Ivy Saturday roundup

Penn 92, Cornell 84

Don’t look now, but Penn’s now fourth in the Ivy League standings. It’s an upper-tier slot the Quakers owe to an overeager Cornell defense that kept leaving Penn coach Steve Donahue’s players open in his return to Ithaca after leading the Big Red to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2007-08 through 2009-10. Donahue was received warmly before the game, and then basketball happened. That meant more hero ball from Cornell, who didn’t have a starter other than freshman guard Matt Morgan score until 7:54 was left in the game. Of course, Robert Hatter added 21 points off the bench to complement Morgan’s 28-point performance, but Penn won courtesy of going 29-for-35 from the foul line and a career-high 25 points from freshman Jackson Donahue. Senior center Darien Nelson-Henry added 16 rebounds, 15 points and six assists, benefiting from Cornell’s defense of Penn’s ball screens. Cornell hasn’t had a winning season since Donahue left Cornell, and this season isn’t likely to break that sub-.500 streak.

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Ivy Friday roundup

Princeton 85, Cornell 56

That escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast. The Tigers cleaned out Cornell from wire to wire, racing out to a 33-8 lead in the first 10:20 and never looking back. Princeton shot 50 percent from the floor, anchored as usual by Henry Caruso’s 13-point, seven-rebound, two-assist, two-steal performance, with 13 additional points from Amir Bell. Freshmen Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens combined for 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting off the bench, including 3-for-4 beyond the arc from Cannady.

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Ivy Saturday roundup

Columbia 77, Brown 73

The Lions absolutely needed to have this game to hold serve in the Ivy title chase, and they got it thanks to Grant Mullins. The unsung senior guard turned it on with Brown keying in on Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg, notching 25 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 6-for-9 from long range. The Bears held the lead as late as the 3:18 mark but couldn’t quite crack it, led by Steven Spieth, who has averaged 20 points per game since Brown was swept by Yale last month.

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Ivy Friday roundup

Yale 86, Columbia 72

Yale outlasted Princeton last Saturday by getting and staying hot, as its starters shot 54.9 percent from the floor and 61.1 percent from three-point range. Against also 4-0 Columbia, Yale asserted its place as the top team in the conference by getting even hotter, shooting 62.2 percent from the floor and 55.6 percent from beyond the arc. The Lions relied on active hands to notch 11 steals and force 17 turnovers, applying impressive pressure early in the game, but it never mattered. Yale hit what it wanted to hit, scoring 86 points on just 39 field goal attempts. (For comparison, Cornell scored six fewer points tonight on 76 field goal attempts, but we’ll get to that later.)

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Harvard is in uncharted territory: How, why, and what’s ahead

For the first time since 2009, Harvard is 1-3 in Ivy play. It’s an unusual sight for most Harvard fans, and as Alex Rosenberg’s game-winner swished through the net on Saturday to down the Crimson, I couldn’t help but remember the three buzzer-beating wins Harvard had last year in Ivy play (one to send the game to overtime – an eventual win – and two pure game-winners). For five straight years, the ball always seemed to bounce Harvard’s way. But on both Friday and Saturday night, the Crimson were a step behind the competition, getting swept on their home court. So let’s look back on the underlying issues of this sweep, explore how the Crimson can improve and discuss what lies ahead for the reeling Crimson.

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Ivy Saturday roundup

Yale 79, Princeton 75

When you’re hot, you’re hot, and Yale was just that. Yale’s starters shot 54.9 percent from the floor and 61.1 percent from three-point range, and the Elis needed pretty much all of those shots to fall to get by the Tigers, who never folded, cutting into what was a 10-point lead with 3:58 left to play to keep Bulldog fans nervous until the end. In fact, superior shooting was the only thing that separated the Elis from Princeton for much of the game. The Tigers lost despite scoring 43 points in the second half, scoring 19 points off turnovers versus Yale’s nine, outscoring the Bulldogs’ bench 24-3 and making the same number of treys as the Elis (11). Princeton’s ability to keep Yale off the offensive boards for the entire half was impressive as well.

