Friday night, most people will be focusing their attention on the highly anticipated battle at the top of the standings a few hours down Route 95 in New Haven, but the true Ivy populist will keep his eye on the match-up in Providence too. It should be a tight one as the undersized Brown Bears host the youthful Dartmouth Big Green in a game that will go a long way in deciding who stays out of the Ivy cellar this season.
Last Time Out
Brown is coming off of a 67-60 victory over in-state foe Bryant. Shooting guard Steven Albrecht led the Bears with 21 points on 8-17 shooting. It was his second straight game scoring more than 20 points. In that previous effort, a 73-60 loss to Yale, GoLocalProv reported that Coach Agel and sophomore point guard Sean McGonagill got into a disagreement over a second-half substitution. Agel benched his star ball handler for the game’s final 14:42 and McGonagill was reportedly distraught after the game. When pressed on a reason for keeping McGonagill out, Agel called it a “coach’s decision,” but declined to elaborate. Nevertheless, McGonagill played a full 40 minutes against Bryant, so it seems the team may have swept the dispute under the rug.
Dartmouth is coming off of a putrid 54-38 defeat at the hands of Harvard. After an encouraging loss in Cambridge, there was some hope that the team would put together another good performance to build on, but that was not the case. When two teams that know each other well play a slow-tempo game and one (or both) has an off-shooting night, you’re bound to get the type of ugly score we saw out of Hanover. Freshman Jvonte Brooks was the lone bright spot for Dartmouth, dropping in 12 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. Dartmouth actually won the battle on the boards, and it will be that Big Green frontcourt led by Gabas Maldunas that will need to exploit Brown’s lack of depth down low.
The Bears have made a habit of relying on the deep ball to fuel their offense this season. They are shooting 35% from downtown as a team, but lone senior Jean Harris is dialing in at 41.8%, McGonagill is at 38.7%, and Albrecht clocks in at 37.0%. If the Bears shoot it well, they’ll have a good opportunity to defend their home court. If not, the nation’s 305th rated offense will stagnate as it has on too many occasions this year. To avoid that possibility, look for the Bears to get out and run. They’re not afraid to push the tempo and given that it may rattle Dartmouth’s freshmen, I’d
expect to see McGonagill get the green light in transition.
Dartmouth shoots the 3 pretty well too, but inside is where the Big Green will go again and again, as Brown may struggle to contain Maldunas, the crafty Lithuanian big man. If Dartmouth can control the tempo, slow the game down and work the inside-out game, they will have earn a big advantage on the boards and in the paint. The Bears have some practice at limiting a big man after two straight games against Greg Mangano, but their frontcourt has gotten worn down by fouls against good centers and they are anything but deep at the 4 and 5.
Matchup to Watch: Gabas Maldunas vs. Andrew McCarthy
McCarthy will have his hands full with Maldunas, but if he can neutralize the big fella by limiting offensive rebounds and looks in the paint, Brown’s superior backcourt should be able to do enough to lead the Bears to their first conference victory of the season. McCarthy can do some damage himself on offense, as he knows how to use his length to finish around the rim. Staying out of foul trouble will be huge for both teams’ interior players–Maldunas is averaging 5.0 fouls per 40 minutes, while McCarthy is only averaging 2.6. If Maldunas finds himself in foul trouble in this one, Dartmouth loses their defensive advantage and Brown will be able to get enough buckets to win comfortably.
Maldunas comes out strong, leading the Big Green to a strong first half, but Brown eventually heats up from outside and takes a late lead as Dartmouth falters down the stretch yet again. The Bears hold at home in a close one, 62-58.