After winning on the road against Central Connecticut this Saturday, Brown basketball finds itself as the only Ivy League team with a winning record (5-4) heading into the first week of December. The Bears’ 75-58 victory was its best road victory since back-to-back wins against Providence and Central Connecticut State in December 2014. With its yearly rematch with the Friars scheduled for this Tuesday, it is worth spending time reviewing the first month of the Brown season before looking to the future.
What happened last year: (8-20, 3-11 Ivy) The Bears’ 2015-16 season was underwhelming overall. Brown tied for last in the conference despite being projected to finish fifth in the preseason media poll with two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Cedric Kuakumensah still in tow and an unusual level of offensive depth. But a five-game skid in league play in February followed back-to-back 24-point losses to Yale and Princeton in the Bears’ second and third conference matchups, a tough slog for Brown.
What’s new: Kuakumensah is gone after leading the league in blocks and three-point percentage as well as ranking second in rebounding last season. Say howdy to freshmen forwards Joshua Howard and David Erebor as well as rookie center Brandon Charnov and frosh guard Brandon Anderson, who selected Brown over Columbia. Most of Brown’s offensive playmakers return, but the Bears were projected to finish last in the conference in this year’s preseason media poll, probably because of Brown’s distinct lack of defensive fortitude last season.
As reported last week by Sky Sport Austria, Cedric Kuakumensah has signed on to play professionally in the Austrian League with the Redwell Oberwart Gunners of the Austria-A Bundesliga League, which the Gunners won last season.
Kuakumensah became the Ivy League’s all-time leader in blocks as a senior this past season, and he was expected to arrive last week in Oberwart in time for training camp, per Brown Athletics.
IHO’s writers voted on the best this Ivy season had to offer, voted on and tabulated prior to the announcement of Ivy League’s official awards Wednesday:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Justin Sears, Yale (Sr., F – Plainfield, N.J.)
For the second straight season, Sears wins IHO’s Player of the Year honors, a game theory-free decision. It’s no coincidence that Yale’s conference-winning wheelhouse – defense and rebounding – is centered on Sears’ own strengths. The POY was a much better ball distributor this season, scoring with slightly more consistency as well as he reached the 20-point plateau seven times and recorded five double-doubles. This is a clear case of the best getting better.
Cornell 75, Brown 71
Cornell won this season finale for both teams, scraping up a win with Brown offensive linchpin Tavon Blackmon missing the game due to an ankle injury. In his final collegiate game, Cedric Kuakumensah posted a characteristic 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, with Steven Spieth adding 13 rebounds, 12 points and seven assists. But Cornell’s 27-18 advantage in points off treys and 11-0 advantage in fastbreak points proved enough, featuring freshman Matt Morgan with 25 points, four assists and four rebounds, a steal and a block.
1. Princeton (20-5, 10-1 Ivy)
It’s Princeton’s versatility that gives the Tigers a better chance to win in a potential NCAA Tournament berth than Yale, or indeed, most mid-majors. What matters most in an Ivy playoff is that Princeton’s offense matches up well with Yale’s defense, complete with multiple sharpshooters and slashers that can use the Elis’ size advantage against them.
Princeton 74, Cornell 60
A day after starting with a 12-0 deficit at Penn, Cornell reeled off a game-opening 11-4 run at Jadwin, maintaining a lead for most of the first 12 minutes and trailing 37-34 at halftime before the Tigers very gradually took control. Matt Morgan got in on the scoring action as Robert Hatter receded in the second half. There’s no such thing as “the usual suspects” for Princeton, but tonight it was Amir Bell and Spencer Weisz leading the Tigers with 16 points, and Devin Cannady shooting 6-for-7 from deep, including 3-for-3 from long range. (Ask Columbia about that.) Meanwhile, Henry Caruso notched just two points on 0-for-4 shooting, though he did add seven rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Princeton 88, Columbia 83
In a cruel twist of fate for Columbia fans, the Tigers outdid the Lions at Jadwin by the same score as they did earlier this month, when Princeton made not one but two unlikely comebacks in its overtime win at Levien. In Princeton’s previous win against the Lions, Henry Caruso, Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook shot 4-for-24 from the floor. Friday night, that trio shot 22-for-31 en route to 60 combined points, with freshman guard Myles Stephens adding 15 points in 26 minutes off the bench.
1. Yale (17-5, 8-0 Ivy)
Yale exorcised some demons (Big Green Goblins, maybe) at Leede Arena Friday night before subsequently trumping Harvard at Lavietes for the third straight season. Yale didn’t benefit from particularly hot shooting in either game, instead grinding it out on the strength of Justin Sears and Makai Mason, a formidable tandem since it always seems to loom large in games down the stretch. Nick Victor’s 12 rebounds and six assists were crucial in securing victory in Boston as well. But the Bulldogs may need to get hot again at Jadwin Friday night, as their on-fire shooting against the Tigers in New Haven last month was only enough to produce a four-point squeaker win.
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.