Sunday Morning Hangover: Defying The Odds

Even after the tip started the clock on a new game, no one had forgotten.

“Nice game last night,” the Princeton student section chanted.

But after 40 brutally tough minutes at Jadwin Gym, Cornell had regained what it had lost in its stunning defeat at Penn the night before – the Ivy League lead.

Princeton sophomore guard Douglas Davis had 20 points, including the final 11 of the game for the Tigers, as Princeton desperately attempted to close a six-point gap with a minute to play. Davis knocked down a three and then after a missed front-end by Jeff Foote on the other end, Davis sank a jumper to pull the Tigers to within one, 44-43. Cornell made a pair of free throws to bring the margin back to three, but Davis raced in for a layup on the other end. He missed it but got his rebound and was sent to the line, where he made both.

And that’s when things almost spun out of control for Cornell. The Big Red attempted an entry pass, but it was tapped away by the Tigers. As the ball bounced toward the out-of-bounds line, Princeton saved it, flinging it into the lane, where it bounced off a few hands before harmlessly bounding out of bounds to remain Cornell ball. The Big Red successfully inbounded the ball to Ryan Wittman on the next attempt and he made both to push the lead back to three, 48-45. Davis couldn’t finish off the heroics, as his three-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.

With Princeton’s loss, the Tigers and the Big Red control their own destiny for the outright Ivy title. Harvard, which currently sits a game back in the loss column, also controls its own destiny for at least a share of the league crown, as it faces both Cornell and Princeton during the second half of the Ivy round robin.

With its 81-67 win over Brown last night, Harvard tied its second-highest mark for wins in a single season with 17. But it wasn’t easy. In fact, nothing this weekend was easy.

The Crimson needed 142 stellar minutes from their last two remaining rotation forwards, Doug Miller and Kyle Casey, to even have a prayer of pulling out the sweep. Casey matched his career high with 27 points against Brown last night, after leading Harvard with 20 the night before. Miller got into double figures last night for the first time all season, finally recapturing the offensive aptitude that he had shown before missing the final 10 Ivy games with an injury last year.

Brown stayed in it with Harvard for 30 minutes, trailing by just three with under nine to play, but Casey recorded a traditional three-point play and then nailed back to back three pointers as part of a 12-point outburst during a 16-4 run that put the Crimson up 15 with just two to play.

Offensive rebounding was the difference, as Harvard had its best defensive rebounding performance of the season (90 percent), while Brown could only corral 63 percent of the defensive boards on its end of the floor.

For the third time in four weeks, we have a pivotal showdown between Cornell and one of the number one contenders, as the Big Red travels to Boston this Friday to meet a Harvard team that is suddenly right back in the thick of things.

While Pomeroy has the expected result as ambiguous, what it will do to the Ivy race is anything but. For the Crimson, this contest is its season. A loss almost certainly would remove it from the race, while a win could give Ivy playoff or title implications to the showdown with Princeton on the final Saturday of the season.

For Cornell, the Penn loss does almost nothing to its ultimate title chances. The Big Red still can lose to one of Harvard or Princeton down the stretch and make it into an Ivy playoff at the very least. Ultimately, that’s the only damage done – that Cornell might have to survive an Ivy playoff instead of winning the title outright. But for seeding purposes, it’s not like another game against a Top 100 opponent could hurt. It probably won’t help as much as the bad loss to Penn will sting, however.

Princeton’s road is a little bit more difficult. Essentially, the Tigers need Harvard to beat Cornell at home this weekend, in order to take the pressure of their own trip to Ithaca a week later. If the Crimson can’t pull off the upset over the Big Red, Princeton’s visit to Cornell will be a must-win for the Tigers, as the Big Red closes the year with Penn at home and the Brown/Yale road trip, all of which are unlikely losses.

1. Cornell
The Big Red bounced back nicely from the stunner at The Palestra to get the one it really needed at Jadwin last night.
2. Princeton
Fought valiantly for 40 minutes, but Cornell always seemed to have one extra shot to stay a step ahead.
3. Harvard
The injuries up front caused the defense to suffer, but the Crimson clearly have many weapons on the offensive end.
4. Yale
Couldn’t take advantage of a banged up Harvard team on Friday night, but so far has taken care of the teams below it.
5. Columbia
Played Princeton even for 30 minutes, but as has been the case all season long, couldn’t finish down the stretch.
6. Penn
Could have made a case for fourth on this list with a completed sweep, but they couldn’t find an answer for Niko Scott.
7. Brown
The big men went surprisingly silent against Harvard, as Mullery, Halpern, McCarthy and Taylor scored just 13 points combined.
8. Dartmouth
Scored just one field goal during a 13 minute stretch of the second half against Yale, after blitzing to a nine-point lead at the break.

Michael James

Michael James wrote 98 posts

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