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Ivy Friday roundup

Princeton 83, Brown 59

After losing to Yale 90-66 Saturday night, Brown lost its second straight Ivy game by 24 points. This time, it was because Brown turnovers led to a greater number of opportunities for the Tigers, who outstole the Bears, 13-3. (Five steals came from Steven Cook alone.) As a result, the Tigers attempted 21 more shots than the Bears and were never seriously threatened. Cedric Kuakumensah registered seven blocks and eight rebounds but did not score, with Steven Spieth picking up the slack to the tune of 24 points on 7-for-7 shooting, but with five of Brown’s 20 turnovers. True to form, eight Tigers scored at least six points, led by Spencer Weisz’s 16 and Henry Caruso’s 13. Princeton’s got all the momentum it could ask for going into a monumental game at Yale Saturday night.

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Harvard outlasts tough Dartmouth squad in Ivy opener

Harvard is 1-0 on the young Ivy season after a hard-fought 77-70 win over Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. Uncertainty loomed heading in, as Tommy McCarthy and Patrick Steeves were both questionable due to injuries sustained a week ago during a tight loss to Vermont (a game in which both were dearly missed). Against Dartmouth, McCarthy played only 16 minutes, while Steeves proved he was fully healthy by scoring a career-high 20 points.

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Ivy pre-conference play primer

IHO sizes up the Ivy League’s power rankings, along with some other 2015-16 nonconference highlights, now that the start of league play is just three days away.

