The biggest story of the off-season was Miye Oni being selected in June’s NBA Draft. The Yale junior and reigning Ivy Player of the Year decided to leave school early and leave his name in the draft. Despite falling to the late second round, a perilous spot to making an NBA roster, Oni impressed in the Summer League and earned a guaranteed contract with the Utah Jazz. He is playing just as well in the pre-season and looks to be a real steal for the Jazz.
Although Penn Athletics released the men’s basketball home schedule on August 14, the complete slate was announced Wednesday, three weeks later. While the schedule is light on home games, coach Steve Donahue has crafted a strong 13 game nonconference schedule that will see the Quakers facing three Top-35 teams and anywhere from four to six top-90 squads.
- Princeton Bella Alarie and the rest of her USA teammates earned the silver medal at the recent Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The U.S. went 4-1 overall but lost the finals to Brazil, 79-73. This is the second silver medal for the two-time Ivy Player of the Year, as she was a member of the U-19 FIBA World Cup team in the summer of 2017.
Alarie finished the tournament averaging 6.6 points, 21.4 minutes and 5.6 rebounds a game. Her four total blocks and eight steals led the team. She shot 50% from two (15-for-30) and the free throw line (3-for-6), but missed all three attempts from beyond the arc. After losing a 62-59 heartbreaker to the U.S. in the semifinals, Puerto Rico bounced back to defeat Columbia, 66-55, in the third-place game.
Alarie wasn’t the only Ivy Leaguer to take part in the tournament. Recent Dartmouth grad Isalys Quinones played for bronze medalist Puerto Rico. Quinones, a second team All-Ivy forward in 2019, started four of the team’s five games and averaged 7.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 22.4 minutes per contest.
- In other Pan American Games action, Brown head coach Mike Martin helped lead the USA men’s team to a bronze medal after a 92-83 victory over the Dominican Republic on August 4.
Another week full of Ivy news, with none bigger than Courtney Banghart’s move from Princeton to North Carolina. The former Big Green All-Ivy guard and Tigers head coach signed a five-year contract to take over a Tar Heels program that needs a new start. Per Jeff Gravely of WRAL in Raleigh, Banghart’s contract starts at $650,000 in 2019-2020 and increases to $730,000 in 2024-2025. Athletic and academic bonuses are included that can increase the yearly salary by $10,000 to $470,000.
Harvard men’s basketball post-season banquet:
MVP – Bryce Aiken; Defensive Player of the Year – Justin Bassey
2019-2020 Captains – Seth Towns and Henry Welsh
Harvard women’s basketball post-season banquet:
Co-MVP – Katie Benzan and Madeline Raster; Defensive Player of the Year – Nani Redford; Most Improved Player – Rachel Levy
Brown women’s basketball post-season banquet:
MVP – Shayna Mehta; Most Improved Player – Haley Green
Princeton women’s basketball names Bella Alarie and Taylor Baur co-captains for the 2019-2020 season. Coach Courtney Banghart discussed the two athletes, as well as their goals of another Ivy title and a Sweet 16 run, in the season-ending episode of The Court Report.
Yale coach James Jones just missed out on the St. John’s coaching job, but he did win the 2019 Ben Jobe Award, given by CollegeInsider.com to the top minority coach in Division I basketball.
Penn senior Princess Aghayere was named one of six recipients of the President’s Engagement Prize by university President Amy Gutmann. Awarded annually, the Prizes empower Penn students to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world. Each Prize-winning project will receive $100,000, as well as a $50,000 living stipend per team member. Student recipients will spend the next year implementing their projects.
Aghayere was chosen for her work with Rebound Liberia, which uses basketball as a tool to bridge the literacy gap between men and women and as a mechanism for youth to cope with the trauma and stress of daily life in post-conflict Liberia.
Tommy Amaker summed things up simply when he stepped into today’s postgame press conference: “We had to do everything we could to make winning plays to win the game.”
But they did.
Harvard took Penn’s best punches in each of the two halves but proved to be too strong and too deep for a Quakers team that has been depleted by injuries all season long. Bryce Aiken, a two-time first-team All-Ivy guard, epitomized this for the Crimson as he scored 17 of his team-high 19 points in the last eight minutes of each half.
The game started out well for Penn, which used a 7-0 run to jump out to a 14-4 lead at the 13:21 mark of the first half. Harvard chipped away and eventually took its first lead of the game, 31-28, after a Noah Kirkwood three with 3:56 left in the first half. The Crimson held on and went to the locker room, up 36-34.
MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, N.Y. – “I thought it was a heck of a college basketball game,” announced Penn head coach Steve Donahue as he walked into the postgame press conference following his team’s 72-70 victory over Columbia. “I thought the level of execution, in the second half in particular, was amazing.”
Penn held on despite red-hot shooting from Columbia in the second half, collecting its first win in Ivy play after Gabe Stefanini’s would-be game-tying shot for the Lions missed the mark just before the buzzer.
For the uninitiated, I can tell you the Big 5 is a Big Deal. The Philly City Series is as important and frequently more difficult to capture than the Ivy Crown. The teams are generally better, the crowds are bigger and the games are significantly fewer. Villanova has owned the Big 5 for more than a decade, and rightfully so. To play the national champions every year is no easy feat for anyone. Since Penn’s last title in 2002, St. Joseph’s has been ranked number one in the nation, and the John Chaney-Fran Dunphy Temple Owls as well as La Salle are almost always solid squads from deep conferences.
So when Penn, coming off a four-game losing streak, faced Temple (14-3 and coming off a four-game winning streak) Saturday, a lot was on the line. In my opinion, it was a masterful performance by the Quakers. I would argue that it was even better than the Villanova win. Of course, Penn was still without last year’s leading scorer, Ryan Betley. Max Rothschild played only a few token minutes, Michael Wang does not appear to have fully regained his soft shooting stroke and the Quakers were playing away from home, before a full house, on national television. Still, Steve Donahue’s squad maintained complete control of the game. Their four-game hiatus from victory looked like a thing of the past. (I consider the losses to Princeton just a low point in a season where low points inevitability happen.)
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Red and Blue. After a euphoric start to the season with wins over New Mexico, Miami and, of course, the reigning national champions, the Quakers then had a bit of downturn, losing in blowout fashion to Toledo and enduring an embarrassing defeat to the heretofore winless Monmouth Hawks. Naturally, the last two losses can be explained as starters freshman Michael Wang and senior Max Rothschild were both out due to injury. Injuries are indeed part of the sport (just ask Harvard), and losing two productive members of the frontcourt rendered this Penn team substantially smaller and guard-heavy. (Oh, did I also mention that Penn had already lost its leading scorer from last year as well?) Although “super-stud” AJ Brodeur did his best, it hard for any team to win in this fashion.
Question: How many Ivy League hoops squads could lose their leading scorer from the preceding year in the first five minutes of a nascent season and still go on to beat KenPom No. 44 Miami as well as the AP No. 17 defending national champions, all the while compiling an overall 9-2 record?
Answer: None — except Penn.
The fact that the Quakers have been so successful so far this season appears to be less a factor of overall talent (which is substantial nonetheless), and more of a function of overall depth and system.
Nowhere were these latter two qualities on full display than on Tuesday night before a packed house when the Quakers knocked off Villanova, thus ending the Wildcats’ 25 game Big 5 winning streak as well as their painful 16-year reign over Penn.
Before the season started, I wrote for IHO, “Clearly, the marquee game will be against the Wildcats. I can tell you from experience, anything can happen in a Big 5 game. I just hope it happens this year.”
And it did.