Some observations about an Ivy weekend that featured an unusually intense marquee matchup, an expected tossup game that played out as such and a consequential upset:
Not since the glory days of the Penn-Princeton rivalry in the last century has a game of basketball in Jadwin Gym matched the intensity of last night’s win over the Yale Bulldogs. Whatever each team brought to the floor – and each is very talented – was left on the floor.
The defending Ivy champions arrived in Jadwin after taking down an improving Penn squad at the Palestra on Friday, barely a week after the Tigers struggled mightily with the Quakers at home.
James Jones coached the last Ivy team to beat the Tigers in Princeton and that was nearly two years ago. Since then he has won two Ivy titles, one outright, but lost Justin Sears, Brandon Sherrod and Makai Mason. Their replacements, Miye Oni, Jordan Bruner and Alex Copeland, may reach similar heights, but last night the finest defensive effort of the Mitch Henderson era held the Bulldogs at bay until Princeton’s offense came to life in the second half.
In a special pregame edition of On the Vine, the panel previews Friday night’s Ivy matchups and looks ahead to Saturday night’s slate and beyond. Peter Andrews and Mike Tony are joined by IHO writers George Clark and Rob Browne, with Clark joining in live from Jadwin Gym just prior to Princeton’s tip-off versus Brown.
Prior to the start of conference play, Penn coach Steve Donahue sat for an appearance on Penn Basketball Weekly. In the Penn-Princeton preview, the coach emphasized the main difference between the two teams in last year’s close contests was the fact that Princeton competed better. The Tigers made the necessary plays late, when the game was on the line. He felt that the Quakers had improved on that end, but Saturday’s result shows that Penn is just not at the Tigers’ level at this time.
1. Princeton (8-6, 1-0)
See Toothless Tiger’s recap for game details, but the team’s 61-52 win over Penn proved they’re a resilient bunch. It’s not easy to withstand a 26-5 run from your archrival, but the Tigers did just that in the second half, hanging on with team-wide superior composure and characteristically clutch play from Devin Cannady. It was Cannady who broke the 44-44 tie following Penn’s gangbusters run and played outstanding defense alongside Myles Stephens down the stretch. Princeton’s defense is more than good enough to carry it to the league’s top slot.
In his pregame analysis of the Penn-Princeton game last night at Jadwin Gym, IHO editor-in-chief Mike Tony opined that the key to a Tiger victory would be “winning the three-point game” and avoiding the late-game collapses that have plagued Princeton in the early going this season.
On its way to a gut-wrenching 61-52 win over the Quakers, the Tigers shot gaping holes through Mr. Tony’s argument. The victory was achieved on a night the Tigers shot an abysmal 3-for-19 (16 percent) from beyond the arc and despite the Quakers overcoming a 21-point second-half Tiger lead to draw even at 44, the only time the score was tied in the game.
This one defies rational analysis. The Tigers were outshot (40 to 35 percent) and were outscored by 12 on three-pointers. The 235th edition in this long-running rivalry is a memorable entry, if something less than an artistic success.
IHO breaks down the two games comprising Saturday evening’s Ivy conference play-opening slate:
Penn at Princeton, 7 p.m.
Last season: Princeton beat Penn twice by a combined three points, and the Ps’ last meeting at Jadwin Gym on March 12 put a scare into the Tigers, who were outscored 40-23 over the final 14:52 in a 72-71 victory over the Red and Blue. Princeton committed 16 turnovers, its highest amount in Ivy play last season, and then-freshman Penn guard Tyler Hamilton came out of nowhere to provide 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 37 minutes, easily the best performance of his Penn career.
As 2016 came to a close, Dartmouth faced off against its in-state rival, New Hampshire, for the 67th time. After a frenetic last minute of action, the Big Green came away with a 63-62 victory and their first home win in the series since 2004. More importantly, Dartmouth has now won three in a row, after losing its first nine contests of the season.
1. Yale (6-5)
Yale played just one game in the two weeks since the last Ivy Power Rankings, but it was indicative of the kind of performance coach James Jones may extract from his youthful roster come Ivy play. Freshman forward Jordan Bruner enjoyed arguably his best game as an Eli in Yale’s 83-77 loss at Temple, registering a career-high 15 points in just 26 minutes to go along with eight rebounds and four blocks, the third time in his six games that he has collected four blocks. Senior center Sam Downey nabbed 17 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass, in 33 minutes. Yale committed only 11 turnovers and shot 16-for-19 from the free throw line, suggesting the prototype of a team that thrives on efficiency, superior rebounding and stout perimeter defense. The Elis also lead the conference in three-point field goal percentage, and Yale enjoyed a 3-for-8 long-range performance from freshman forward Miye Oni at Temple to go along with five assists versus just one turnover (not bad for playing his 11th game at a high-major).