Our Ivy weekend roundup features a raucous rematch, some Red and Crimson splitting, a No. 4 stepping to the fore and late-game strategy deja vu.
In its 85-75 defeat at Yale Friday night, Brown got a taste of its own medicine. Normally, the Bears make hay at the free throw line, but this time they lost the game there. Brown took just 12 foul shots, a third of Yale’s 36 attempts – a discrepancy Bears coach Mike Martin noted after the game, per Ray Curren of NYC Buckets. Brown did take 68 shots at Payne Whitney Gym, a week after hoisting 69 shots against the Bulldogs at the Pizzitola Sports Center, but Yale senior guard Anthony Dallier’s outscoring Brown 15-12 from the foul line helped decide the game. Yale scored 17 points from the foul line amid a 37-17 run to end the game after the Bears led 58-48 with 11:45 to go.
Brown senior forward Steven Spieth scored 33 points in these two teams’ meeting the prior weekend, including 7-for-10 from deep. Spieth went 4-for-9 from three-point range Friday night but did not score in the second half until the 6:21 mark as the Elis commenced their game-ending run.
Even so, Brown scored 40 points in a first half against Yale for the second straight week, and the Bears remain very much in the thick of the pursuit for the Ivy Tournament No. 4 seed. If Brown can pick off a win at Cornell or Columbia this weekend – which it won’t be favored to do – Bruno should be a solid pick for the tourney with six of its final eight games at home. And a third Brown-Yale matchup in the tourney would be a lot of fun.
In the zone
Yale’s 1-3-1 zone helped slow Brown down in the second half, and freshman forward Jordan Bruner registered six blocks in 26 minutes, including one with 11:47 to go and Brown leading 58-48 that sparked the Elis’ comeback. But this game was won by Dallier’s stat-stuffing 30 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals (to go along with seven turnovers). Sophomore guard Trey Phills also achieved a career scoring high with 16 points in 30 minutes. Dallier and Phills combined to shoot a staggering 24-for-27 (89.0 percent) from the free throw line. Yale’s not normally a team that gouges opponents from the foul line, but good teams find ways to win, and the Elis certainly fit that category.
Big Red paint
Cornell shot 66.7 percent from the floor in the first half in its 77-71 loss at Newman Arena to Harvard, and the Big Red went 22-for-33 (66.7 percent) from two-point range. The Big Red are shooting 53.0 percent from two-point range this season (55th in the nation), up from 47.0 percent from last season (241st). Cornell’s interior offense is getting better and better, as one would expect from Princeton product Brian Earl. Sophomore guard Matt Morgan typically scores a lot from deep, but he went 6-for-8 from two-point range in Cornell’s 75-62 win over Dartmouth. The Big Green’s defense isn’t the Ivy’s best by any means, but Cornell’s 17-to-10 assist-to-turnover ratio in its 75-62 win is encouraging.
The Big Green notched just five assists to go along with 21 turnovers in their loss to Columbia and posted eight assists on 24 field goals in their loss to Cornell. Sophomore forward Evan Boudreaux continues to be one of the league’s best players, posting 23 points and 14 rebounds against the Big Red. But Dartmouth’s three-point shooting woes and defensive struggles make it the team least likely to pull off an upset or play spoiler in the race for the tournament’s No. 4 seed down the stretch.
Crimson and Corey
Harvard’s defense got shredded inside at both Newman Arena and in its 65-62 loss to Columbia at Levien Gym Saturday night, which doesn’t bode especially well for teams predicated on opportunistic offensive paint play like Princeton and Penn. Senior center Zena Edosomwan did make the most of his 25 minutes against Columbia, posting six blocks and nine rebounds (six offensive) alongside nine points, even if a majority of balls he swatted wound up with Columbia again anyway. Foul trouble is always a concern with Edosomwan, but his play merits more time on the court. Harvard needs to start avoiding slow first halves, having trailed at halftime in each of its last three games – establishing better interior defense early in contests would be the way to do just that.
