Previewing Brown-Yale & Cornell-Columbia

IHO takes a closer look at Saturday’s two Ivy conference matchups.

Brown at Yale, 5 p.m.

Last season: Then-senior guard Javier Duren canned a jumper with 3.4 seconds remaining to break a 65-65 tie and help ensure a Bulldogs victory. Yale’s 69-65 win completed a sweep of Brown, and the Elis took the lead for good with 12:28 to go in the game after Brown had led 31-25 at halftime. Justin Sears and Duren scored 27 and 24 points respectively, combining for 15 of Yale’s 20 field goals. Brown got a more balanced scoring attack, with Rafael Maia, Steven Spieth and Tavon Blackmon combining for 50 of Brown’s 65 points just five days before it Leland King’s departure from the Brown basketball program was announced. (King played only in the first matchup of this series in Providence last season, his final game as a Bear.)

How Brown can win: The Bears will want to get out and run, making this a wide open game won at the perimeter instead of inside. A sizable 34.1 percent of Brown’s points this season have come from three-point range, much more so than Brown’s 26.3, so the Bears would love to push tempo and find open men from beyond the arc. While Yale ranks 299th in the nation in average possession length, Brown ranks 66th. Also, Brown ranks 322nd nationally in offensive rebound percentage, while Yale ranks fourth, so the Bears need to make each initial possession count at both ends.

How Yale can win: If defense wins games, this one should be no contest. Yale boasts the best defense and rebounding margin in the Ivies and Brown ranks next to last in the conference in both categories. Reliable production from Justin Sears, Makai Mason and Brandon Sherrod has allowed the Elis to beat up on lesser opponents such as Hartford, Central Connecticut State, Bryant and Sacred Heart. All Yale needs to do to win is stick to its strengths: hit the boards on offense, play tight man-to-man defense, feed Sears and play methodically.

Cornell at Columbia, 7 p.m.

Last season: Cornell gradually ground the Lions into oblivion, getting a 57-47 victory largely due to Shonn Miller’s 18-point, nine-rebound, four-block performance and a defense that held Columbia to 32.8 percent shooting. Maodo Lo shot 4-for-16 from the floor, and in a twist, Isaac Cohen led the Lions in scoring with 13 points, accounting for more than 31 percent of Columbia’s field goals himself.

How Cornell can win: Turn Robert Hatter loose at both ends. As last season’s recap reveals, he’s given Lo trouble before defensively, and now he leads the Ivy League in scoring. It’s up to him and the rest of Columbia’s backcourt defense to stay with Columbia’s shooters on the perimeter, as the Lions rank ninth in the nation in percentage of points scored as three-pointers and 24th in three-point percentage. Last season at home against Cornell, Columbia shot a woeful 23.8 percent from long range, and Cornell needs that kind of outcome again. On the other side of the floor, Cornell needs to win the tempo battle, playing quick even with Columbia likely to want to slow the game down.

How Columbia can win: With Alex Rosenberg and Isaac Cohen out indefinitely with injuries, it’s up to Lo to bear the Lions’ burden at both ends with his on-the-ball defense and excellence from beyond the arc and in driving lanes on offense. As ever, so much of the Lions’ fortunes depend on their shooting. Rosenberg’s absence will hurt Columbia’s ability to create offense off  the dribble, but given Cornell’s shoddy defense, Columbia should still have ample opportunity to score inside, whether it’s Lo, Luke Petrasek or Kyle Castlin.

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