Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Yale Baskeball Joins Ivy Madness

Yale and Harvard met for the third time this season at the Palestra in the Ivy tournament. The Bulldogs triumphed, 73-71. (YWAA photos)
There were lots of smiles and expressions of glee at the old Palestra in Philadelphia, home to this year's inaugural Ivy League basketball tournament Mar. 11-12.  There were also electricity and festivity.

Thousands jammed the historic setting; perhaps 6,500 or more were in attendance.  It was a weekend basketball convention decorated in crimson, orange, red, brown, black, and Yale blue. The Ivy League conducted an experiment, a six-game extravaganza to determine the league's men's and women's representatives in the NCAA tournament.  And Yale got to participate.

In the third of a quartet of games from Saturday morning into the night, Yale's men's basketball team faced off against Harvard in the semi-finals.  Scattered about Penn's ancient arena were Bulldog and Crimson followers, screaming out their lungs as if this were a football game.  Late in the game Yale's Miye Oni '20 scrambled through the lane, vaulted to the rim, and dunked the ball with such force that most in the stands might have forgotten this was not an NBA game. This was Ivy League basketball, circa 2017. Yale students near by danced, slapped fives and panned for the ESPN television cameras.

Harvard didn't give up, however.  It, too, had a talented first-year player (Bryce Aiken), who was in his own "zone," tossing in three-point baskets at will. Yale defenders struggled to keep up with the small, swift guard, who slapped the floor and teased his Yale foes.  Aiken finished with 28 points; Yale's Oni had 18. But he and his teammates held on to beat Harvard, 73-71.

When the horn sounded, a throng of Yale students on the baseline rushed the floor before Palestra officials pushed them back into the stands, unaware of (or indifferent to) Yale-Harvard traditions of celebrating their wins over each other in pompous ways. 

Yale had a Sunday noon start against Princeton for the Ivy championship and a chance to repeat last year's memorable appearance in the NCCA tournament.  Tigers and Bulldogs fought closely for a half until Princeton pulled away and won, 71-59.

Princeton heads to the tournament (to play Notre Dame). Yale heads back to New Haven, confident it will reappear at next year's tournament wherever they decide to hold it.

After Princeton defeated Penn, Yale and Harvard took the floor at the Palestra. (YWAA photos)

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