Thoughts on Ivy League openers – men’s basketball

Harvard 61 vs Dartmouth 51

An ugly win is still a win. Harvard fans can take comfort in that fact after the Crimson’s home win over the Big Green, a game that was very much up for grabs until Harvard pulled away with 4-for-4 three-point shooting in a 3:54 span late in the game during which Dartmouth was held scoreless, turning a 45-45 tie into a 54-45 cushion. Harvard notched the win despite Bryce Aiken missing nearly the entire game in a brief return from injury after missing the last four games with a knee injury. Harvard committed 19 turnovers, not a particularly good sign. But the Crimson were led by a career-high 12 points from Christian Juzang and 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting from Seth Towns. Harvard entered the game as one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country but lit Dartmouth up from deep, going 12-for-25 (48 percent), easily besting Dartmouth’s paltry 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) clip.

Miles Wright showed what he can do with a 23-point, seven-rebound, three-steal performance, accounting for eight of Dartmouth’s 17 field goals himself. But Wright simply didn’t have enough help on offense to push the Big Green to victory. Dartmouth will have to shoot the ball much better to have any shot of toppling Harvard at Leede Arena on January 20.

Penn 76 vs Princeton 70 

It had been 1,456 days since Penn had last beaten Princeton on Jan. 11, 2014. Jerome Allen was still Penn’s coach then, and what followed that Red and Blue win were eight straight losses to Princeton, including two overtime defeats (one in last year’s inaugural Ivy League Tournament game) and an additional 72-71 heartbreaker at Jadwin Gym to end Steve Donahue’s first season at Penn in 2016.

So Penn’s victory Saturday was long overdue and memorably satisfying for Red and Blue fans, even more so because Princeton looked poised to take over down the stretch at the Palestra yet again, trimming what was a 62-53 Penn lead with 6:22 to go down to a 70-68 advantage for the home team with 1:37 left.

But unlike in last year’s Ivy tourney classic, Penn cashed in at the foul line during crunchtime, with Darnell Foreman making a pair of free throws and AJ Brodeur making a tough jump hook with 29 seconds remaining to help seal the deal. Antonio Woods inserted himself back into the Penn-Princeton rivalry after a two-season absence from it with aggressive play on offense in the second half, scoring eight of his 13 points in the final 7:30. Of AJ Brodeur’s 12 points, 10 came in the second stanza, including seven in the final 6:50.

Matched up defensively against Myles Stephens, Max Rothschild more than held his own, limiting Stephens to just two first-half points and a quiet afternoon overall while adding 10 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Ryan Betley continued to establish himself as a first-team All-Ivy talent, scoring 19 of his 21 points in the first half while playing all 40 minutes, the fifth time this season Betley has notched at least 20 points in a game.

Joining Betley in the 40-minute club were Amir Bell and Devin Cannady, the latter doing so for the sixth time this season. Cannady posted 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting, keeping Princeton in the game throughout along with frequent contributions from Bell (12 points, three rebounds, two blocks) freshman Sebastian Much (11 points, three rebounds) and Stephens (10 points, seven rebounds). Rookie Jerome Desrosiers added eight points and seven boards.

As usual, the Tigers didn’t get a whole lot outside of those five, but that quintet is all they need. After the game, Cannady told the Trentonian that he thought the loss was actually good for Princeton, serving as a wake-up call for a program that had won 16 straight Ivy games. He may very well be right.

Still, Penn’s ball rotation, three-point shooting, interior defense bested Princeton in those areas head-to-head. At this earliest of points in Ivy play, Penn can and should be considered the conference’s best team.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Ivy League openers – men’s basketball”

  1. Not too much to add to this recap from the Tiger perspective. Betley had an other-worldly first half making everything from everywhere. You knew he would draw significant attention in the second and he did as Amir Bell held him without a shot.(His one make came against Schwieger on a switch.) The Quakers had lots of other options, however, upping their scoring after the break to 40 from 36. Excellent job by SD and the whole team. Everyone now realizes, if there had been any doubt, that you will need to beat Penn in The Palestra to get to the NCAA Tourney.

  2. I was curious to see how Princeton would respond to a long layoff after the terrific road trip out West. Not surprisingly, the Tigers looked rusty, especially in the first half. In fact, the first half on Saturday looked a lot like Princeton’s woeful performance earlier in the season against Lehigh. In both games, Princeton dug a deep hole that ultimately they could not climb out of. I continue to believe that this team will rise or fall depending on how well the defense plays. Penn shot better than 50% against the Tigers’ defense, out-assisted Princeton, and out-rebounded Princeton for the game (decisively in the all-important first half when Princeton dug itself into a deep hole). A key offensive rebound by Penn late in the game led to a put back and helped Penn stymie Princeton’s rally. These are the symptoms that cost Princeton several games early in the season. Princeton played tenacious defense on the West Coast road trip, which sparked the offense and led to a string of victories. If Princeton has hopes of winning another Ivy title, they will need to rediscover the tenacious effort on defense that we saw in California and Hawaii; otherwise, we’ll see more results like Saturday’s disappointing loss. Two more tidbits from a completely biased Princeton perspective: First, I thought the officiating was quite uneven (although I recognize that a good team needs to play through such adversity). They refs called a very tight game, especially on the perimeter. This hurt Princeton early when Myles Stephens picked up his second foul early in the game and had to go to the bench for a key stretch in the first half. When he returned, he had to be very careful not to pick up a third foul. But the refs did not reciprocate when Princeton’s playmakers (Canady, Stephens, Bell) drove to the hoop, which they tried to do early and often. I saw several hacks that were not called and I couldn’t understand why. I felt this made a difference in the game and played a role in Stephens not taking over the game as he often does. Second, I thought the color commentator on the Ivy League Digital Network broadcast was very Penn-centric in her commentary. Not a big deal but annoying nevertheless to this very pro-Princeton viewer.


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