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Ivy League Notebook

December 10, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Ivy League Notebook

by Owen Bochner

A couple of Ivy League teams picked up their first wins of the season, while others continued their previous patters of play, as the Ancient Eight entered the month of December with a vengeance this past week.

But though none of the conference’s teams has played 10 games yet, the cream is already clearly rising to the top. The first four spots in the standings, not surprisingly, are occupied by Princeton, Yale, Cornell, and Penn, respectively. As those four build confidence and cohesiveness with an eye to the start of the Ivy schedule in January, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth and Harvard are falling fast. In a conference expected to be highly competitive this season, such a degree of polarity is startling to say the least.

However, there is still plenty of basketball to be played, and the best of the conference’s action – both in conference and out – is likely yet to come.

Player of the Week

Matt Preston, Columbia

The Lions’ junior forward continued his breakout year, scoring more points in the past week (45) than he did in all of 2002-03 (39). In two games, Preston averaged 22.5 points and 7 rebounds to lead the Lions to their first win in almost a year, an 85-79 overtime victory at Sacred Heart. In that game, Preston poured in a career-high 27 points. He is now averaging 17.3 points – fourth-best in the league – on 69.4 percent shooting from the floor and 94.4 percent at the foul line.

Rookie of the Week

Graham Dow, Cornell

The diminutive Canadian made a statement against D-III rival Ithaca College on Dec. 2 then followed it up with another strong performance during the Red’s northern New England sojourn over the weekend. In three games, Dow averaged 9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in only 22 minutes per game. In Cornell’s 83-67 win at New Hampshire, Dow scored 12 points with six rebounds, and five steals. Dow is tied with teammate Lenny Collins for seventh in the conference with 1.5 steals per game.

Brown Bears (2-5)

The Bears dropped another two games to stretch their losing streak to three after starting the season 2-2. Senior Patrick Powers scored a game-high 16 points in a 66-62 home loss to Rhode Island on Dec. 3, a game in which the Bears nearly pulled the upset. Junior guard Jason Forte was absent for the Dec. 3 game and most of the Dec. 6 loss to Ohio University after he suffered an ear injury in Brown’s loss to Maine on Nov. 29 in the title game of the Maine Invitational. Forte scored nine points off the bench in the Bears’ 71-62 loss to Ohio.

After a horrific blizzard-plagued trip home from Ohio, the Bears will take a three-week break for final exams before resuming their season Dec. 21 at Holy Cross.

Columbia Lions (1-4)

Joe Jones’ team picked up its first win in almost a year – since the Lions beat Texas-El Paso last Dec. 27 – a 85-79 overtime thriller at Sacred Heart on Dec. 2. Four days later, the Lions opened their home season with a match-up against local rival Hofstra on Dec. 6 as New York City was pounded by the season’s first snowfall. After jumping out to an early 11-2 lead, Columbia, like the temperatures outside, cooled off to allow the Pride to come back and tie the game. The Lions stuck around until the very end, but Hofstra avoided the upset with a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to claim the 58-55 victory.

The Lions wrapped up their brief homestand on Dec. 8 with a 60-57 loss to Lehigh, and will return to action after exams with a Dec. 20 visit to Stony Brook.

Cornell Big Red (3-3)

For the third straight year, Cornell defended its status as Ithaca’s dominant basketball program with an impressive 69-37 blowout of D-III Ithaca College. After that one-night visit to fantasy land, the Red returned to reality on Dec. 5 with a visit to defending America East champion Vermont. Unfortunately for Cornell, though, a sluggish start proved too much to overcome, as the Catamounts rolled to a 73-60 victory. The Red rebounded nicely two days later with an emphatic 83-67 road win at New Hampshire. Cornell has now had a 3-pointer in 402 consecutive games.

With the win at New Hampshire, Cornell heads into the exam break on a high note, and will return to action on Dec. 20 with a visit to Lafayette.

Dartmouth Big Green (1-4)

It was a fairly quiet week for Dartmouth, but one that featured a couple of firsts for the Green in this young season. In the Green’s home opener, the team picked up its first win of the season – an 85-60 bombing of D-III Tufts – following two weeks of frustrating close losses. Sophomore guard Mike Lang went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc to score a career-high 21 points. He also had seven steals, just one short of the school record. Juniors Mike McLaren, Steve Callahan, and David Gardner also scored in double figures.

The Green now breaks for exams, and will return to action on Dec. 14 against New Hampshire before visiting Maine on Dec. 16.

Harvard Crimson (0-5)

Harvard entered this season prepared for the prospect of rebuilding with a pretty inexperienced squad. However, the Crimson thought that it would be facing such a task with the help of sophomore center Brian Cusworth. Cusworth, who averaged 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in limited late season playing time as a freshman last season, has missed every game thus far. Without his presence down low, Harvard has lost every game so far this season, including two this past week to Maine and Lehigh. However, after anemic offensive production in the early going, the Crimson has found baskets easier to come by of late. Harvard scored 78 points in its 89-78 loss to Maine, and then scored more than in any other game this season in the 88-79 Lehigh win on Dec. 6. The Crimson will attempt to continue that upward trend with games against Boston University, Colgate, and Vermont coming up.

Pennsylvania Quakers (2-3)

The Philadelphia Big 5 always provides some of the most entertaining basketball Division I has to offer. Penn’s Dec. 6 match up with No. 11 St. Joseph’s was no exception. After falling far behind early, the Quakers made a furious comeback attempt, even pulling within three points of the lead at one point, but came up short, falling 67-59 in the second half of a Big 5 doubleheader in the Palestra. Charlie Copp followed up with his 3-point spree against Indiana State with another four against St. Joe’s. The Quakers will host another Big 5 rival, Villanova, on Dec. 9 before taking an eleven-day break for exams. Penn will visit Bucknell when their season resumes on Dec. 20 before heading north on I-95 for the ECAC Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.

Princeton Tigers (4-1)

The Tigers have continued to roll in this young season, led largely by the efforts of junior center Judson Wallace. He averaged 18.3 points and 5.3 rebounds over three games, a stretch in which Princeton went 2-1. The Tigers’ first loss of the season came Dec. 5 in the first game of the MacCaffrey Classic as Cal-Irvine’s Adam Parada hit a lay up with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game to give the Anteaters a 57-55 victory over Princeton in the tournament opener. Princeton, however, came right back the next night to oust Fresno State in the consolation game, 72-67, led by Wallace’s 26 points. Previously, the Tigers won their first road game of the season on Dec. 2 at UMBC by a convincing 68-56 margin. Senior forward Konrad Wysocki led the team with a season-high 15.

The Tigers will visit in-state rival Rutgers on Dec. 13 before invading Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on Dec. 17.

Yale Bulldogs (4-3)

After pounding Sacred Heart on Dec. 4, 73-59, behind 16 points from junior guard Alex Gamboa, Yale suffered its first major disappointment of the season on Dec. 7, as it fell at home to Fairfield, 71-57. The Bulldogs pulled to within four points, at 47-43, with as little as 8:25 remaining in the game, but the Stages responded with a 13-3 run to run away with the lead and the game. Matt Minoff scored 10 points with five rebounds, three, assists and four blocks in the game to maintain his status as the top defensive big man in the league. He is currently second in the Ancient Eight with nine blocks, trailing only Harvard’s Matt Stehle. Additionally, he is tied for second in the conference with 10 steals.

The Elis continue their string of games against MAAC opponents on Dec. 11 against St. Peters, and will host Niagra on Dec. 20 in their first game back after exams.


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