Reporter’s Notebook: Ivy Madness day three

The Madness lived up to its name on Saturday, with No. 4 Brown pulling off the biggest upset in Ivy League Tournament history. (Photo: Rob Browne)

NEW YORK – In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, “That escalated quickly.”

Two-plus hours into Saturday’s Ivy League Tournament tripleheader, the No. 4 Brown Bears shocked No. 1 Princeton, sending the regular-season champions on their way back to Old Nassau and a probable date with the NIT.  The Tigers’ faithful, which certainly left the afternoon’s game with great disappointment, could take comfort in the fifth straight Ivy tournament championship for the women’s team.

Some thoughts from a long and exciting day at Levien Gymnasium.

  • A few moments after arriving, I got to spend some time talking to Russ Tyler, Brown broadcaster and Hall of Fame basketball player. Russ and his partner Scott Cordischi are two of the best in the Ancient Eight.
  • Brown fans (including Brown president Christina Paxson) acquitted themselves quite well on Saturday. The band and the team’s fans certainly made their presence known, even though they were outnumbered by the Princeton crowd.
  • The Tigers’ fanbase was in general shock from the opening tip, but they really woke up when the team started its full-court press. When Allocco hit the three to get the team within three, there was a strong sense that they could win this game, but sophomore Kalu Anya’s pick of junior Caden Pierce put those dreams to rest.
  • At the Princeton postgame press conference, Mitch Henderson arrived without any players or an opening statement. Unlike Megan Griffith, who used her 2023 press conference after being upset in the semifinals to state her case to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Selection Committee, Henderson seemed resigned to missing the Big Dance. He took a few questions, gave succinct answers and got out as quickly as possible.
  • While it wasn’t addressed in the Tigers’ press conference, sophomore guard Xaivian Lee was reportedly under the weather and did not participate in Friday’s shootaround. That certainly could explain his six-point, 2-for-8 performance.
  • Coach Mike Martin was incredibly gracious in the Brown postgame press conference, immediately putting the focus on the Tigers and their outstanding season. Similar to the pre-tournament presser, junior Nana Owusu-Anane continued to discuss the improved chemistry of the team after the players and coaches forced themselves to look in the mirror following the team’s 2-6 start.
  • After a wire-to-wire defeat to Yale, Cornell head coach Brian Earl arrived to the postgame podium solo. Unlike his former teammate and boss, Henderson, Earl had an opening statement. The coach, as usual, gave thoughtful responses to the few questions asked. When asked about the defensive intensity of Yale’s Bez Mbeng, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, the coach complemented the junior on the fact he takes his defense personally and it can really get under the skin of his players.  Earl has a dry sense of humor, and his funniest comment was mentioning that Sunday’s final was going to feature two great teams, but he would not be watching. 
  • At Yale’s press conference, coach James Jones was incredibly pleased with the defensive performance against a tough Cornell team that gave them trouble in the two previous meetings. Senior captain August Mahoney is looking forward to playing Brown, since the team’s loss to Bruno on his Senior Night left him with a pain in his stomach.
  • Things were naturally all smiles at the Princeton women’s press conference. Coach Carla Berube talked about her team being locked into its game plan. Three-time Ivy Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kaitlyn Chen mentioned how the team had a better energy level heading into Saturday’s game than their frantic feelings from the narrow win against Penn on Friday.
  • The Columbia press conference was one of the hardest I have ever covered. They knew beating Princeton twice in one season was a huge task, but they felt things were in alignment for them to get their first Ivy Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance. Griffith, flanked by senior Abbey Hsu and junior Kitty Henderson, all were incredibly emotional about the loss. The biggest concern for the players was the idea that they didn’t feel they showed their fans and the nation what Columbia basketball is all about. The coach, who was more defiant in last year’s press semifinal press conference, was much more emotional on Saturday, explaining to the basketball community that the NCAA selection committee needs to grow the game by allowing top mid-majors like the Lions to the Big Dance. 
  • I highly recommend readers check out the Columbia press conference. While we tend to focus on the wins in March, the more meaningful moments happen in defeat. The Lions are a great team from top to bottom and certainly deserve their chance to show the nation that the Ivy League is more than the Tigers and one of the best conferences in the nation. The first time I spoke to Hsu in her sophomore year, she seemed uncomfortable speaking to the press and had little to say. While she has, of course, grown as a player into one of the nation’s best, she has developed into a mature adult. Her ability to come out after a tough loss, one that the team had circled on their calendar a year ago, and talk to the press was admirable.

    While some mid-major players jump to high-majors for NIL money, higher perks, a better shot at the Big Dance, and a stronger shot at the pro draft, Hsu never waivered in her commitment to Columbia and Griffith. All of us, associated with the Ivy conference, are the better for her loyalty.

1 thought on “Reporter’s Notebook: Ivy Madness day three”

  1. Typically excellent reporting, Rob. Tough loss for my Tigers but Brown was the better team yesterday for sure.
    Surprised that the women’s team had a rather easy time of it on the Lions’ hone court.
    Still lots of Ivy postseason hoops ahead.

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