Ivy hoops weekend takeaways – Jan. 18-19, 2019

Women’s

Brown’s offense is too potent to miss Ivy League Tournament again 

If Brown misses the Ivy League Tournament for a second straight season with as much offensive firepower as it has, it’ll really be a shame.

Brown senior guard Shayna Mehta’s career-high 37 points led the way, and the Bears’ elder Mehta has been one of the league’s standout scorers for a long time now, going back to her Ivy Rookie of the Year campaign in 2015-16.

But Mehta wasn’t alone in gouging a strong Yale defense in the Bears’ 86-71 win over the Bulldogs Friday. Seniors Erika Steeves and Taylor Will, who missed Ivy play last season due to injury, and junior Justine Gaziano combined for 43 points on 18-for-34 shooting. The Bears overwhelmed Yale inside and out, topping Yale by double digits at Pizzitola Sports Center while scoring 80-plus points for the second straight season.

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Dartmouth engineers commanding win over Harvard

Last year, there was the Legend of Flannel Night! This year, we can add the new Legend of Wings Night!!

The Harvard men arrived for their league-opening match with Dartmouth as a five-point favorite, according to KenPom. They also had former first team All-Ivy guard Bryce Aiken in uniform for the first time this season. Neither of those things mattered, in the end (and Aiken didn’t play anyway), as the Big Green used a sizzling 68 percent shooting performance to beat the Crimson, 81-63, for their first Ivy opening victory in 12 years.

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Big Green looks for big upset in Ivy opener versus Harvard

The Dartmouth men’s basketball team welcomes Harvard on Saturday night for both programs’ Ivy tip-off. The Crimson have won the last four meetings and five of the last six, including both games in 2018. On Jan. 6, Harvard beat Dartmouth 61-51 at Lavietes Pavilion, while earning a 62-57 overtime victory at Leede Arena on Jan. 20.

The Big Green, picked eighth in the Ivy media preseason poll, finished the nonconference schedule at 9-7, already the most single season wins in coach David McLaughlin’s three-year tenure and the school’s best mark since going 8-4 in the 1996-97 campaign. The team is now ranked at No. 223 by KenPom, the program’s best since 2015, and look to defend their home court against the 2018 regular season co-champs and 2019 preseason Ivy favorites.

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Absent Chris Lewis, Harvard stuns Saint Mary’s with impressive road win

Harvard took the floor on Saturday night with an immediate disadvantage: already 8.5-point underdogs on the road against the Gaels, the Crimson had arguably their three best players donning street clothes. On the far right side of their bench sat Bryce Aiken, Seth Towns, and, to the surprise of many, Chris Lewis, Harvard’s leading scorer.

After earning Ivy Rookie of the Year honors in his freshman campaign, Aiken battled knee ailments all of last year and missed an extended amount of time. When he did play, it was clear that he wasn’t at full strength. The former top-100 recruit underwent surgery this past offseason, and was expected to be healthy by the start of this year. However, Aiken has yet to see action in the 2018-19 season.

It’s been an eerily similar journey for Towns, whose breakout sophomore season earned him the 2017-18 Ivy League Men’s Player of the Year award. The lanky sharpshooter scored just under 23 points per 40 minutes last year, shooting more than 44 percent from deep. His impact on Harvard’s offense was especially noticeable late in the shot clock; when the Crimson had no open looks and the clock was nearing zero, Towns would often create shots on his own via isolation play.

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Harvard staves off UMass rally in win before trip to Rhode Island

After leading for most of the game, the Harvard Crimson were able to fight off a rally by the UMass Minutemen in Amherst Tuesday, winning by a score of 74-71. Harvard improved to 2-1, while UMass suffered its first loss and fell to 2-1. It was the first win for the Crimson at UMass of the Tommy Amaker era for Harvard.

Chris Lewis would lead the Crimson with 16 points off a strong 8-for-11 from the field. He would also have three blocks on the defensive end but miss some time in the game as he slowly crept his way into foul trouble, finishing with four fouls. Justin Bassey also found himself in foul trouble, picking up three fouls in the game’s first eight and a half minutes. Bassey posted seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Danilo Djuricic contributed 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, with 10 of those points in the first half.

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Katie Benzan and modern basketball

“She’s one of the best shooters in the country.”

This is how Kathy Delaney-Smith, who has been Harvard’s head coach since 1982, has described her star point guard in press conferences. While coaches understandably have a tendency to inflate their players, this is no exaggeration. Last season, Benzan launched 220 shots from downtown, sinking 45 percent of them. Her stroke was even more lethal in conference play, during which exactly 50 percent of her 102 threes found the net.

