A week removed from their thrilling come-from-behind 68-64 victory over Brown in New Haven, the Yale Bulldogs will travel to Providence tomorrow for part two of this home and away against the Bears. Neither team has taken the court since last weekend, and while one could intuit that the rest has certainly benefited Brown’s point guard Sean McGonagill, who played all 40 minutes last Saturday and fueled the Bears’ impressive offensive effort, it would be foolish to think that the Bulldogs have not had more to gain from the week of practice.
Brown really pushed the Bulldogs to the edge in their first meeting. However, despite the fact that the Bears did almost everything they could have hoped for—shooting the lights out (12-23 from
downtown), containing star center Greg Mangano (15 pts, 4 rbs), and carrying a lead into the final minute of play—they still lost. The problem, moreover, is that it would be hard to imagine Brown playing Yale much better than they did at John J. Lee.
To put it bluntly, the Bears are an extremely one-dimensional basketball team, with their success primarily predicated on the ability of McGonagill to utilize high perimeter ball screens to create open looks from downtown for both himself and the other guards. When the efficacy of these screens breaks down, however, as they did towards the end of the game on Saturday (when senior Reggie Willhite shut down McGonagill defensively), the options for Brown immediately become scarce. Brown’s other guards, Stephen Albrecht and Matt Sullivan—while capable of knocking down open looks (7-14 from 3 last game combined)—proved to be much too slow, particularly against Yale’s guards, to create anything offensively. And Brown’s bigs, as they showed last week when they accounted collectively for only 13 of the team’s 64 points, offer little reprieve should the guards hit a wall. Having seen this firsthand on Saturday—and having seen the effectiveness of the high-pressure man-to-man defensive look with Willhite on McGonagill— I have to think Coach Jones used this week to focus schematically on wing rotations to limit the open looks from three. With the opportunity to focus on this for a full week, I would be very surprised to see the Bulldogs concede 60 points in this one.
On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs should feel good about the fact that they are proving to be a dynamic offensive team, one with an ability to get points from a variety of sources (Morgan had 18, Willhite had 12, Sherrod had 8 off the bench). However, they should feel even better about the fact that they scored almost 70 points in last week’s contest when their biggest weapon, star center Greg Mangano, was mostly ineffective. (Mangano’s line from last week: 15 pts, 6-13 FGM-A, 4 rebounds.) While Mangano struggled (for him), most of his looks were around the basket, and many of those misses rimmed out. It would be shocking to see Mangano miss those same bunnies two games in a row. Thus, look for him to go into beast mode tomorrow afternoon.
Simply put, this leg of the home and away should prove to be a much more comfortable win for the Bulldogs, setting them up nicely to be 2-0 and with momentum heading into their crucial game against #25 ranked Harvard in New Haven on Friday night. And as the Giants showed in Lambeau last weekend, momentum is everything. That discussion, however, is for another time.
Prediction: Yale 71, Brown 54