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The Morning Dish – Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments

The Ivy League race is even better now, and on a pretty good night for several players, too. At least one player posted a double-double in all but one game on the evening, but that’s not the biggest news coming out of Friday night.

The New York schools are playing spoiler. Less than a week after Columbia went into New Haven and beat Yale to knock the Bulldogs a game back of first place, Cornell hosted Harvard and snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Crimson. Neither team put on a clinic at the offensive end in Ithaca, but Harvard finished just over 25 percent in a 57-49 loss. Cornell was led by Shonn Miller, who missed all of last season due to injury and is reminding people how good he was two seasons ago, as he had 24 points and 15 rebounds to get the better of Wesley Saunders, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Harvard.

Meanwhile, in New Haven, Yale was having some trouble of its own at first. Princeton came to town and, like they did at Harvard last weekend, gave them all they could handle for a while. The Tigers even led 47-39 a few minutes into the second half, and then Makai Mason (six) and Justin Sears (two) led an 8-0 run to tie it. Yale then finished the game on a 30-7 run after Princeton had regained the lead, outscoring the Tigers 49-25 in the second half for an 81-60 win to pull back into a tie with Harvard. The score doesn’t tell you how close the game was for a lot of it. Sears led the way with 28 points and 12 rebounds for Yale, coming up big for the Bulldogs when they needed him to.

Harvard goes to Columbia on Saturday, while Yale hosts Penn. Columbia lost 84-71 to a well-balanced Dartmouth team that had six players score in double figures, all between 10 and 18 points. Penn lost at Brown 75-69 in a game that wasn’t very close until the Quakers mounted a second-half rally. Brown started the second half on an 8-2 run to open up a 49-30 lead before the Quakers came to life. Rafael Maia had the double-double in this one with 15 points and 10 rebounds for Brown in his next-to-last home game.

Throughout Harvard’s recent run, head coach Tommy Amaker has talked on a number of occasions about how challenging league play is. He’s said it when they’ve won against other top teams and against teams that are at the bottom of the standings. He’s emphasized that it isn’t just in the Ivy League. While the Crimson have been winning games like it’s easy in recent years, it was easy to discount that as coachspeak. But he knows of what he speaks, and it has shown the last couple of weekends. While nothing is a given, it continues to look like next Friday night in Cambridge will be for all the marbles between Harvard and Yale.

Side Dishes

The Horizon League regular season champion has been decided, as Valparaiso went into Cleveland and pulled out an impressive 56-53 win over Cleveland State. That clinches the regular season title for the Crusaders, who played excellent defense for much of the game and did enough offensively, especially when the game was on the line, to come out victorious. Bryce Drew has done this with a roster that has just two seniors, only one of whom has played the entire season.

Only seeding remains to be decided in the MAAC entering the weekend, but there was a big rivalry showdown in New Rochelle. There, Iona beat Manhattan 79-75 behind 26 points from A.J. English. Also of note, Canisius had three players post double-doubles in their 72-65 win over visiting Fairfield.

In news outside of games, the SEC is leading the way. First up is Vanderbilt, where head coach Kevin Stallings has been the subject of much discussion since an incident with freshman Wade Baldwin after Thursday night’s win at Tennessee. The school said it would handle the matter internally as a personnel issue, and will not suspend Stallings.

Florida has an uncertain personnel situation for Saturday evening’s game against Tennessee. The Gators will get forward Dorian Finney-Smith back after he was suspended for three games for a violation of team rules. However, Michael Frazier II, who has missed the past five games due to a high ankle sprain, might miss a sixth one. Eli Carter, another key player at the offensive end, missed practice on Thursday with strep throat and is on medication, and it’s not a given that he will play on Saturday night.

Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. is out of a boot, but he may still miss at least another game. The sophomore has missed the last seven games with a foot injury, and it didn’t look good at Thursday’s practice. Michigan plays at Maryland on Saturday.

UTEP head coach Tim Floyd will miss the Miners’ game at Southern Miss on Saturday after Conference USA suspended him for a game due to failing to leave the court in a timely manner after picking up two technical fouls against Louisiana Tech.

Tonight’s Menu

It’s one of the busiest days of the year with 150 games on tap involving Division I teams, and there are some very big matchups among them as a number of conferences close out their regular season. Here are some highlights.

  • NC State tries to maintain as they travel to Boston College, while Louisville visits Florida State. Miami hosts North Carolina in an intriguing matchup, then in the evening Duke hosts Syracuse.
  • It’s another big day in the Atlantic 10 as there’s a four-way tie at the top. Rhode Island travels to La Salle and Dayton heads to VCU in two afternoon matchups, while Davidson hosts George Washington in an evening tilt.
  • The first Big 12 game of note is Baylor, fresh off a big win at Iowa State, hosting West Virginia. Speaking of Iowa State, they’re on the road at Kansas State in a game the Wildcats desperately need to even get back on the bubble. Texas has a tall order to stop its bleeding as they travel to Kansas.
  • Georgetown visits St. John’s as the Red Storm look for another resume-boosting win. Later in the Big East, Xavier hosts Villanova.
  • Fresh off a nice win over Wisconsin on Tuesday night, Maryland hosts Michigan in the Big Ten’s best matchup of the day, though Northwestern’s visit to Illinois may be sneaky-good.
  • A key Mountain West matchup in the evening has Boise State visiting San Diego State, with the Aztecs a game up on the Broncos in the conference standings.
  • The Pac-12 has a first place showdown on tap as Arizona travels to Utah, where the Utes have not lost all season.
  • LSU can pull into a tie for third in the SEC as they host Ole Miss, who is just a game ahead of them. Later, the top two SEC teams battle as Kentucky hosts Arkansas.
  • Gonzaga hosts Brigham Young in a good late game, on the Cougars really need for their NCAA Tournament hopes.
  • The CAA has a two-way tie atop the conference entering its final day of the regular season. William & Mary hosts a Drexel team that has dealt with numerous injuries in the afternoon, while UNCW plays at Elon in the evening. William & Mary has the tiebreaker as they swept UNCW head-to-head, so they can clinch the top seed in the conference tournament with a win.
  • Northern Iowa visits Wichita State with the Missouri Valley regular season title on the line.
  • In a possible preview of the America East championship game, Vermont visits Albany in a matchup of the conference’s top two teams. In the SWAC, Texas Southern travels to Alabama State in a first place showdown as both teams are 12-2.

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