Despite a season-opening loss to Holy Cross, Harvard is still the three-time defending Ivy League champions and will be heavy favorites to make it four once Ivy play commences in six weeks. But Yale – which won at Lavietes Pavilion last season – fancies itself as the No. 1 contender, and although it will have to wait a while for a shot at the title belt, they sent another message with an 82-60 dismantling of a decent Lafayette team Wednesday night at Lee Amphitheater. It was the Bulldogs’ fifth straight win after losing their opener to Quinnipiac in double overtime, but to make it six, they’ll have to win at red-hot Providence, who bludgeoned Florida St. into submission and beat Notre Dame last week.
Meanwhile, Lafayette (3-2) has shown it has the offense to be a Patriot League contender, but were manhandled by a more athletic and stronger Yale team to the tune of a 47-20 rebounding advantage in a game that the Leopards never led and trailed by 23 at the half. Lafayette battled much harder in the second half to the point where the game even got chippy, but never got within 15. After going 2-1 in the Ivy League portion of their schedule (beating Princeton and Penn), the Leopards’ next three games are against the NEC (FDU, Wagner, Sacred Heart)
Here are my thoughts:
- Yale can matchup with almost anyone athletically – Justin Sears will be slightly undersized against BCS teams at 6-foot-8, but a lineup of Sears, Javier Duren, Armani Cotton, Matt Townsend, and Jack Montague can keep up with Harvard, and should be able to dominate other Ivys in that respect (although Cornell – of all teams – has looked very athletic in the earlygoing). And when they hit shots like they did Wednesday night, look out. Cotton (a career .313 shooter from behind the arc) hit his first three attempts. Montague’s 2-for-6 performance from three-point range DROPPED to 63.3%. Cotton finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds and Sears cruised to a 17 and 9 night without ever having to go into top gear. “For me personally, the first game was an absolute wake-up call,” Cotton said. “You forget how much effort goes into winning a Division I basketball game. Quinnipiac woke us up on how hard we have to play to win, so it was probably good for us.”
- But there’s still work to do – Even Fran O’Hanlon admitted some of the 13 turnovers Yale committed in the second half could be chalked up to complacency because of a massive lead, but that has shown up occasionally in the past couple of seasons for Yale, taking bad shots and unforced turnovers. Sears now has 17 turnovers in five games and Duren isn’t too far behind with 15, numbers that Jones would like to see lower, especially Friday against Providence. “We play Providence, then we play Hartford, who’s 4-1 and will be 5-1 coming here. Then we have Bryant, who beat us last year, then UConn and Florida,” Jones said. “So we have a real tough stretch of basketball coming up. What’s good is that we can’t overlook anybody because our kids know every one of those teams can beat us, but it’s going to be a tough stretch.”
- Lafayette is better than they showed Wednesday – The rebounding margin being -27 while be slightly concerning, but more troubling was the 1.49 points per possession Lafayette allowed in the first half. The Leopards were 337th (of 351) in ppp allowed (1.12) on their way to a disappointing 11-20 campaign a year ago, and just – as they did last season – failed to offer much resistance. It was better in the second half, and O’Hanlon got good minutes out of people like Monty Boykins, who scored eight points in 13 minutes. But O’Hanlon knows what happened in the first half wasn’t acceptable, even if Yale is a good team who played well. “You hope with a veteran group that when they start to go on a run like they were on that someone steps up and stops the bleeding, and we didn’t do that,” O’Hanlon said. “I was happy in the second half that we responded and kept playing, it didn’t matter much on the scoreboard, but we won the second half. I thought some of the guys that came off the bench did a good job bringing energy. I hope we’re not as bad as we showed tonight. I don’t think we are.”