What Happened Last Week: Columbia and Yale led most of their games at Northwestern and SMU, respectively, but couldn’t pull off upsets. Several teams forgot how to shoot free throws this weekend. Lehigh never wants to see the Ivy League again after being dominated by the Lions and Bulldogs. Penn improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1981, then went to Washington, and oh, the humanity.
1. Yale is the team to beat in the Ivy League. After easily taking care of Fairfield and Sacred Heart, the Bulldogs beat preseason Patriot League favorite Lehigh by a dozen points on the road, dominating the Mountain Hawks on the glass. But they made their biggest statement Sunday, leading SMU — currently the first team out of the AP Top 25 — by as many as 10 points in the second half before falling 71-69.
The unquestioned star was Makai Mason, who is already playing at an All-Ivy level after four games as a starting point guard. The sophomore had a game-high 24 points and seven assists while being his pesky self, such as his steal of a sleeping Nic Moore in the backcourt, which led to a flagrant foul. The Bulldogs’ offense struggled down the stretch — not least from the foul line, where they shot 14-24 — but they’ll have more shots at quality wins, visiting Duke, Illinois and USC in the coming weeks.
2. Because Columbia shoots a lot of three-pointers, and because its defense isn’t great, it really needs to make outside shots to be competitive with good teams. Monday’s game at Kansas State proved that point: The Lions did a lot of things well, shooting 14-for-20 in the paint and drawing lots of fouls. But they still lost by double digits, because they allowed 1.17 points per possession and shot 5-24 from beyond the arc:
Four days later, they made seven of their first 11 triples, and as such had a real chance to win, never trailing in regulation. But Northwestern scored on three straight possessions to erase a six-point deficit down the stretch, then won in overtime behind a total of 1.22 ppp.
Columbia finally played a complete game on Sunday, torching Lehigh with 55% shooting beyond the arc while holding the visitors under a point per possession in an 88-61 rout. Columbia needs to keep playing strong defense to take the pressure off its shooters — or keep making buckets of threes.
This week’s revelation was Luke Petrasek, who forced his way into the starting lineup with 47 points and 24 rebounds in three games. Each of those contests featured one highlight-reel dunk, such as this flush from Sunday:
3. Princeton held off St. Peter’s in a throwback game at Dillon Gym, the Tigers’ home before they relocated to Jadwin in 1969. The hosts wore special orange jerseys, but they didn’t go all the way and bring back the short shorts, which is lame.
Coach Mitch Henderson brought the fashion, though, patrolling the sidelines in a Princeton Reunions blazer, borrowed from the Class of 1983. (Henderson, a 1998 graduate, still has to wait eight years for a blazer of his own.)
Henry Caruso took over in the second half for a game-high 23 points — needing only one night to more or less match my scoring total over four years of pickup games in Dillon. (In my defense, we counted by ones and twos.)
Player of the Week: Justin Sears, Yale — In a win at Lehigh, Sears tallied 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and eight blocks — a line unmatched by a D-I player since at least 2010-11. And Sears didn’t rack up those stats against a patsy; the Mountain Hawks’ frontcourt included reigning Patriot League POY Tim Kempton, who had four shots of his own blocked by the Bulldogs’ senior. Sears sandwiched that unique effort with 27 points against Sacred Heart (23 of which came before halftime) and 15 at SMU.
Rookie of the Week: Matt Morgan, Cornell — Morgan, a 6-3 guard from North Carolina, has been the leading scorer in three of Cornell’s four games to date. He averaged 17.3 points per game in three contests this week, adding a sharpshooting threat to the Big Red offense — especially in a 76-59 win over Binghamton, in which he shot 5-8 from three-point range and finished with 24 points. With a featured role in Cornell’s frenetic system, Morgan should put up counting statistics that will keep him in the Rookie of the Year race all year.
The Week Ahead: Yale (at Duke), Cornell (at Pittsburgh), and Brown (at SMU) play high-profile games, though none is likely to earn the Ivy League’s first win over a power-conference team this season. Columbia hosts an intriguing mid-major for the second straight game, playing Wofford Tuesday. Most games are scheduled for Wednesday and Sunday, including Penn’s first Big 5 game of the Steve Donahue era, against La Salle.
- Yale — Makai Mason scored 21 points against Sacred Heart, but he was outdueled on the scoreboard by Pioneers guard Cane Broome, who had 32. Mason and Broome played AAU ball together, leading Yale coach James Jones to feel sorry for their former teammates:
- Columbia — Kyle Smith is one of the league’s most creative coaches, and he showed why at the end of Friday’s game. Needing a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds left, Smith draws what looks like a traditional double-screen, with one decoy, for top shooter Maodo Lo … until Lo turns and flips the ball to Alex Rosenberg, who gets a back screen at the top of the key. If Lo wasn’t blocked from throwing directly to the top of the key, Rosenberg would have had an easier catch and a decent look at the tying shot. (Video via ESPN3)
- Princeton — The Princeton Offense is known for pinpoint passes setting up easy shots — which is why the actual Princeton offense of the past 11 months has been disorienting to watch. Sacrilegiously, the Tigers had a below-average assist rate in Ivy play last year, but they led the league in free-throw rate. They were up to the same tricks on Saturday: Only nine of their 25 baskets were assisted, and they took a whopping 38 free throws, many earned on tough one-on-one drives.
- Harvard — Boston College coach Jim Christian had high praise for Zena Edosomwan after the Eagles’ 69-56 win Sunday. “I think that guy’s the most improved player in the country,” Christian said. “He played three minutes against us last year, and I think he traveled twice … [Now] he’s quick, he’s athletic, he knows how to post. He’ll become a better free throw shooter, because everybody’s going to keep fouling him, because he’s so hard to guard down there.”
- Dartmouth — Evan Boudreaux shined again for the Big Green this week, scoring 16 points with 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks, but the Big Green had an effective field goal percentage of just 36% in a 73-63 loss at Marist. As expected, Dartmouth has been forcing turnovers, but it hasn’t turned them into points.
- Penn — Last week, Steve Donahue’s offensive scheme was one of the league’s biggest stories. Shooting 17% from three-point range, as Penn did in two games this week, quieted such talk for the moment. The Quakers aren’t as bad as they looked this week, but they may not have enough shooters to implement Donahue’s vision to its fullest in year one.
- Brown — Brown has given crosstown rival Providence fits recently, beating the Friars last year and in 2013, and scaring them in 2014. (The curse spread beyond basketball this fall, when Brown’s men’s soccer team upset nationally ranked Providence in overtime.) But the Friars had a painless time Saturday, dispatching the Bears 93-74. Brown, now 1-3, has cut its turnover rate from last year, but not much else is going right.
- Cornell — Cornell’s style lends itself to big runs — it can only set up its press after made baskets, and its quick-hitting offense works best when opponents are reeling — so it might have more games in store like Monday’s wild 101-98 win at Colgate. The Big Red led by as many as 18 points in the second half, but 12-2 and 9-0 runs helped the Raiders force overtime. Cornell blew another eight-point lead in the final two minutes of the first overtime, even trailing by two points until Wil Bathurst’s spinning layup at the buzzer. Robert Hatter scored 33 points before fouling out in regulation, but Cornell didn’t need him to win in the second overtime.