Ivy opening night roundup – A freshman free-for-all

Columbia 107, Kean 62

What happened:  This contest between the Lions and Division III Kean was one of several games that kicked off at 11 a.m., thus ushering in the 2015-16 college basketball season. The Light Blue enjoyed the return of senior forward Alex Rosenberg, who brought his physical style of offensive play back instantly after missing last year due to a Jones fracture. Rosenberg posted 10 points and characteristically got to the free throw line early and often (six times, to be exact) before sitting after the Lions clinched the game early. Senior guard Grant Mullins posted 11 points in 16 minutes after missing last season due to injury as well. Freshman guard C.J. Davis impressed later in the game, notching 19 points in 15 minutes.

What to look for next: Junior center Conor Voss and senior guard Isaac Cohen started for coach Kyle Smith, suggesting Smith wants to emphasize defense as much as possible in the starting lineup of a team whose defense was ranked 251st in the nation by a recent Sports Illustrated ranking of all 351 Division I programs. But Kyle Castlin’s usage off the bench and where Voss is situated offensively will be fascinating to watch, as will the depth of Columbia’s bench on a game-by-game basis. We’ll get a more accurate snapshot of where the Lions are at when they’re hosted by Kansas State Monday at 9 p.m.

Yale 70, Fairfield 57

What happened:  For 2014-15 Ivy Player of the Year Justin Sears, not much. Sears posted just six points and four rebounds in 23 minutes of play after getting into early foul trouble, not scoring until 25:53 into the game. Fortunately, quintessentially scrappy sophomore guard Makai Mason took over, notching 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting, complemented by the return of senior forward Brandon Sherrod from Whiffenpoof glory and his 20-point performance.

What to look for next: Well, what we’ve already seen is that the Elis can win without Sears. But what we haven’t yet seen is bench production – Yale’s starters accounted for 68 of the team’s 70 points. Additionally, Bulldogs not named Jack Montague shot 2-for-15 from three-point range, reinforcing the notion that this is a poor shooting team that might see that shortcoming catch up to them against more powerful offenses like Princeton’s and Columbia’s. Still, 19 offensive rebounds and 21 made free throws are nothing to sneeze at, and it’s Yale’s formula achieved.

Penn 76, Robert Morris 75

What happened: The Steve Donahue era tipped off in dramatic fashion at the Palestra, with the Quakers blowing a 17-point second-half lead only to reclaim it for good in the game’s final minute. Former Penn guard Andy Toole (’03), recruited to Penn by Donahue when the latter was still an assistant under Fran Dunphy, said after the game “this is good, keep this going.” What he might have been referring to was Penn’s speedy adherence to Donahue’s offensive gameplan: look for layups, and shoot threes if the former option isn’t available. By my estimate, the Quakers 48 of the 57 field goals Penn attempted tonight were either three-point shots (26) or what would be considered layups (22). Not surprisingly then, 26 of Penn’s 29 made field goals were either layups or three-point shots, and Penn notched 25 assists on those 29 field goals. Not bad for the debut of a new system, which withstood a Colonials squad that heated up in a hurry from deep in the second half.

What to look for next: Can Sam Jones keep this up? The sophomore forward posted 21 points on 5-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc, and whether he remains a consistent threat from downtown on a game-by-game basis will directly determine how efficient Donahue’s offense will remain going forward. Also, Penn’s defense gave up 47 points in the second half on 50 percent shooting from RMU, a worrisome finish since Donahue’s teams have always struggled with offensive efficiency, from Cornell to Boston College. Nevertheless, an outstanding debut for the Quakers under Donahue.

Seton Hall 84, Dartmouth 67

What happened: Introducing Evan Boudreaux. The 6-8 freshman forward was expected to make waves for the Big Green, but maybe not this resoundingly, this quickly. Boudreaux, son of Gail Koziara Boudreaux ‘82, the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in Dartmouth women’s basketball history, posted 25 points, six rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes in his collegiate debut, making it easy to overlook that last year’s Ivy Rookie of the Year Miles Wright and Malik Gill combined to go 3-for-14 from the field for seven total points. This looks like it’s already Boudreaux’s team, even if it’s after just one game.

What to look for next: The Pirates attempted 43 (!) free throws, and if they had made more than 22 of them, they would have had an even easier time with the Big Green. Dartmouth’s perimeter defense was surprisingly poor and foul-heavy, and the undersized Big Green struggled on the glass all night as well, both areas to keep an eye on going forward.

