Ivy weekend roundup – Jan. 20-21, 2017

Our Ivy weekend roundup focuses on a really entertaining club, clutch three-point shooting, a chalk result, some turned tables in a rivalry game, a dry spell, the youngsters taking over and #PathToThePalestra.

Bruno attacks

Brown proved its 82-70 road win over Penn last weekend was no fluke by taking Yale to the wire at Pizzitola Sports Center Friday night before bowing to the Bulldogs, 75-74. The Bears are staking their claim as a team that is both entertaining and good. Picked to finish last in the conference in the preseason media poll, Brown built a 40-28 halftime advantage against the defending league champion and would have won if it wasn’t for a sudden three-point explosion from Elis freshman standout Miye Oni. (More on that later).

Brown’s interior defense remains its greatest weakness, and Yale senior center Sam Downey took advantage for a career high 26 points on 11-for-16 shooting and 13 rebounds. But coach Mike Martin effectively minimized that weakness by mixing up zone and man-to-man defenses throughout the game, forcing 14 turnovers in the first half and notching 10 steals on the night.

And the fastest-paced team in the Ivy League lived up to that billing against Yale, garnering enough possessions to launch 69 shots, including 33 threes, against the league’s statistically best defense. Senior forward Steven Spieth went 7-for-10 from that range en route to 33 points and is a frontrunner for Ivy Player of the Year.

Spieth’s three to tie the game at 74-74 with seven seconds left came off a brilliant swing-around setup, and the Bears also perfectly executed a halfcourt heave-and-timeout maneuver that led to J.R. Hobbie’s missed shot at the buzzer. Martin deserves many kudos for overseeing some situational execution against one of the conference’s most bothersome teams to play, and for leading the Bears into the race for a slot in the Ivy League Tournament after such low league-wide expectations.

Six of Brown’s final eight league games come at home, and after a trip to Yale next weekend comes the Bears’ annual Cornell-Columbia swing. The Bears have shown they can dictate tempo against anyone in the league, so the Cs better get ready.

Oni explodes

Miye Oni re-entered Friday’s game with 3:43 to play. Fourteen seconds later came an Oni three-pointer to give Yale a 62-61 lead. Thirty-one seconds later came another Oni three-pointer to give Yale a 65-63 lead. With 56 seconds to go, Oni nailed another three to put Yale ahead for good, 70-69. Then Oni iced the game with a fourth three down the stretch to give Yale a 73-69 advantage at the 00:29 mark (and admittedly, a technical).

What made Oni’s takeover more remarkable was Yale’s 1-for-15 performance from deep up to that point. But then Oni got into a groove beyond the three-point line on the left wing and notched trey after trey, finishing with 16 points and eight boards (all defensive). Downey seems to be the only Eli who can really gouge a suspect interior defense, since freshman forward Jordan Bruner often shows a more outside-in approach.

Harvard holds serve against Big Green

Dartmouth excelled in the second half of the first frame against Harvard, but its 35-34 halftime advantage didn’t last in the actual second half. Harvard’s 82-68 victory was powered by a strong performance off the bench from senior center Zena Edosomwan, who in just 23 minutes posted 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting, seven rebounds (four offensive), three blocks, two steals and an assist.

Harvard’s 13-for-24 output from three-point range has to be encouraging for Crimson fans, because if Tommy Amaker’s squad can keep up its potency from deep, that’s quite a strength to pair with Harvard’s stingy defense.

Harvard couldn’t sweep Dartmouth the previous two seasons, so this sweep is not insignificant by any stretch. Dartmouth, meanwhile, can be pleased it got to the foul line 27 times, with four Big Green players attempting at least four free throws. The Big Green’s greatest strength – getting to the foul line – looks like it will continue in league play.

The tables turn at Levien

Senior forward Luke Petrasek scored 31 points in Columbia’s 79-75 win at Cornell last weekend, but he was mostly stymied in Cornell’s 67-62 win at Levien Gym Saturday night, registering just eight points on 3-for-12 shooting in 34 minutes. Cornell’s inside defense ratcheted up the pressure on Petrasek and company, influencing the Lions’ 15-for-45 (33.3 percent) shooting from two-point range. Remember, Columbia had shot 27-for-46 (58.7 percent) from the same area against Cornell just a week before. Credit Cornell first-year coach Brian Earl for helping turn the tables on the Lions, save for Columbia freshman standout Mike Smith. Smith contributed 24 points and five assists  in 37 minutes against the Big Red after having notched 17 points and five assists in Cornell’s loss at Newman Arena to Columbia the prior weekend.

