Game Preview: Princeton at Yale

Brendan Connolly and the Tigers are in a must-win situation tonight as they go up against Greg Mangano and the Yale Bulldogs. (Photo Credit: nj.com)

After a crucial 60-53 win last night against Penn (11-10, 3-1 Ivy), the Bulldogs (14-5, 4-1 Ivy) have the chance to make a serious statement about their title aspirations with another win today against Princeton. The good news is that the Bulldogs have some momentum coming into this game. In their last two outings, since suffering a humiliating 65-35 loss at the hands of Harvard, the Bulldogs have been absolutely stellar on the defensive end, having allowed only 53 and 52 points respectively.

However, this will be an entirely new type of matchup for Yale, as it will be its first Ivy League game in which its opponent does not have a guard as its leading scorer. And while the Bulldogs will need to limit the production of Princeton guard Douglas Davis, who has posted double-digit points in all four of his conference games thus far, the Bulldogs will nevertheless first look to stop Princeton forward Ian Hummer, who is third in the Ivy League in scoring.

With Mangano in the paint and leading the Ivy League in blocks, this could—provided that Mangano stay out of foul trouble—potentially play to Yale’s advantage. What won’t play to Yale’s advantage, however, is the size of Princeton’s frontcourt. As the Tigers start 3 forwards listed over 6’7”, Mangano should expect to see a lot of collapsing double teams. Thus, much of the scoring onus could fall on Yale’s backcourt.

This could be particularly important, as an emerging concern for Yale has been the wildly inconsistent play of its guards. And while starters Austin Morgan and Mike Grace did combine for 22 points on 9-17 shooting in yesterday’s contest—including 4-8 from 3—Morgan, Grace, and team captain Reggie Willhite also continued last weekend’s turnover fiesta, adding 12 more as a group. For Yale to be successful, these guys will need to knock down their shots (and protect the ball). Because they should get plenty of looks.

A last item worth noting is the fatigue factor. Both teams come into John J. Lee entering the second of a back-to-back. However, while 4 out of 5 Yale starters logged over 30 minutes yesterday (Coach Jones continues his wildly inconsistent, D’Antoni-like management of his rotatation, playing only 4 bench players yesterday), no Princeton starter played over 28 minutes. Yale’s bench players may therefore need to step up in

this one, and, unfortunately, depth has not proven to be a strength thus far for the Bulldogs.

Ultimately, however, Yale is riding the momentum of yesterday”s big win against Penn. Princeton can”t count on another team-leading performance from Ben Hazel and Brendan Connolly. Connolly, in particular, is due for a stinker after two big games against Penn and Brown–teams that lack the dominance of a Mangano in the paint. I do think this one will be close, but look for the home team to pull it out.

Yale 66, Princeton 61.

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