Monday, March 9, 2015

A Wild Saturday Night In Ivy Hoops

The Princeton men's basketball team picked the wrong night to play one of the most exciting games ever played in Jadwin Gym.

TigerBlog was on his way back from the men's lacrosse game at Maryland Saturday, and he wouldn't be able to get to Jadwin in time for the men's basketball game against Columbia. He was able to listen to the first half on WPRB with Derek Jones and Noah Savage - they are really good - and then saw the second half on the Ivy League Digital Network, with Derek and Noah again.

Oh, and before he gets too deep into basketball, TigerBlog can sum up the men's lacrosse game easily enough - it happens. Move on. Lots of season left. Big game Saturday at Penn.

Okay, back at hoops.

The Princeton-Columbia game, an 85-83 Tiger win, at Jadwin Saturday night was epic.

Columbia's Maodo Lo set the Ivy League record with 11 three-pointers and came within three of the building record for points in a game. Lo finished with 37, and he came ridiculously close to tying the record of 40 set by Monmouth's Rahsaan Johnson in 2001.

How close did Lo come? Really, really, really close, as his potential game-winning three-pointer as time expired - a running off-balance try from just in front of his bench - rolled around the rim, hung around awhile, looked like it was going in and then just fell out.

Before that, Princeton had closed on an 11-0 run. Columbia led 83-74 with just over two minutes left, but Princeton got an and-one from Hans Brase, two foul shots from Pete Miller and a three-pointer from Clay Wilson to make it 83-82. Brase then put the Tigers up with a spinning move to the basket, and Wilson made one of two foul shots with 2.4 seconds left, setting up the near-miss from Lo.

It's impossible to overstate how insanely good Lo was. He got on one of those incredible roles shooters get on, to the point where it seems impossible that he's going to miss. He didn't miss often, going 11 for 15 from three-point range.

When it was over, Princeton had swept the weekend and clinched third place in the league.

Ah, but as TB said, these two teams picked the wrong night to play that game.

Why? There was a lot of other things that happened Saturday night.

TigerBlog had the Princeton-Columbia women and the Yale-Dartmouth men on split screen after the Tiger men's game ended. He also had Princeton-Dartmouth hockey going as well.

As for the two basketball games, it was like this. Princeton and Yale needed wins to clinch outright Ivy championships and automatic bids to the NCAA.

That Princeton would win was as close to a certainty as there is in sports, and that's how it came to be. Princeton defeated Columbia 63-44 to improve to 29-0 overall and 13-0 in the league. Penn, at 11-2, cannot catch the Tigers, though the Quakers can ruin Princeton's quest for a perfect regular season when they meet tomorrow night at the Palestra.

Anyway, the Princeton game and Yale-Dartmouth game were on about the same timeline, at least until they got to the final two minutes. Then the Princeton game sprinted to the finish, while Yale crawled and crawled and crawled.

Yale defeated Harvard Friday night in the huge showdown for first place, clinching a tie for the men's championship for the Bulldogs. All that stood between Yale and its first NCAA tournament since 1962 was Dartmouth.

The Big Green, of course, have been hot of late, having won four straight and five of six before taking on the Bulldogs. Yale led throughout but couldn't completely shake the Big Green, but it still looked all the way to the end like it would be a Yale win.

In fact, TigerBlog was watching the two games to see the contrast in championship celebrations. Princeton's women were a lock to win the game. TB didn't figure it would be a massive celebration, and it wasn't.

Yale? TB was sure that this would be one excited group.

Only it never came to that. Dartmouth erased a five-point deficit in the final 35 seconds and four-point deficit in the final 24 seconds and won it with a beautiful out-of-bounds play - after a length-of-the-court pass was knocked out of bounds by Yale, completely changing the dynamic of the final 2.3 seconds.

It was shocking. TigerBlog could hardly believe what he saw.

It was an indescribable loss for Yale. Actually, it made TigerBlog think - on a much, much, much smaller scale - about how the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980 still had to beat Finland after beating the Soviets.

Indescribable, but not season-ending. Now it'll be Yale and Harvard in a one-game playoff Saturday at the Palestra for the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Prevailing wisdom among those TB spoke to yesterday suggested that it's going to be tough for Yale to come back emotionally after having come so close to sewing it up. TigerBlog disagrees. No, it won't be easy. And yes, the mental part is going to be the tough part.

But at least for Yale, it didn't end in Hanover. In fact, if Yale can win Saturday, it'll be better in the long run, since the Bulldogs will have a game between Saturday and the NCAA tournament.

Anyway, it was a wild night in the Ivy League. When it was over, all anyone wanted to talk about was Yale.

That's a shame for Princeton and Maodo Lo, who put on a show like few that have ever been seen in Jadwin Gym.

Just not on the right night.


Anonymous said...

I don't want to use the word "choke" to describe what Yale did. I will sa that Yale collapsed. I don't know how they come back from that.

Anonymous said...

Great summary of a great weekend. My only quibble is with your speculation that, if Yale wins this Saturday, their convoluted path to the NCAA tournament would be better for the Bulldogs in the long run. Gotta disagree with you there. Losing a game the way Yale lost at Dartmouth can mess with a team's collective and individual mental health. Once you make a major mental error under the bright lights, you always will fear that, with the pressure on, you'll do it again.