PHILADELPHIA — Penn men’s basketball picked up a potentially season-saving win in style on Saturday at the Palestra, dominating Harvard, 83-68.
The Quakers (11-11, 3-4 Ivy) never trailed en route to their third straight win over the Crimson (12-9, 3-4). They scored 1.19 points per possession, according to KenPom. That marked Penn’s most efficient offensive performance so far in Ivy play.
Junior Jordan Dingle once again dominated Harvard. With Crimson star Noah Kirkwood no longer around to defend Dingle, the guard established his shot early on with a quick eight points in the game’s first five minutes. Dingle finished with 27 points on the afternoon on 18 shots and earned his third straight ‘game MVP’ designation from KenPom.
Dingle’s excellence set the Quakers up to run perhaps their most aesthetically pleasing offensive game plan of the season, one of many happy Quakeaways on the day.
Only five points separated the top three teams in the Ivy League Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll, and our final tabulation was even tighter. Just three points separated the team atop IHO contributors’ preseason poll.
Yale gets the slight nod here, with our contributors trusting James Jones to lead the Bulldogs to their fifth Ivy League title in an eight-season span in a bid to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament for a third straight time. Penn, the Ivy League preseason poll’s top team above Princeton by a single point, also finished a single point above Princeton in our standings. Our contributors saw potential for success in a roster that returns most of the key players from last year’s squad that placed third in the Ivy standings. We’ve got Princeton pegged to finish third, aided in their quest to repeat as Ivy League champions by returning 2021-22 Ivy Player of the Year Tosan Evbuomwan but losing significant backcourt production from last year’s conference title team.
Harvard was the clear No. 4 finisher in our poll, a showing that would improve upon the disappointing sixth-place result that locked the Crimson out of the Ivy League Tournament on its home floor last season. We have Cornell ranked slightly ahead of Brown as the Big Red look to build on last season’s overachieving Ivy League Tournament berth and the Bears look to bounce back from an underachieving sixth-place finish (tied with Harvard) a season ago. Columbia and Dartmouth tied in our voting tally at the bottom of the standings as both programs look to secure their first Ivy League Tournament appearances.
“This is the business we’ve chosen.” – Brian Earl and Hyman Roth
“We played for, I would say, a good 15 minutes tonight, but that’s not good enough against a good program.” – Columbia head coach Megan Griffith, following the Lions defeat to top-seeded Princeton
No matter what the coaches who did not earn victories on Saturday thought, I felt there were three really good games of college basketball on display at Lavietes Pavilion, including a fantastic opener that saw Princeton escape an upset big from Cornell, 77-73. Hopefully, West Coast fans woke up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning to catch it.
Here are some random thoughts and observations from the Ancient Eight’s Super Saturday:
The Princeton women showed off all the things that make them the cream of the Ivies Saturday as they declawed the No. 2 Columbia Lions, 77-59, in the Ivy Madness final.
The Tigers (24-4) head to the NCAA tournament undefeated in Ivy play, having won all but one league game — the dramatic semifinal against Harvard, this year’s tournament host — by double digits.
“The Tigers were just locked in to the game plan, to the scouting report, what we needed to do, what we thought would make us successful out there,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said. ”
Guard Kaitlyn Chen — in her first year of college play, like other Ivy sophomores — scored a career-high 30 points for the Tigers on 9-for-13 shooting plus 11 of 14 free throws and was named the tournament MVP.
Chen was just listening to her teammates.
“It definitely helps knowing my teammates have my back and they’re always there for me, and they keep telling me to shoot,” Chen said.
“I’m just glad, coach, thank you, that we got Kaitlyn Chen, because she’s an absolute baller at both ends of the court,” Ivy Player of the Year Abby Meyers said.
Meyers and Julia Cunningham had 16 points apiece, and Grace Stone had 12. The Tigers shot 48% from the field and collected 23 points on free throws as the Lions struggled to catch up.
Coach Megan Griffith’s Columbia team (22-6, 12-2 in the regular Ivy season) managed to come back twice. After facing an early deficit, they finished the first quarter tied at 16 and pushed to a three-point lead early in the second. And after Princeton built a 17-point lead in the third quarter, Columbia’s Abbey Hsu and Jaida Patrick combined for key baskets to make things interesting. Hsu finished with 16 points and Patrick with 13, and Columbia had a more than respectable 42% shooting night. That included 36% on threes — but the Tigers were more efficient there, too, at 46%.
What Columbia couldn’t do for any stretch of time was evade Princeton’s relentless defense, and frustration also seemed to contribute to the Lions’ 20 turnovers (to just eight for the Tigers). Princeton blocked six shots and committed nine steals.
“I’m not happy with that effort. They shouldn’t be either,” Griffith said of her players. “We played for, I would say, a good 15 minutes tonight. That’s not good enough against a good program. You’ve just got to want it more and you’ve got to show up, and we didn’t do that today.”
Meyers was the game’s only starter not expected to return next season, positioning Princeton and Columbia well for future matchups with more Ivy hardware on the line.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of great competitions between Columbia and Princeton in the future,
Griffith said. “I’m personally looking forward to that. I love a good rivalry … Penn and Princeton kind of had that in the last decade or so, but I do think that we are right there and you will see us in this rivalry for a long time to come.”
“They really have a great nucleus that [was] out there,” Berube said. ” … Yeah, I think it could be a really good rivalry for a lot of years.”
For now, though, the Tigers are top cats in the Ivy League, and they now turn their attention to the Big Dance.
“I’m just thinking about all these pieces that have been so monumental to get us at this place and it’s been such a great journey,” Berube said. “And I just don’t want it to end.”
No. 1 Princeton and No. 4 Cornell combined to give us one of the best games in Ivy League Tournament history Saturday.
But it was the Tigers who drew final blood against the Big Red, advancing to the tournament final, with Player of the Year Tosan Evbuomwan hitting the game-winning shot with 36 seconds left to push Princeton past a persistent Cornell squad in a 77-73 barnburner.
When hostilities got underway in the first Ivy League Tournament action in three years, it was obvious that the Crimson were inspired by the gravity of the situation. They gave the Tigers all they could handle.
In the end, however, the Tigers held on in the closest Ivy game in Carla Berube’s two-season career at Princeton, 72-67. The Tigers needed six straight free throws from Kaitlyn Chen and Grace Stone in the closing moments.