Game #9-425: Columbia Lions at Yale BulldogsFebruary 16, 2013 7:00 pm
John J. Lee Amphitheater
I hope for big things making the drive to New Haven with a carload of fifth grade boys to see Yale host Columbia. My son Ian's friend Desmond is turning eleven. In the back seats the five boys talk about the NBA all-star weekend. They play a simple memory game, taking turns naming a current NBA player as quickly as they can. You pause, you lose. After the Celtics' and Knicks' rosters and a few other obvious NBA stars, I can't keep up with the rapid-thinking boys whose knowledge extends to the entire league.
As we make the long approach to campus down Whalley Avenue, I give the boys a preview of the game: Columbia has knocked off Harvard, giving the mighty Crimson their first Ivy League loss. And Yale has just completed a double-victory road trip to Penn and Princeton, accomplishing the feat for the first time in fifteen years. This is middle-of-the-pack Ivy basketball, but we will see two hot teams.
When we settle into our seats at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, we see one hot team: Yale. Four minutes into the game, the Bulldogs lead 9-0.
Coach James Jones' team plays with purpose and strategy. They blunt Columbia's size advantage by swarming Cisco and Osetkowski -- sending three quick defenders at the Lions' big men. And they run the fast break. Victor, a freshman guard, leads one full-court dash where he misses a layup, gathers himself while the ball bounces on the rim, and leaps again to tip his own shot in. The small student section rises to its feet. The pep band plays. The echo in the steep-sided amphitheater makes the crowd sound larger than its number.
I lean across two seats to where Ian is sitting among his friends. "Are you paying attention?" I say. "Yale is faster."
But Ian is heading for the bathrooms. Leaving his seat during play is something he would not normally do, but he senses before I do that the one-sided action is not worth watching. He returns right away, saying he can't find his way in the cavernous, cathedral-like amphitheater. So I work my way past the boys into the aisle as Cotton makes a jump shot to give the Bulldogs a 20 point lead, 39-19. The bathrooms are a long walk into the basement.
Yale cruises into half time ahead by 22 points. A Bulldog fan sitting close by says, "We're showing those New Yorkers what it's all about."
Youth teams from Newtown, Connecticut -- the location of December's Sandy Hook shooting -- take the court at halftime. On their uniforms the players wear green ribbons, the same worn by the vice president and many congressmen at the State of the Union address earlier in the month. I have difficulty judging the basketball skills. How can one look at a Newtown team or a Newtown child and think anything but "My god"?
The Newtown kids play hard.
In the second half I root for Columbia to come back while the boys root for dunks. The Lions open the half playing a strange hybrid zone that sometimes looks like a 2-3, to cut down on Yale's second chance opportunities, and other times looks like a 3-2, to create pressure in the backcourt. They also shoot the ball better, including two three-pointers by Frankoski.
But they don't carve into Yale's lead. If anything, the defensive effort wears the Lions out. The zone quickly becomes porous, and Duren drives through it and dishes to Sears for an easy lay-up. Columbia goes back to man-to-man. The lead balloons to 26 points, 52-26. No comeback, and no dunks. In the last minute of the game, the bulldog mascot finds our row. Desmond holds rabbit-ear fingers behind the silent creature's head as the boys pose for pictures.
Yale wins 75-56.
Back in the car, the boys talk about who they think will win the dunk contest. Ian is partial to Gerald Green of the Pacers, and Desmond picks the Knicks' Gerald "Flight" White. I think about the Newtown kids in their own cars. Are they talking about the dunk competition? When they and their parents play rapid-thinking memory games, what faces come to mind?
at YALE 75, COLUMBIA 56
COLUMBIA 10-12 (2-6) -- T. Smith 9-16 7-7 26; S. Frankoski 6-15 0-0 16; B. Barbour 0-2 1-2 1; M. Lo 0-2 0-0 0; G. Mullins 2-4 3-4 7; I. Cohen 0-1 0-0 0; M. Cisco 3-8 1-1 7; A. Rosenberg 0-2 2-2 2; B. Gilson 3-5 2-2 11; C. Osetkowski 3-4 2-3 8; J. Daniels 0-0 1-2 1; Z. En'Wezoh 1-1 0-0 2; N. Springwater 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-44 12-16 55.
YALE 10-15 (4-4) -- A. Cotton 3-7 1-2 7; A. Morgan 1-2 3-3 6; M. Townsend 4-5 0-0 8; J. Duren 4-5 0-0 8; N. Victor 3-4 0-0 6; S. Martin 1-2 0-0 3; M. Grace 1-3 0-0 2; G. Kelley 2-4 1-2 6; J. Kreisberg 2-4 0-0 4; J. Sears 4-5 2-4 10; B. Sherrod 5-7 0-0 10; W. Childs-Klein 1-2 0-0 2; J. Montague 0-0 3-5 3; J. Pritchard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-50 10-16 75.
Three-point goals: COLU 7-16 (B. Barbour 0-1; S. Frankoski 4-6; A. Rosenberg 0-1; B. Gilson 3-5; M. Lo 0-1; G. Mullins 0-2), YALE 3-10 (S. Martin 1-2; A. Morgan 1-2; G. Kelley 1-2; J. Kreisberg 0-1; A. Cotton 0-2; J. Duren 0-1); Rebounds: COLU 17 (A. Rosenberg 4), YALE 31 (A. Cotton 8); Assists: COLU 11 (G. Mullins 5), YALE 20 (N. Victor 4); Total Fouls -- COLU 14, YALE 21; Fouled Out: COLU-None; YALE-None.