Last Week in the Ivy League: Princeton stayed perfect, while Penn stayed in the race. Columbia is reeling from an overtime collapse at Dartmouth, even after getting a reprieve in regulation by a fraction of a second. The first Ivy League Tournament is taking shape, and everyone is still arguing about it. Continue reading
Earlier this week, we published our picks for the Ivy League individual awards, and the conference announced its official selections. But I’ve been compiling shot location data for every team throughout Ivy play, which has allowed me to hand out some new extra-special bonus awards. These are the trophies that aren’t awarded in primetime, the small font that scrolls by before the commercial break. Presenting, the Shotties. Continue reading
2015 ended so well for Harvard: The Crimson won four of their final six games, with only close losses to the likely #1 and #2 in tomorrow’s national rankings. November’s struggles were a distant memory, and they looked ready to challenge for yet another Ivy League title. Continue reading
After losing to Yale the previous night, Harvard entered Saturday needing a win and a Yale loss to earn a share of the Ivy title. The Crimson’s game tipped an hour earlier, so when they finished a 72-62 victory over Brown, the Bulldogs still had 20 minutes left to play at Dartmouth. With their fate out of their hands, Harvard’s locker room was feeling, in the words of senior Wesley Saunders, apprehensive. Continue reading
Basketball is a funny sport to analyze. Over the past four months, we’ve all spent countless hours debating Harvard and Yale as championship contenders. This week, Ray and I exchanged 1,500 words previewing Friday’s matchup. And ultimately, the de facto title game — and the biggest Ivy League contest in four years, a college generation — was decided in large part by who made their three-pointers that night.
Playing at home with a chance to secure its fifth straight Ivy title, Harvard went just 2-17 from three-point range. The Crimson hasn’t been very prolific from beyond the arc all year, but their shots against Yale came mostly from their best shooters in good positions. Corbin Miller, a career 41% shooter from distance, went 0-8 on Friday. Siyani Chambers, 37% for his career, went 1-6. With the exception of two heaves late in the shot clock, most of Harvard’s attempts were open and in rhythm.
Meanwhile, Yale went 7-16 from beyond the arc, even though top shooter Jack Montague was bottled up for most of the game.
As if to underscore basketball’s randomness, Yale forward Justin Sears made his first two three-pointers of the year — both awkward line drives that snuck over the rim — at the best possible time.
“I thought we had a ton of shots. We just didn’t make them. I don’t know what else to say,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
None of that means Yale didn’t deserve to win. The Bulldogs put themselves in position to take advantage of Harvard’s drought, scoring 1.05 points per possession against the league’s best defense. Javier Duren constantly frustrated the Crimson, getting his 22 points on a combination of tough floaters and three-pointers, including a dagger from 23 feet in the final two minutes.
On the other end, the Bulldogs sent double-teams aggressively on the perimeter and in the post, which paid off when Harvard’s big men didn’t make the right passes. Zena Edosomwan played only nine minutes after missing four early shots in the face of Yale pressure.
Still, if Miller makes two or three of his treys, and if Chambers hits another — bringing both in line with their career marks — then a 10-point margin becomes a toss-up. Miller in particular had a rough night: Chambers and Wesley Saunders found him time after time, in transition and from kick-outs, sticking with their guns even as Miller struggled (as they should). But the sophomore’s shots kept finding the top of the rim, as he missed eight treys and another long jumper.
“He’s our marksman, our three-point guy, and what a tough night for him. Of his nine shots, only one I know for sure was forced or a bad shot,” Amaker said. “Boy, did he get some looks that we would kill to have for him tomorrow night, and I know he’s going to be better than he was tonight.”
Harvard’s loss overshadowed a dominant game from Steve Moundou-Missi. As in the first meeting, Moundou-Missi kept Justin Sears quiet: Sears got only one shot at the rim, which came off his only offensive rebound, and needed his two surprising treys to reach 10 points. And on the other end, the senior attacked Sears fearlessly, scoring 21 points on a combination of face-up jumpers, physical drives and put-backs from 10 rebounds.
“He was one of the few people out there who really battled, and I think he left it all out there on the floor,” Saunders said. “He was trying to spark us and get us energized, but we never really caught on.”
Harvard trailed 22-19 at halftime — not much prettier than the 16-11 score in the first meeting — but Yale ballooned its lead to 12 points, thanks to second-chance points from Armani Cotton (who finished with 14) and Sears. The hosts made several small runs, but each was answered by the Bulldogs — an athletic putback and-one from Khaliq Ghani here, a patented Matt Townsend two-point jumper there. Duren was perfect on free throws down the stretch, slowly hammering the penultimate nail in Harvard’s coffin.
Harvard’s only path to a fifth straight Ivy title is a win over Brown tomorrow night and a Yale loss at Dartmouth. (The latter is hardly a longshot, as the Big Green has won five of its last six.) If that parlay hits, Harvard and Yale will play a rubber match at The Palestra next week to determine the automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament.
And though Friday’s loss was devastating, the Crimson has received help in the past. In 2012, they lost at home to Penn with two games remaining, avoiding a playoff only when Princeton beat the Quakers in the season finale. In 2013, they were swept at Princeton and Penn in early March, regaining control of their own destiny only when the Tigers were swept the following weekend.
So Harvard’s hopes for a fourth straight tournament bid are on life support. But they’re not dashed yet.
“We just have to take care of business tomorrow and see where the chips fall,” Saunders said. “Crazier stuff has happened.”
With Ivy League armageddon upon us Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion, we decided to mix things up a bit. Instead of bringing you an Xs and Os preview, Ray Curren and Kevin Whitaker had an e-mail conversation and here is what they discussed. Kevin has covered Harvard all season, while Ray has seen play of Yale. Can Yale repeat its victory at Harvard last season and put one hand on its first outright Ivy crown (and NCAA Tournament appearance) since 1962? Or will Harvard keep the championship belt for at least one more year?
What Happened Last Week: Yale swept Columbia and Cornell on the road, improving to 4-0. Harvard recovered from last week’s upset with wins at Princeton and Penn, keeping pace at 3-1. Princeton is in the mix at 2-1, as are Cornell and Columbia at 2-2, but the Ivy League still looks like a two-team race. Continue reading
We all know that you don’t get any points from expectations because we’ve heard that from favorites forever, we rarely hear about the flip side of that theorem. You can’t lose any points for your perceived status either.
So while Harvard’s 75-72 win at Jadwin Gym over Princeton Friday night won’t silence many of the detractors who have seen the Crimson appear much more vulnerable than at any point in the last three seasons, and it certainly won’t get them back to a national ranking any time soon, it is indeed a victory and pushes the Crimson to 2-1 in the Ivy League, a game behind Yale with 11 still to go in the 14 game Ivy tournament (and two head-to-head meetings with the Bulldogs still left).
Ten minutes into the 2014-15 season, nationally ranked Harvard was losing at home to Division-III MIT.
The Crimson’s struggles didn’t last much longer, of course. After falling behind 22-21 midway through the first half due to sloppy defense and hot Engineers shooting, the hosts allowed just five points for the rest of the period, ultimately winning the cross-Cambridge meeting 73-52. But for a Harvard team whose expectations are higher than ever, Friday night’s opener offered a reminder that every game is its own challenge. Continue reading