Credit Harvard’s win over Cornell, in part, to two freshmen: forward Justin Bassey and guard Bryce Aiken. The former scored a career-high 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting and added three steals, while Aiken shot at least 50 percent from three-point range (3-for-6) for the fifth time this season. Aiken also clinched the Crimson’s win with eight seconds left, but more on that later.
Still, Corey Johnson is clearly Harvard’s hottest player right now. Johnson scored just five points in five combined games from December 7 through January 2 and didn’t score at all in Harvard’s high-watermark win at Houston. But he’s 17-for-33 (51.5 percent) from three-point range in Ivy play so far and scored 38 points this weekend, including a game-high 21 at Columbia. Johnson went 7-for-14 from long range at Levien, but his teammates went 3-for-25. Harvard is now 32-for-102 (31.4 percent) from that area in the past four games, too low a percentage for a team that relies so much on the three-ball. It’s a credit to Harvard that it held Columbia to 20 points in the final 18:47, but shooting 20-for-62 (32.3 percent) simply isn’t a winning recipe.
A four to the fore … for now
Columbia’s defense is second-best in league play behind only Princeton’s so far, and the Lions’ conference-only turnover rate on defense is the best among all Ivies. Jim Engles’ squad collected 16 turnovers from Harvard and 21 from Dartmouth, after having posted 21 turnovers in its loss to Cornell last weekend. Seniors Luke Petrasek and Jeff Coby combined for 30 of Columbia’s 66 points against Dartmouth, and Coby crucially garnered six offensive rebounds against Harvard, which led to six points in a game the Lions won by three. Top-tier Ivies often get pivotal contributions from players who aren’t their leading scorers, and Quinton Adlesh pitched in 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting in just 19 minutes off the bench in the Lions’ win. Freshman guard Mike Smith scored just nine points this weekend, but he also dished eight assists, and the Harvard win marked the sixth time he’s registered at least five assists in a game this season. Smith is this offense’s conduit even when he’s struggling with his shot, and that’s a good thing for the Lions.
Columbia’s win over Harvard gives it the clear edge in the race for the Ivy tourney No. 4 seed. Yale Sports Analytics gives Columbia a 61.1 percent shot at the tournament, versus 31.8 for Penn and 12.3 for Brown. Penn would have been the clear favorite if Columbia had lost to Harvard, per Mike James (@ivybball).
Late-game strategy deja vu
Harvard took possession up 73-71 with 37 seconds left at Cornell, and Brian Earl interestingly opted for the Big Red not to foul the Crimson. Bryce Aiken’s jumper with eight seconds left put Cornell away. Harvard is a good free-throw shooting team this season, the best in the Ivy League after being second-worst in Division I last season. The Crimson went 11-for-13 from the foul line Friday night, so maybe that factored into Earl’s decision.
Then Tommy Amaker found himself in the position of deciding whether to foul in a very similar situation Saturday night. He made the same decision as Earl. Again with 37 seconds left, Harvard trailed 65-62, and didn’t foul. Coby’s sixth offensive rebound of the night and off-the-mark putback (which was ruled not to have touched the rim) led to Petrasek missing a three-pointer with six seconds left and Harvard getting the ball back. But Siyani Chambers’ three-pointer missed as time expired and the Lions held on. So Amaker was bailed out by his defense, but it was still an interesting decision regardless considering Columbia’s 13-for-24 performance from the foul line that night.
The Brodeur bonus
It didn’t happen this weekend, but Penn’s Wednesday Big 5 upset win at La Salle courtesy of freshman center A.J. Brodeur’s 35 points merits recognition. Brodeur made the most of one-on-one coverage and the Red and Blue got three three-pointers from Brodeur (!), Matt Howard and Caleb Wood. That’s good news for Penn fans looking for better outside shooting from Steve Donahue’s three-pointer-oriented roster.