Cornell sophomore Matt Morgan contributed 17 points, seven assists, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals, and it’s been clear for a long time now that Morgan can do so much more than hoist threes.

The Big Red and Lions both have back-to-back weekends at home coming up, allowing them an opportunity at gathering early momentum in the race for an Ivy League Tournament berth.

Penn continues to struggle from deep

Penn’s 78-71 loss at the Palestra to Saint Joseph’s on Saturday night found Steve Donahue’s team shoot more three-pointers (32) than two-pointers (31), to no avail. Penn made just eight of those 32 three-pointers, continuing a long stretch of inefficiency from deep. Freshman guard Ryan Betley, though, made three of his four attempts in 23 minutes, the second time he’s gone 3-for-4 from three-point range in the past four games (also doing so at Princeton).  Betley and senior forward Matt Howard are Penn’s hottest hands right now, and according to Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com, Donahue indicated after the game that two slots in his main five are still open. Expect continued mixing and matching as Donahue tries to find the lineup that will yield the most offensive success, both inside and out.

It’s an underclassman’s league

Of KenPom’s top five Ivy players, two are freshmen – A.J. Brodeur and Miye Oni – and a third is a sophomore – Devin Cannady. (The other two are Steven Cook and Steven Spieth.) Of the league’s top 12 scorers, seven are freshmen or sophomores (three are first-year players). Three of the league’s top four rebounders are underclassmen (two freshmen – Oni and Brodeur). Rookie Chris Lewis of Harvard leads the conference in field-goal percentage and freshman Brendan Barry of Dartmouth leads all Ivies in three-point field-goal percentage. Jordan Bruner, yet another freshman ranks first in the conference in blocked shots. It’s an underclassman’s league now, and every single Ivy is enjoying the benefits.

The path to the No. 4 seed is wide open

Columbia and Cornell’s split coupled with Brown’s narrow loss to Yale have broken the race for the No. 4 seed in the Ivy League Tournament wide open. KenPom projects Penn, Columbia and Brown each to finish 6-8 in league play, with Cornell at 5-9. Michael James (@ivybball) projects a virtual tossup between Penn, Columbia and Brown for the No. 4 seed. Enjoy the jockeying for that slot, because it’s not likely to be sorted out until the final weekend of the regular season.

11 thoughts on “Ivy weekend roundup – Jan. 20-21, 2017

  1. Great summary of the weekend. A slight oversight in the article , in that Matt Morgan is listed as a freshman,
    Columbia succumbed due to its perpetual weaknesses in close games- foul shooting and to a lesser degree poor shooting of 3’s toward the close of games . Columbia also had a large amount of layups that just missed. As a Columbia fan – it eventually sinks in. Winning teams have many close games but win most of them. Columbia is still competitive and has the experience to play with everyone. One loss does not mean that they cannot finish in the top three.

  2. Shockingly, Brown appears to be the most consistent at this time for 4 spot. Columbia is very uneven and Penn is degenerating before our eyes. In fact, I think Penn is third amongst those three at the moment. Interestingly, their last game of the season is at Columbia. It Just may be for all the 4th place marbles……..or not.

    The AQ

    • Thanks Boston Lion. I made the correction after having mixed up Smith’s two performances against Cornell in listing them.

  3. Nice move Ivy League. Thanks to an ill-advised break-up of the 14-Game Tournament, discussion now centers around 4th place, not the always-exciting 2-month championship race. What a shame.

  4. I think “Olde Troll” framed the situation aptly. It is human nature to talk about teams battling for the fourth-place slot, but it’s a perversion of what sports fans should be talking about.

    So we’ll have two months of thinking and talking about fourth place, capped off with one weekend thinking and talking about first place. That’s an exaggeration, but not too much of one.

  5. The players wanted the tournament. This for them, not for the crusty alumni. This is the most talented Ivy League ever. Why not enjoy the games and the competition? I’m glad to see more meaningful games for more teams at the end of the league schedule.

  6. The tournament will be awesome – if my team wins. If it does not, I will be disappointed. Yes, it takes away some of the drama of late Feb and early March (and that weeknight – is it always a weeknight – Princeton-Penn game after the rest of the league is done) but I think it’s a good two year experiment.

  7. The battles for first and fourth add a dimension we have never enjoyed. The first place team avoids having to beat two of the big three while one team at 7-7 has a shot at the Big Dance. God forgive me…I love it

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