Eight thoughts on the women’s side:
1. Aghayere on a rebounding spree
There was a whopping 77 points scored in the first half in Penn’s battle with visiting Cornell, featuring the Big Red’s No. 2 Ivy scoring defense vs. the Red & Blue’s No. 1 Ivy scoring defense. No. 1 eventually got the best of No. 2 as the game eventually settled into more of a grind-it-out struggle. Princess Aghayere posted a career-high 23 points and 10 boards, the fourth double-double of her senior campaign. Aghayere grabbed seven of Penn’s offensive rebounds, fueling a 15-6 scoring edge for Penn in second-chance points. Aghayere is one of three Quakers to rank in the Ivy’s top nine in offensive rebounding (fifth behind league-leading Eleah Parker and ahead of Ashley Russell in ninth place). If Penn goes to another 2-3 zone variation against Princeton tomorrow night, Aghayere will have to come up big on the boards as she did in Penn’s win at Princeton last month, when she snared a team-high 12 boards, limiting a Tigers squad that crashed the boards against the zone well that day.
2. A shooting calamity
Cornell just can’t shoot from deep. The Big Red are 25.4 percent from long range on the season, easily last in the conference, and mustered just a 1-for-8 clip in the second half at Penn to finish 3-for-12 on the night. It’s not in the Big Red’s DNA to hoist triples, as Dayna Smith’s squad has shot a staggering 176 fewer threes than Penn, the team with the next-fewest trey attempts in the Ivy League. If Cornell makes four threes in a game, that’s actually above it’s seasonal game average. That’s not a winning formula, but on the other hand, if you can’t make them, don’t shoot them.
3. In fourth place, are we?
Dartmouth is, tying Yale in the Ivy standings with two weekends to go by pulling away decisively in a 28-point third quarter en route to a 78-43 win over Brown at home. First-year guard Katie Douglas stepped up with a career-high 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-8 from long range, a great sign of scoring depth with Cy Lippold sidelined.
4. Nothing to see
There’s not much worth dwelling on for Brown. It was a weekend to forget as the Bears lost both games to Harvard and Dartmouth by a combined 80 points, their typically entertaining offense held to just 32.4 shooting.
5. Starting fast is the key
After Harvard’s 22-2 first-quarter disaster cost it a game in the Columbia loss, the Crimson have led after each of its five opening stanzas since, its last two by a 52-24 margin. Harvard never trailed in its 83-69 win over Yale, enjoying a career-high 24 points from senior guard Madeline Raster as she surpassed 1,000 career points, the 21st player in Crimson history to do so. Up next for Harvard are road tussles with Penn and Princeton, with the Ivy League championship and conference tournament No. 1 seed that comes with it still very much in play.
6. Turnovers offset D
Yale’s got a terrific defense, but the Bulldogs’ propensity for turnovers makes that defense’s job harder. Harvard scored 25 points off 17 Yale turnovers, including six in the first quarter that helped set the game’s tone. Yale committed 20 turnovers in its Friday night loss at Dartmouth, and the Bulldogs rank next to last among all Ivies in assist-to-turnover ratio and sixth in turnover margin. Up next for Yale is the dreaded Cornell-Columbia road trip, which could easily make or break its Ivy tourney chances.
7. See-saw-see to a tolerable degree
Just like it did the previous night versus Cornell, Princeton against Columbia built a big lead, watched the Lions storm furiously back into the game only to decisively put it away late. This time, it didn’t take so long for Princeton’s defense to get stingy, shutting Columbia down in the fourth quarter en route to a 65-59 win. Bella Alarie scored 14 points after putting 45 on the Lions in Manhattan earlier this month, but that was enough. The Tigers will need more second-half offense to defeat Penn at the Palestra Tuesday night, particularly since it was a fourth-quarter scoring drought that got Princeton in trouble in its 66-60 loss to Penn at Jadwin Gym last month.
8. Another branch in the progress tree
Columbia may have gotten swept at the Ps this weekend, but the Lions are substantially better this season than the squad that went 2-12 and often lost big in league play a year ago. Columbia is a very young team, and its league-worst turnover margin reflects that. Still, hanging in there at Princeton despite cold shooting and a characteristically high turnover count reinforced that Columbia can rely at times on its defense, while not a team strength, broadly speaking, can get the job done in key stretches. That’s something to build on as this group matures.