Brown Rolls Yale 73-56

The Bears looked sharp on Saturday at the Pizzitola, hammering Yale 73-56 and moving to 1-1.
The Bears looked sharp on Saturday at the Pizzitola, hammering Yale 73-56 and moving to 1-1.

Last weekend’s Pizzitola Center reversal closed the book on yet another Yale-Brown split, the sixth in nine straight years of Bulldog-Bear back-to-back conference openers. The main man responsible for turning the previous week’s result around for the Bears: the unstoppable Sean McGonagill whose hot hand (29 points on 8-11 FG, 7-9 3PT) singlehandedly stopped a late Yale run and iced the game for Bruno. In what might have been their most complete effort of the year, the home team looked organized, prepared, and sharp– assisting on 19 of 27 field goals, including five impressive dimes from big man Rafael Maia.

The offense functioned exactly the way Brown fans had hoped it would entering this season with freshman Tavon Blackmon doing a solid job handling duties at the point (7 assists), while McGonagill was allowed to focus on pouring in shots from every corner of the floor. Dockery Walker provided an energetic spark off the bench with 10 points on 5-6 shooting, and Steve Spieth was all over the court with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.

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Checking in on…Brown

The Bears, despite their youth, have looked great so far this season. Will their soft non-conference schedule come back to bite them?
The Bears, despite their youth, have looked great so far this season. Will their soft non-conference schedule come back to bite them?

Today’s Ivy League update by our friends over at Big Apple Buckets inspired me to sit down and reflect on what’s been a very eventful, and ultimately positive beginning to the season for the Brown Bears. A few weeks ago, we knew that the fate of this team would depend largely on how game-ready the six freshmen would be.

The good news: The Bears have passed the eye-test. They have a balanced team with a very strong frontcourt and a star scorer in McGonagill who has been an offensive wizard thus far. Sporting an obscene offensive efficiency rating of 126.2, Professor McGonagill is clearly benefitting from the move to the 2, though he continues to bring the ball up the court quite often. Kuakumensah is back to his Defensive Player of the Year award-winning ways, pulling down rebounds and blocking shots at an elite national level. Foul trouble has plagued the sophomore too often though, and his minutes have suffered as a result. Rafael Maia continues his assault on the offensive glass, pulling in 18% of possible offensive rebounds. Most importantly, the freshmen are clearly talented and will only get better (though Norman Hobbie’s shooting will certainly regress a bit). The Bears have won three in a row on the road and they were an inch from beating Providence for a second straight year.

Read moreChecking in on…Brown

Season Preview: Brown Bears

A dominant frontcourt and an all-league guard will lead the Bears into battle in 2013-14. Does Brown have the talent at the other two positions to compete this season?
A dominant frontcourt and an all-league guard will lead the Bears into battle in 2013-14. Does Brown have the talent at the other two positions to compete this season?
In 2012-13: 7-7, 13-15, 4th place, No Postseason.

A Look Back

In Coach Martin’s first season at the helm, the Bears overcame an unthinkable number of obstacles, playing at times with just seven healthy players, to finish top half for the first time since 2007-08. A dangerous and talented team when everyone was healthy (it was quite a rare occurrence), Brown seemed on the verge of something great in 2012-13. A thrilling final-minute comeback against crosstown rival Providence pushed the Bears to new heights as Tucker Halpern’s eighth three pointer splashed through the nylon in the final seconds, sending the Pizzatola Center into delirium and shock. They followed that up with a quality overtime victory over eventual MAAC champions, Niagara.

Once Ivy play came though, the short roster started to take its toll. Four of the Bears’ seven conference losses were in overtime or by one possession. Still, the players lifted one another up when someone had an off-night.

Against Columbia at the Pitz, Sean McGonagill, Stephen Albrecht, and Halpern combined to go 1-15 from the field for four total points, yet the Bears managed to eek out a win on the backs of Matt Sullivan (27 points, 5 steals) and Cedric Kuakumensah (19 points, 7 rebounds). Other nights, it was McGonagill carrying the load, like on Senior Night when the Bears pounded Princeton to clinch 4th place behind 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists from the sophomore point guard. Albrecht pitched in with 17 points and 5 rebounds despite a chronic back injury. It was perhaps the gutsiest .500 season in recent Ivy history.

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Sunday Thoughts

A young, quick Penn squad was too much to handle for Harvard as the Crimson fell a game back in the loss column and handed Princeton control of the Ivy title chase with one weekend to play.
A young, quick Penn squad was too much to handle for Harvard, as the Crimson fell a game back in the loss column and handed Princeton control of the Ivy title chase with one weekend to play.

Chaos reigns yet again in the Ivy League. At one point on Saturday night, Dartmouth and Penn led Princeton and Harvard by healthy margins. Princeton would fight back to win, 68-63 on Senior Night, moving to 9-2 in the conference. Harvard, on the other hand, was unable to dig itself out of a 16 point hole, and fell a game behind Princeton in the loss column when Christian Webster”s desperation three at the buzzer fell short. Meanwhile, Brown completed a surprising road sweep of the C”s when Tucker Halpern”s step back three at the buzzer splashed through the net to spoil Senior Night at a stunned Levien Gymnasium. In Ithaca, Yale”s victory over undermanned Cornell was the only ho-hum result of the night.

