT), 11 rebounds, two steals, one assist, one block
Emily Pape (Cornell)
vs Columbia: 15 points (7-15 2FG, 0-2 3FG, 1-2 FT), nine rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block
Jaida Patrick (Columbia)
vs Cornell: 15 points (2-9 2FG, 2-7 3FG, 5-6 FT), six rebounds, four assists, one block, one steal
Elena Rodriguez (Harvard)
vs Dartmouth: 10 points (3-8 2FG, 1-2 3FG, 1-3 FT), 16 rebounds (7 offensive), five assists, three blocks, one steal
Ivy League Tournament – at Jadwin Gymnasium (Princeton)
Thurs., March 9: “Live from Ivy Madness” Press Conferences and Shootarounds (available on ESPN+)
No. 1 Princeton: Press Conference at 3 p.m., Shootaround at 3:30 p.m.
No. 4 Penn: Press Conference at 4 p.m., Shootaround at 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 Columbia: Press Conference at 5 p.m., Shootaround at 5:30 p.m.
No. 3 Harvard: Press Conference at 6 p.m., Shootaround at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, March 10: Semifinals
No. 1 Princeton vs No. 4 Penn at 4:30 p.m. (available on ESPN+)
No. 2 Columbia vs No. 3 Harvard at 7 p.m. or 30 minutes following previous game, whichever is later (available on ESPN+)
Sat., March 11: Final
Ivy Madness Pre-Show at 4:30 p.m. (available on ESPN+)
Winner of semifinal No. 1 vs Winner of semifinal No. 2 at 5 p.m. (available on ESPNews or ESPN+)
We’ll preview next weekend’s games in a later article.