Keys to the games: No. 4 Penn v. No. 1 Princeton, No. 3 Yale v. No. 2 Harvard

No. 4 Penn v. No. 1 Princeton

Princeton collected 61-52 and 64-49 wins over Penn at Jadwin Gym and the Palestra respectively this season, surviving some hot second-half Red and Blue shooting in the former and shooting 14-for-29 from deep itself in the latter.

In both games, though, the Tigers’ stingy defense clamped down on Penn from inside out, holding IHO Ivy Rookie of the Year AJ Brodeur to 16 points in both games combined and harassing Penn’s backcourt.

Keys for Penn 

Get out and run.

Princeton coach Mitch Henderson admitted that it was Penn’s transition game that set the table for the Quakers’ dramatic 26-5 second-half run at Jadwin, opening up the three-point line for a Penn team full of potential sharpshooters.

Penn’s transition game was also key in its wins over Harvard and Yale, and it’s how Steve Donahue’s team wins. Henderson focused on getting his team to take away that facet of the game, and as Steven Tydings noted in his reflection on Princeton’s rout of Penn at the Palestra last month, Princeton’s defense took over in the halfcourt slog, shutting Penn out entirely during a 7:31 stretch of the first half.

Free throws

Penn lost by nine at Jadwin, and it missed nine free throws in that game, going 11-for-20. Then the Red and Blue went 6-for-12 at the Palestra against Princeton.

The Quakers are capable of better, having shot 17-for-21 in their win over Harvard Saturday night. But Penn ranks last in the conference in free throw percentage, and if Penn is able to manage to keep this game close down the stretch, Brodeur and Penn’s guards alike will have to convert at the foul line to take pressure off the rest of its offensive output.

Win man-to-man

Princeton is built to poke holes in opposing zone defenses, boasting strong passing and outside shooting throughout its roster. When Columbia went zone versus Princeton earlier in the season at Levien Gym, the Tigers, led by Devin Cannady, screened their way around the zone to put the Lions away with authority. Defensive footwork and positioning on the perimeter could very well turn this game for Penn, if Donahue’s players can just stay on their man and close out on shots.

Keys for Princeton

Just keep switching 

Penn’s ball movement has been a guiding factor throughout its 6-2 run to end the Ivy slate, but Princeton switched its way to dominance at that end of the floor at the Palestra last month, neutralizing Penn’s screens and thus their shooters. Penn was able to make a little more hay in the paint as a result, but the Tigers’ quickness and frontcourt positioning made sure Brodeur and others didn’t have a field day. Just do that again.

Get to the foul line

Princeton wants to slow this game to a crawl, and a good way to do that is getting to the free throw line early and often. The Tigers attempted 28 free throws and made 24 in Princeton’s first win over Penn, making up for their 3-for-19 performance from three-point range. Even if the Tigers are cold from long range, they can still rotate the ball and drive off the dribble enough to beat Penn from the foul line, especially since the Red and Blue are so comparatively poor at free throws.

Start strong

Princeton had to endure big Penn comebacks in two of the teams’ past three matchups, and at some point, maybe in the second half, Penn is going to go on a run that some in the Palestra crowd will certainly enjoy. If the Tigers bank a big lead, though, they’ll be better off.

No. 3 Yale v. No. 2 Harvard

Keys for Yale

Shoot the ball better

It’s pretty simple – make more threes. Yale shot 6-for-30 from deep in both losses to Harvard combined (by respective 75-67 and 77-64 scores in New Haven and Boston), compounded by the Crimson shooting the ball very well at Payne Whitney Gym last month, allowing them to pull away late. The Bulldogs’ outside shooting has faltered badly in league play, and that trend must reverse itself for Yale to win this game.

Limit turnovers

Yale committed 17 turnovers versus eight assists in its loss at Lavietes Pavilion. As our Crimson Crawford pointed out in his tournament preview, Harvard is 12-0 when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent, including 6-0 in the Ivy League.

Keep Aiken at bay 

Bryce Aiken scored 50 points in his two games against Yale and really couldn’t be stopped, shooting 10-for-18 from deep in those contests. Selling out to stop him on the perimeter is priority one on defense for Yale, and it must switch defensive personnel as much as it needs to make this happen.

Keys for Harvard

Defensive rebounding

Yale’s calling card is always offensive rebounding, and it collected 12 of those at Lavietes versus Harvard’s five. If Sam Downey keeps stringing offensive boards together, the Crimson aren’t going to win very easily, if at all.

Slow the game down

Harvard’s players are excellent at creating their own offense in the halfcourt, whenever they don’t turn the ball over. Yale, on the other hand, would benefit from making this a more uptempo game, which was how it played throughout the conference slate. Slow down and let Aiken and Towns win the contest with their superior athleticism within a settled offensive setup.

Let Chambers be Chambers 

The best thing the Crimson can do down the stretch is put the ball in senior guard Siyani Chambers’ hands, and I’m sure they will. Harvard too has struggled with turnovers throughout league play and against Yale, but Chambers has not, posting 13 assists versus just five turnovers against the Bulldogs. The offense needs to flow through him as much as possible, again, in a controlled offensive environment.


1 thought on “Keys to the games: No. 4 Penn v. No. 1 Princeton, No. 3 Yale v. No. 2 Harvard”

  1. Great first game!
    The league must be breathing a sigh of relief.

    Penn did as good a job as can be expected. They had four solid performances on offense and held two and a half (Cook, Weisz and Cannady’s shooting) of the Ivy League’s premier players in check. Unfortunately, Penn needed 5 solid performance and had to control at least 3 of the Tigers.

    Cannady’s 10-10 second half FT shooting, Bell & Stephen’s overall play, along with Goodman and Donahue’s combined 3-18 (0-10 from three) were the differences in this really close game.

    So far, the Ivy League has to be happy. Two good games to start the Tournament, including an almost packed and boisterous crowd for a high quality close game on national TV, where the #1 seed prevails.

    Bring on Harvard and Yale…….


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