  1. Yale (8-5): Offensive rebounding is Yale’s M.O. The Elis rank fifth in the country in offensive rebound percentage, which allows them to brutalize lesser opponents suffocated by Yale’s stout defense. Yale should be considered the favorite to win the league at this point because it enjoys the reigning Ivy Player of the Year (Justin Sears), the league’s best defense, the league’s most experienced frontcourt and Makai Mason, one of the league’s best ball distributors and fearless shooters. When Yale loses at least a couple of games in league play, it’ll be because of lack of backcourt depth and/or Sears foul trouble.
  2. Princeton (9-4): Not your father’s Tigers. This Princeton squad attacks the rim with more than just backdoor cuts, winning with athleticism and superior shot selection. Princeton ranks second in the nation in offensive rebound percentage on defense, meaning the Tigers don’t give up comparatively many offensive rebounds. They also don’t beat themselves, committing only 18 turnovers combined in losses to No. 3 Maryland and No. 12 Miami. Junior forward Henry Caruso is making a serious case for Ivy Player of the Year averaging 17.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 59.1 percent shooting from the field.  Princeton has arguably never been more fun to watch.
  3. Harvard (6-8): Harvard put quite a scare into No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma … so how did it lose to Vermont Sunday? The Catamounts double-teamed and trapped Zena Edosomwan into irrelevance, but more undersized Ivies won’t be able to match Vermont’s defensive physicality. They might not have to if Tommy McCarthy and Patrick Steeves remain sidelined. Tom Layman of the Boston Herald reported McCarthy (hyperextended right knee) and Steeves (leg) are both day-to-day, and their health is crucial. McCarthy extends defenses with his three-point shooting, and Steeves makes his mark by attacking off the dribble. Edosomwan benefits when defenses have to worry about perimeter players driving to the rim, and he won’t be benefiting much with those two out. In other business, Harvard’s defense is firing on all cylinders. Harvard ranks 30th in the country in defensive effective field goal percentage, 14th in defensive three-point field goal percentage and 43rd in defensive adjusted efficiency. Defense travels, especially in Ivy back-to-backs, and it’s why Harvard is in the conference title mix yet again, even in a “down year.”
  4. Columbia (10-6): The Lions led at Stony Brook Saturday, 42-25, 2:19 into the second half, before losing, 69-60, thanks to a 26-3 second-half spurt by the Seawolves. Of course, the Lions also collapsed after holding a 16-point lead visiting the Seawolves last season … but it’s not just a Stony Brook thing. Columbia’s second-half defense is atrocious. It gave up 26 points to Longwood in the final 10 minutes in a 70-69 loss to the Lancers (more on that later), 28 points in the final 10 minutes in an 80-78 loss to Saint Joseph’s and 23 points in the final 10 minutes in a 72-71 win over Manhattan. Why the Lions keep collapsing on defense late in games is unclear, but we know the defensive personnel simply isn’t there for coach Kyle Smith outside of Maodo Lo’s on-the-ball solidity and pocket-pilfering. He tried 7-foot-1 Conor Voss. He’s tried Alex Rosenberg with Luke Petrasek, Lukas Meisner with Luke Petrasek, and Jeff Coby with both Lukas and Luke. But Rosenberg is a liability at that end of the floor, and Petrasek is better on offense as well (more on that later too). Maybe Meisner will help, but Columbia’s offensive bona fides aren’t even worth mentioning if the defense doesn’t turn around.
  5. Dartmouth (4-8): I like Dartmouth. The Big Green defense is characteristically solid, hanging its hat on steals. Paul Cormier’s squad ranks first in the league in turnover margin, and Ivy Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Boudreaux is only going to get better as the season progresses, already averaging 14.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest. He also ranks 42nd in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, so watch how often Boudreaux gets to the line come Ivy play. The Big Green’s methodical approach should serve them well against bottom-tier Ivies.
  6. Penn (6-7): In his first year as a head coach in Philly, Steve Donahue has emphasized three-point shooting if no layups are available. It helps if you can actually shoot threes. So far, only sophomore forward Sam Jones can, and Penn ranks last among all Ivies in three-point shooting despite ranking fourth in the conference in treys attempted. Penn went cold during a seven-game stretch in which it went 1-6 before blowing out Binghamton, scoring under 60 points four times and beating Division III Ursinus, Donahue’s alma mater, by just seven. The Quakers’ defense has actually outshined their offense recently, a surprising development given Donahue’s offensive pedigree. But Penn just doesn’t have the firepower on that side of the ball yet. In time, Penn will can threes and have an offensive adjusted efficiency higher than 262nd. Maybe not this year, though.
  7. Cornell (7-7): The Big Red work largely in isolation on offense and are horrible at both getting and allowing offensive rebounds. So Cornell suffers a lot of one-and-done possessions on one end of the floor while surrendering second-chance points at the other. Cornell junior guard Robert Hatter is easily leading the Ivy League in scoring at 19.3 points per game, but he also ranks fifth in the nation in percentage of possessions used and ninth in percentage of shots taken. He is the offense, along with Ivy Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Morgan, who should figure in a conference upset or two come league play. Cornell remains a lower-tier team, though, because of its undersized, underperforming frontcourt, and its perennial defensive shortcomings.
  8. Brown (4-9): Since losing Justin Massey back to Florida Atlantic in mid-December, Brown has suffered bad losses to Marist and Maine, thanks in large part due to a low-efficiency offense that always seems to be in too much of a hurry. Brown’s defense is the worst in the conference, and the Bears rank second-to-last in rebounding margin. Outside of two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Cedric Kuakumensah, this is a team that gets outmuscled a lot, and unfortunately, Tavon Blackmon can’t run the entire offense himself, even if he does lead the league in assists. Brown’s conference-opening home-and-home with Yale will tell all.

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Harvard shines in Hawaii: How the Crimson did it and what it means

Lately, Harvard has been a completely  different team than it was back in November. After a close loss at Kansas and a nice win at Boston University, the Crimson traveled to Hawaii to partake in the 2015 Diamond Head Classic. The Crimson drew BYU in the first round. The tournament was a huge test for Harvard: would the Crimson revert back to its November self? Or would Harvard build on its two previous good performances and play well?

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