With conference play this past weekend, Ivy League basketball is in full swing. Although we, your beloved IvyGate editors, admit that we’re the last to turn to for our sports expertise, we would like to present to you someone that should be on your weekly sports radar. Meet Tom Di Benedetto, from Columbia University WKCR and Spectator fame, newest IvyGate member and our sports writer/podcaster extraordinaire. Look forward to weekly Friday podcasts with recaps and coach interviews galore. Also, expect brief roundups of games the following Mondays or Tuesdays like this one. We pass it off to Tom to give us insight on last week’s games….
I apologize if the following activates some gag reflexes, but my Columbia Lions (remember, no championships since ’68) got one of their biggest Ivy League wins in forty years this past Saturday when they knocked-off three-time defending champs Cornell 79-75 in New York City. Looking the better squad from the tip, the Lions (10-5, 1-0) never trailed after the nine minute mark of the first half, and withstood an awe-inspiring three point drilling spree from Andrew Ferry, who nailed seven treys en route to 23 total points. Columbia head coach Kyle Smith rose to the occasion in his first Ancient Eight contest, finally defeating the Big Red (4-11, 0-1) after a nine-game drought for his program, and insisting afterwards that his team be considered with the league’s elite this season. At any other time in the last four years, I would have called that crazy talk, but today I have to agree with him.
Homerism aside, Cornell was actually more impressive this weekend than many thought they would be after losing stars Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale, and Jeff Foote as well as head coach Steve Donohue. Plagued by an 0 for 11 start from the field from star point guard Chris Wroblewski and an inexperienced bench, the Big Red sill fought back from a 13 point halftime deficit to bring the game to within one possession in the final minutes. Particularly scary was G/F Erick Peck, who is too big to be defended by guards and too quick to be covered by forwards. He and 6’8’’ Brown small forward Tucker Halpern could well be two of the biggest match-up problems in the league this year.
Halpern and the Bears (7-8, 0-1) were also in action this past Saturday, but they were outshone by fierce man-beast and burgeoning Ivy star Greg Mangano, who led Yale to a 69-63 victory in Providence. James Jones’ Bulldogs (8-7, 1-0) truly are the least appreciated program in the Ivies, and few of his own fans are even aware of his impressive 84-71 career record in a league dominated by Princeton, Penn, and most recently, Cornell. Most predicted another tough season for Jones coming off his first sub-.500 Ivy record since his initial year on the job (99-00) and the loss of leading scorer Alex Zampier. However, Mangano has emerged as an elite forward in the league (along with Harvard’s Keith Wright) after a monster 23 point, 17 rebound performance against Brown. Most importantly, Mangano nailed the role of offensive leader, starting and ending each half well and staying effective late in the game despite foul trouble. Not that I need to do any more Yale ass-kissing in this paragraph, but most Ivy fans know that in this conference, a great forward can carry a team to the top half of the league.
It also should be mentioned that Harvard (12-3, 1-0) defeated Dartmouth (4-11, 0-1) 68-53 in Hanover on January 8 to kick off conference play. This one was never in doubt though, and it is unlikely the rematch this weekend will even be this close. Sorry Dartmouth fans, but this year is going to be a long one.