  • Tony Hicks is making a serious late push for Rookie of the Year. The award seemed completely wrapped up for Siyani Chambers a few weeks ago, but Hicks is averaging 23.8 ppg in his last four games, including 24 points in Saturday”s victory vs. Harvard. Hicks convincingly outplayed Chambers, who struggled to a 1-5 shooting, 7 turnover performance. Fellow freshman Darien Nelson-Henry was the other half of this superfrosh tandem, as the big man took advantage of Harvard”s size disadvantage, going for 18 points and 11 rebounds. Henry Brooks and Miles Cartwright also pitched in with 12 a piece for the Quakers, who had one of the wildest

    up and down weekends imaginable, falling at home to Dartmouth before outplaying league-leading Harvard for the unconventional split.

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Wow.

Brown Ivy Logo
Down goes Providence!
Down goes Providence!

When asked about Brown”s chances of winning during pre-game warm-ups, this was a night in which I honestly said, “There is a better chance of me shitting gold tonight. I”m just hoping they can score 50.” And then later, with 1:32 remaining and a 67-60 Friars lead, “Great effort tonight, but one day, they have to figure out how to win one of these.” Then something miraculous happened.

Well, several miraculous things in succession actually. The Bears threw away an inbounds pass and Providence took over, up 7 with less than 90 seconds to go. Brown, as they did so many times on this night, dug in and forced a tough shot that missed. Rafael Maia, one of Brown”s two frontcourt rookies, grabbed his 11th rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. The ball found its way to Tucker Halpern who ripped a pass across the court to Sean McGonagill who nailed a three to cut the deficit to 4. Had to have that one.

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The Shallow Bears

Brown
Brown”s lack of depth is sure to catch up with an otherwise intriguing squad under the new direction of Mike Martin.

The opposite of deep is shallow, so understand that I am not suggesting that the gentlemen in Providence are materialistic, dull or anything of that ilk when I call this year”s version of the Brown Bears, the Shallow Bears. But rarely in college basketball have we seen the kind of bad luck that has resulted in Brown only carrying 9 active players on its roster this season. In contrast, here are the roster sizes around the league:

  • Harvard: 13 players
  • Dartmouth: 15 players
  • Penn: 15 players
  • Princeton:

    15 players

  • Yale: 15 players
  • Columbia: 18 players
  • Cornell: 20 players

So Brown, thanks to many, many injuries, is playing with about 40% fewer players than the average Ivy team. In another league, the Bears might be able to get away with this if they were lucky enough to stay healthy. But with the punishing back-to-back contests of the Ancient 8, a deep bench that can spell your starters for 15 minutes on Saturday night is a near-necessity.

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Season Preview: Brown Bears

Several question marks surround this Bears team in Mike Martin”s first year at the helm in Providence.

In 2011-12: 8-23, 2-12, 7th place

A Look Back:

At the start of last season, the Bears had plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Point guard Sean McGonagill was coming off a freshman season in which he was named Rookie of the Year, ranking 4th in the league with 5.4 assists per game and showing he could really fill up the stat sheet with a 39-point explosion against Columbia. Forward Tucker Halpern was primed for a breakout year, having earned an All-Ivy honorable mention as a sophomore after averaging around 12 and 5. McGonagill and Halpern were

also set to receive help in the middle from highly-touted 6-9 Brazilian newcomer Rafael Maia, who was expected to provide a much-needed defensive presence in the middle, as well as some scoring on the block.

Before the season even began, though, Brown caught some horrible breaks: Halpern went down with an illness that would keep him out all year, and Maia was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. With a decimated frontcourt, the Bears had to rely largely on McGonagill, combo guard Matt Sullivan, and sharpshooter Stephen Albrecht, a Toledo transfer, to carry the load offensively. The forward trio of Andrew McCarthy, Tyler Ponticelli, and Dockery Walker all had good stretches at times, but they couldn’t make up for the losses of Halpern and Maia, and Brown finished in second-to-last place in the Ivy League.

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Season Preview: Brown Bears

Co-captain Tucker Halpern will try to instill some consistency to a talented team that struggled to put together back-to-back forty minute efforts last season. (Photo Credit: brownbears.com)

The Brown basketball team showed last year that it was talented enough to beat anyone in the league when it knocked off tournament-bound Princeton and held double-digit leads twice against co-champion Harvard. Harnessing that talent and executing a game plan for a full forty minutes is the next step for a young Bears squad that looks to leap into the top half this season. Brown is a dangerous offensive team with proven weapons in the backcourt and on the wing, not to mention the help arriving on the interior. Last year though, the Bears struggled on the defensive end, ranking last in the league in adjusted defensive efficiency, giving up 1.09 points per possession (adjusted for opponent). On several occasions, the Bears failed to generate stops in key situations, including a 46-point half surrendered to Harvard in a head-scratching game at Lavietes. This season, the Bears will look to buckle down and get serious about defending their bucket.

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