What Happened Last Week: The favorites held serve at the top of the Ivy League on Friday, but Saturday was more exciting. Columbia toppled Yale in New Haven, giving the Bulldogs their second Ivy loss. Meanwhile, Harvard survived a scare from Princeton to claim first place alone.
1. I was scoreboard-watching Yale-Columbia from Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday evening, and for much of the second half, it seemed like the blue side was broken. The Lions were stuck on 42 points for seven minutes, then on 44 for five more, spanning more than a half-hour of real time in all. Columbia actually got good looks early in that stretch, missing more than its share of layups and open threes, and the slow pace (exacerbated by fouls and offensive rebounds) made the drought feel more extreme.
But thanks to its hot start, Columbia started that span up 42-26 — and thanks to strong defense, it ended it with a three-point lead. The Lions caught the lucky end of Yale’s cold shooting spell (including a combined 3-15 from Jack Montague and Javier Duren behind the arc), but they also kept the Bulldogs away from the free-throw line and offensive glass, holding the league’s best offense to .86 points per possession. With his garbage points limited, Justin Sears managed only seven points on 3-8 shooting (after scoring 28 in the first meeting).
2. Maodo Lo scored 35 points at Brown on Friday night, the highest output for an Ivy League player in D-I competition since Sean McGonagill dropped 39 four years ago (also in a Columbia-Brown game). This wasn’t a typical Lo performance, however — he got his first 18 points without the aid of a three-pointer. Lo got to the rim with backdoor cuts, transition breakaways and simple drives.
Though Lo added a couple highlight-reel treys off the dribble, a majority of his points came in the paint:
Including Wesley Saunders’ 33-point outing two weeks ago, the two highest-scoring Ivy performances this season have both come from visitors at the Pizzitola Center. This isn’t the same Brown defense that ranked in the top 100 nationally last season.
3. While all eyes were on Allston and New Haven on Saturday, Brown earned a nice comeback victory over Cornell. The Bears trailed by as many as 17 points in the second period and led for only one second after halftime, but it was the right second. Cedric Kuakumensah blocked a seemingly wide-open putback by Darryl Smith with 20 seconds left; then, with the clock winding down on a broken play, he took Shonn Miller off the dribble from 35 feet and tossed up an awkward floater that bounced five times on the rim before falling for a 57-56 victory.
Kuakumensah’s shot negated a 27-point performance by Shonn Miller and ended a rough weekend for Cornell, which was swept while playing without Robert Hatter.
Player of the Week: Maodo Lo, Columbia — As if his 35-point game wasn’t enough, Lo followed with 18 points in Saturday’s upset at Yale. The star guard wasn’t just a pure scorer this weekend, either; he totaled eight assists, 11 rebounds and four steals across two games. Lo hasn’t historically been a very threatening passer, but he’s averaged 3.6 assists over his last seven games (a jump from 2.0 before that span, making opponents pay for double-teams.
Rookie of the Week: Miles Wright, Dartmouth — Wright keyed Dartmouth’s early run in an eventual loss to Princeton, scoring 16 points on nine shooting possessions with two steals. He was quiet in a victory over Penn the following night, but he’s still averaging 15.7 ppg and 2.2 thefts over the past three weekends.
The Week Ahead: Harvard makes its last Ivy road trip, including a Saturday visit to Columbia, which owes Yale a favor and is seeking revenge of its own. The Bulldogs host Princeton and Penn, needing to at least keep pace with the Crimson heading into next week’s showdown.
- Harvard (9-1) — Steve Moundou-Missi’s role in Harvard’s offense has fluctuated throughout the season, but he’s now scored in double digits in four straight games. He was key in the Crimson’s comeback Saturday, with 10 of his 12 points coming after halftime.
- Yale (8-2) — Yale shot just 10-42 from three-point range this weekend, representing an ill-timed dose of bad luck — but some regression was perhaps overdue, as almost every Bulldog entered the weekend shooting better from outside than they did last year.
- Columbia (5-5) — Before leaving the game with an ankle injury, Steve Frankoski scored six points in the first three minutes, helping the Bulldogs build an early lead against Yale. The senior, who wedged his way into the starting lineup this weekend, has been one of the Ivy League’s most efficient shooters, and his absence would be a blow for the Lions down the stretch.
- Princeton (5-4) — Hans Brase is a strange player to evaluate, because he’s valuable in ways that aren’t easy to spot — above-average passing for a big man, floor spacing on offense, and defensive rebounding. The Tigers wouldn’t have been in Saturday’s game late without Brase’s 14 rebounds, nearly half his team’s total. Brase alone has grabbed 24% of available defensive rebounds this season, second only to Shonn Miller in the Ivy League.
- Cornell (4-6) — The Big Red totaled only five assists in Friday’s 62-51 loss at Yale. Cornell’s offense has struggled this year, currently ranking 306th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency, and a lack of ball movement is the biggest reason why. Only 49% of the Big Red’s field goals this season have been assisted, last in the Ivy League. Devin Cherry and Galal Cancer are willing passers off the dribble, but of their teammates, only Shonn Miller has an assist rate of even 10% — and all three will graduate this year.
- Dartmouth (3-7) — After scoring double figures in each of Dartmouth’s first 12 games this season, Alex Mitola’s production has dropped off somewhat in Ivy play. But he looked like his old self against Penn on Saturday, dropping 18 points and making four of five treys in a 67-62 win.
- Brown (3-7) — Before his game-winning shot against Cornell, Cedric Kuakumensah already had a busy weekend. He scored 20 points against Columbia and added 11 points and five blocks against the Big Red. With eight total swats this weekend, Kuakumensah moved into second place on the all-time Ivy leaderboard with 230 for his career — and he still has a full season to catch Dartmouth’s Brian Gilpin, who holds the record at 252.
- Penn (2-7) — This week’s Penn Efficiency Margin Watch: Thanks to a 69-46 blowout at Harvard, the Quakers’ net margin fell to -0.23 points per possession in Ivy play, which would match 2010 Dartmouth for the worst mark of the last decade. Penn should hope to make up ground at Brown on Friday, because a possibly angry Yale awaits the following night.