Princeton 64, Rider 56

What happened:  Another freshman surprise happened.  Out of nowhere. Devin Cannady notched 15 of his 17 points in the second half, including 12 in the final six minutes, to lift the Tigers past Rider on the road after the Broncs opened the second stanza with a 15-4 run to briefly reclaim the lead. Cannady is clearly an excellent shooter and pretty much created his own tempo in that second half. Junior forward Pete Miller and junior guard Spencer Weisz performed admirably as well, with Miller setting up possessions with his stellar rebounding (12 boards) and Weisz distributing the ball at the other end of the floor (eight assists, just one turnover).

What to look for next: Senior forward Hans Brase missed the game with a knee injury and is day-to-day according to Big Apple Buckets’ John Templon. I wouldn’t expect the offense to change tack much upon his return, but when he does, the offensive division of labor – who gets how many touches and when – will be fascinating to watch. Whether the Tigers’ impressive man-to-man defense can carry over momentum from this game will be crucial as well.

Harvard 59, MIT 39

What happened: As expected, Harvard’s offense struggled greatly in the early going against even the Engineers, with freshman guard Corey Johnson standing out early before fellow freshman guard Tommy McCarthy and senior guard Agunwa Okolie pitching in in the second half. Fortunately for the Crimson, there’s more to basketball than offense, and Harvard proved its typical defensive chops are in place.

What to look for next: Junior center Zena Edosomwan committed three fouls, played just 17 minutes, and scored only six points. He is going to have to become a greater factor on offense if Harvard has any hopes of breaking even in conference play later in the season. Coach Tommy Amaker went 13 deep against MIT, perhaps just to take further inventory of a young team against Division III competition. Even so, how quickly Amaker figures out this offensive rotation will be interesting. My guess, based on this game and Harvard’s slow start last season even with Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers and Steve Moundou-Missi, is that it takes him a good while.

Georgia Tech 116, Cornell 81

What happened: No Shonn Miller anymore happened, for one thing. I thought the game would settle down after the Big Red gave up 57 points in the first half…and then they promptly gave up 59 points in the second. The Yellow Jackets made 47 field goals. They attempted 78, enabled by their complete domination of the Big Red on the boards (48-24 advantage in favor of Georgia Tech, including 20 offensive boards for the hosts). Nothing else matters for Cornell if it can’t rebound or defend. This frontcourt is simply overmatched and will likely continue to be all season.

What to look for next: Freshman guard Matt Morgan posted 20 points in 29 minutes upon starting his first collegiate game, and freshman forward Stone Gettings lived up to his awesome name by notching 14 points in 15 minutes off the bench. Cornell will need even more reinforcements as the season progresses, but a solid debut for these frosh makes them worth watching.

Saint Peter’s 77, Brown 65

What happened: The Bears shot a paltry 34.4 percent from the floor and made just seven of 33 three-point attempts. Senior forward Cedric Kuakumensah did his thing with 17 rebounds, 10 points and two blocks, but the notion that this team is offense-starved and lacking in defensive cohesion wasn’t exactly dispelled here, with the Peacocks shooting 51.5 percent in the second half to win going away.

What to look for next: Can the Massey brothers continue to produce? Can freshman guard Corey Daugherty continue to provide shooting and aggressive defense off the bench? They’re going to have to.

Final thoughts: It’s fascinating that five of eight Ivies were led in scoring by freshmen playing in their very first games – Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Harvard and Cornell, with another Ivy Rookie of the Year candidate, Penn’s Jake Silpe, looking solid despite a limited stat line. Perhaps the future is now, especially for middle-of-the-pack squads like Dartmouth and Penn looking to surprise. The names that were expected to produce – Sears, Gill, Edosomwan – didn’t, and instead we got an early reminder that anything really can happen in Ivy hoops.

2 thoughts on “Ivy opening night roundup – A freshman free-for-all

  1. Cannady did not appear “out of nowhere,” Mr. Editor. He is Henderson’s prized recruit in a very strong class. Nevertheless, his debut is rather surprising for the way he fit so easily and confidently into the rotation in his first game. Whether he would have had the same opportunity if Brase had been available is a good question, but he certainly made the most of it. The projected spread for most of yesterday’s games across the country was over 10 points. This oddsmakers made the Tigers a one point favorite with Brase in the lineup. Very good road win.

    • By “out of nowhere,” I meant that one couldn’t have predicted Cannady would explode in the second half as he eventually did based on his performance in the first half, when he scored just two points off the bench. Princeton could have folded after giving up that run early in the stanza, and that’s when Cannady stepped up and took over with some superior athleticism instead.

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