As part of Basketball-U’s season preview, the staff has produced a list of the top 10 Ivy League victories during the non-conference campaign. Given the tremendous seasons that Cornell and Harvard have had to this point, the list is very heavily weighted toward those two schools. Included next to each game in parenthesis is the Pomeroy and RPI rank of the opponent, respectively.
1. Cornell at St. John’s (74/53)
With a pair of monster performances from Jeff Foote and Jon Jaques, the Big Red claimed its first victory over a Big East school in 40 years – a total of 46 games. The Red Storm jumped all over Cornell early, building an 11-point first half lead. But the Big Red chipped away to make it just a five-point deficit at the break and then used a 13-2 second-half run to take a 52-47 lead with 10 minutes to go.
The Red Storm clawed back to tie it at 60 with under three to go, but four Chris Wroblewski free throws and Jaques’ fifth trey of the evening pushed the lead back to seven with 21 ticks left. Cornell would hold on for a 71-66 win to take the title at the MSG Holiday Festival.
2. Harvard vs. William and Mary (84/32)
It was the second of two Ivy League appearances on SportsCenter during the opening weekend. After a William and Mary layup put the Tribe ahead 85-84 with four seconds left in the third overtime, Jeremy Lin raced to the half-court line, absorbed contact and a foul and sank a 35-footer at the buzzer to cap a roller-coaster contest.
Harvard held an eight-point halftime lead and led by as many as 13 in the second half only to go without a point over the final four minutes, allowing the Tribe to force overtime. The Crimson led by three late in the first overtime only to have William and Mary sink 3-of-3 free-throws at the line to force a second. In that next extra session, Lin returned the favor, hitting three free throws with Harvard trailing by three to set up the crazy finish in the third overtime.
3. Cornell at Alabama (78/93)
Two years of buildup had led to this season opener. The Big Red had become a dominant Ivy team, but was in desperate search of that signature win, that statement game. It didn’t take Cornell long to make that declaration.
The Big Red led 35-20 with 18 minutes left and held off a desperate Crimson Tide charge, as Cornell left Tuscaloosa with a 71-67 victory. The Big Three were the only Big Red players in double-figures in points as they combined for 53 of Cornell’s 71 points.
4. Harvard at BC (77/99)
The Eagles were asleep. They were looking ahead. It was a trap game.
In all the previews before the game, the BC players vowed that was last year. This time Harvard had their attention and this time the better team would win. Sure enough, the better team did win, but it wasn’t the one most had thought coming in.
Harvard weathered a 14-0 first half run to stay within four at the break, and much like the previous season, wore the Eagles down in the second half. Lin scored 25 points and added four assists as Harvard snatched back the lead with 10 minutes to go and never trailed again en route to the 74-67 victory.
5. Cornell at LaSalle (130/113)
Playing short handed against a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 squad, Cornell needed everything it could get out of Ryan Wittman in order to claim a big road win in Philadelphia.
Louis Dale and Alex Tyler missed the contest, but Wittman carried the Big Red with 23 second-half points, as LaSalle unleashed an offensive frenzy after the intermission to close a double-digit deficit. Wittman went a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in the final minute to help Cornell hold on for a 78-75 win.
6. Cornell vs. Vermont (Neutral) (129/140)
After the Catamounts steamrolled the Big Red out of the gate, jumping out to a 28-16 lead, Cornell scored 28 of the next 38 points to take a 44-38 lead with 14 minutes left in the game.
After briefly stabilizing, Vermont yielded a crushing 12-2 run capped by a Wittman three-pointer that pushed the Big Red’s lead to 12 with under 10 to go. The Catamounts would get no closer than the final margin of eight the rest of the way, as Cornell moved to 3-0 in Legends Classic play with a 67-59 win.
7. Cornell at Drexel (116/115)
The final Legends Classic contest slowly became the scariest for Cornell, as the Big Red watched a 15-1 run to open the game turn into a 54-52 deficit with two minutes to play.
Chris Wroblewski nailed a huge trey to put Cornell back in front, and the Big Red didn’t cede another point the rest of the way, as it wrapped up a perfect 4-0 Legends Classic run with a 61-54 victory.
8. Harvard vs. George Washington (104/119)
After a sobering 16-point loss to Georgetown, in which the Crimson was physically dominated, Harvard returned home hoping to run the table to claim 10 Division I non-conference victories.
The Colonials hopped out to a quick 11-2 lead, as the Crimson was once again being pushed around in the interior. But that’s when Lin came alive, recording one of his best all-around performances of the season with 17 points, eight rebounds, seven steals and five assists. He scored seven points in the final 1:13 of the first half, including a fast-break dunk and an NBA range three, to give Harvard all the momentum heading into the break and a lead it would never surrender. The Crimson led by as many as 16 in the second half before closing out a 66-53 victory.
9. Cornell vs. Davidson (137/182)
The best non-conference win of the year might not have even taken place had the Wildcats been able to salt away this semifinal matchup in the MSG Holiday Festival. The Big Red held a commanding 44-31 halftime lead, only to see Davidson pull even with nine minutes to play and hold a 74-73 lead with 12 seconds to go and Jake Cohen at the line shooting two.
Cohen only made the first, but Foote threw away the rebound, and Cohen was subsequently sent to the line to shoot two more. He missed both, keeping the deficit at just two and allowing Louis Dale to go coast-to-coast for a layup to force overtime. Then, with the score tied at 88 and time running out in the first overtime session, Ryan Wittman nailed a three from just inside half-court to seal an epic victory.
10. Princeton at St. Joseph’s (194/158)
The lone non-Cornell or Harvard game to make the top 10 list had a bizarre ending that came close to rivaling the Cornell-Davidson game one spot above.
After St. Joseph’s radio commentator and ESPN resident bracketologist Joe Lunardi had proclaimed the Hawks dead trailing 61-50 with just over a minute remaining, Darrin Govens got a steal and finished a four-point play to close the gap to seven. Princeton’s Kareem Maddox and Douglas Davis both missed the front ends of one-and-ones and Carl Jones went the length of the floor for a three-point play for St. Joseph’s to cut the lead to 61-57 with 40 seconds left. Princeton made three of its next four free throws, but the Hawks answered with a jumper and a three to make it 64-62 with 24 seconds left.
But St. Joseph’s magic had run out, as it missed its final two shots and two free throws, while the Tigers sank six straight from the line for the 70-62 win.
Harvard at BU (181/155), Cornell at UMass (172/204), Princeton at Central Michigan (191/209), Harvard at Seattle (185/213)