Benzan is symbolic of the trend that is transforming the game at all levels: in the Ivy League, in the WNBA, in the men’s leagues, and in high-school gyms, teams shoot the three-ball now more than ever. What was once perceived as a somewhat selfish play is now recognized as a staple of an effective offense.

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What should we expect from Harvard this year?

Last year’s season was a mixed bag for the Crimson. The team emerged from spotty non-conference play to dominate the Ancient Eight, going 12-2 and sharing the conference title with the Quakers. Of course, Penn would go on to defeat Harvard in the conference tournament and earn the most coveted prize: a trip to March Madness.

The Quakers undoubtedly benefited from playing the conference tourney on their home floor, a built-in advantage that executive director Robin Harris has decided is worth the trade-off of hosting the Ivy League Tournament at the largest and most historic venue that the conference has to offer. However, while Crimson fans might be apt to cry foul, there is reasonable evidence that Penn was indeed the best team in the Ivy League.

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Harvard women’s basketball welcomes two in Class of 2022

The Harvard women’s basketball team (18-11 overall, 10-4 Ivy) used a 12-0 record at the renovated Lavietes Pavilion, including a late season sweep of Penn and Princeton, to claim third place in the Ivy League. In addition to attending the Ivy Tournament for the second time, the Crimson completed the season with its 15th straight year in the league’s top three and its 14th postseason appearance.

Harvard was led by sophomore guard Katie Benzan, who was selected to the All-Ivy first team for the second time and was the only player chosen unanimously. Benzan was eighth in the conference with 13.5 points and fifth with 3.5 assists per game. Her 3.41 made threes per contest and three point shooting rate of 45.0 percent not only led the Ancient Eight, but were 12th and sixth in the nation, respectively. Jeannie Boehm, a sophomore forward, was named second-team All-Ivy after averaging 9.5 points (on 50.4 percent shooting), 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game.

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Women’s Ivy Tournament teams continue onward in postseason

For the second consecutive year, all four participants in the women’s Ivy Tournament have earned postseason bids.  Following top seeded Princeton’s championship victory over second place Penn early Sunday evening, the Tigers clinched the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and Penn claimed the conference’s automatic qualifying spot in the Women’s NIT.  On Monday night, Harvard received an at-large bid to the WNIT and Yale was selected for the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI).

The Tigers were chosen as the No. 12 seed in the Kansas City regional, where they will face No. 5 Maryland in Raleigh on Friday at noon on ESPN2 and online at ESPN3.  For Princeton, this is their ninth straight postseason appearance and seventh trip to the Big Dance.  The Quakers will be going up against Albany at the Palestra on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. on the Ivy League Network.  Penn is competing in its sixth straight postseason tournament and its second trip to the WNIT.  The Crimson will travel to the Bronx on Friday night at 7:00 pm to take on Fordham on the A-10 Network, as they make their 14th overall postseason tournament, eighth all-time WNIT showing and sixth WNIT appearance in the last seven seasons.  The Bulldogs will visit Northeastern on Thursday night at 7:00 pm on Northeastern’s NUxtreme.  This is the team’s first postseason play under third-year head coach Allison Guth, and the first of any kind since a 2011 WNIT bid.

Here is a short primer on the Ivy representatives’ opponents for this week’s action:

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The “Penn”dulum swings, and the Palestra does too: Penn defeats Harvard to clinch first NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years

Penn basketball is back to the Big Dance.

The Red & Blue ended an 11-year absence from the NCAA Tournament by coming out on top in a see-saw Ivy League Tournament final at the Palestra Sunday, besting No. 1 Harvard, 68-65.

No. 2 Penn ended the game on a 13-7 run in the final 4:49, the decisive run in a game full of ups and downs for both teams. taking a 66-60 lead into the final minute before hanging on with two final Ryan Betley free throws with 11 seconds left that upped Penn’s lead to the final score. Two would-be game-tying three-point attempts from Justin Bassey and Christian Juzang missed the mark, and a partisan Penn crowd stormed the Palestra floor:

 

Penn had held a 48-35 lead with 14:06 to play and maintained a double-digit lead with under eight minutes left, but Bassey and Juzang willed Harvard back from the foul line and the three-point line, with Chris Lewis converting inside after a 3-for-10 shooting start.

Poor shooting helped put the Quakers in a 32-21 hole with just under three minutes to go in the first half.

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