Three Thoughts: Bryant 79, Yale 70 – Ndugba Doesn’t Need Redemption

On the scatterplot of Division I head basketball coaches, Bryant’s Tim O’Shea slides toward the upper end of both the laid-back and positivity metrics, so it shouldn’t be that surprising that he was able to brush off Monday’s unfortunate mistake by freshman Ikenna Ndugba that contributes to a tough 91-90 loss at Brown Monday night.

It’s likely that a Google search of Ndugba’s name will turn up the incident for the rest of his college career at least, as it made the rounds to SportsCenter and local television around the country. But for O’Shea, the discussion about it afterward lasted about three seconds, and publicity is publicity, right?

“I just said, ‘You make a mistake, you own it, and we move on.’ It’s amazing how much publicity it’s gotten,” O’Shea said. “I was joking that it might turn into a good marketing tool, if more people know about Bryant basketball, it might be a good thing. Someone showed me a paper from Spain that had us in it. It was crazy, I guess that’s what it means to go viral. He’s a tough kid.”

O’Shea and the Bulldogs (3-5) might be getting publicity for more traditional basketball methods soon, as they stormed back to beat Yale, 79-70, Wednesday night at the Chace Athletic Center, and did so playing an exciting brand of ball with talented, undersized guards the NEC has become known for in Nisre Zouzoua, Adam Grant, and Ndugba leading the way. They don’t start a player over 6’5″ (at least with Dan Garvin out), but they’re going to be darn fun to watch this season, and – after going 8-23 and missing the NEC altogether last season – could be a very real factor in the conference race.

What else did we learn on a rainy night in Smithfield:

  1. Yale isn’t going to surprise anyone

Coming off tough games with Virginia, Pitt, and Vermont, Yale (2-4) was sluggish from the opening tip Wednesday, and were really fortunate to be up 15 midway through the second half in the firstplace, with several Bryant shots rimming out and Yale shooting well. All the hustle stats (like 16 Bryant offensive rebounds and 18 Yale turnovers) were trending toward Bryant and eventually,  it caught up with them. It’s a very young Yale team in many spots, and once Bryant got rolling (and Bryant always has a decent home-court advantage), Yale couldn’t stop turning the ball over (Zouzoua and Grant had three steals each). But as a defending Ivy League champ and a team that won an NCAA game last season, they will be circled on opponents’ calendars as they were Bryant’s.

“That’s the type of win that I think will reverberate around college basketball circles because Yale has already beaten Washington and they’re a team that won an NCAA Tournament game a year ago,” O’Shea said. “And to come back in that fashion, that’s a gutty win. We’re an exciting team to watch play and I hope the people of Rhode Island will start coming out to see us and fill our building.”

2) Bryant will be a tough team to root against

We’ve talked about the quick guards who should be able to thrive in the NEC, which doesn’t have a whole lot of rim protectors, but sophomore Marcel Pettway might have a big year. The reigning NEC Rookie of the Year had struggled this season, with only 11 combined points in his last two games, but scored 25 in this one against the likes of Sam Downey in the paint for Yale.

Bosko Kostur, now in his fourth season in the NEC, but never seemingly completely healthy, also had a big game and was a matchup nightmare for Yale’s post players, scoring 10 points and adding seven rebounds (which led O’Shea to declare, “Bosko is back!” after the game).. Pettway and Kostur (and Garvin when he returns) will probably hold the key to just how far Bryant can go.

“We had a bunch of shots that just wouldn’t go down, and some teams will collapse when that happens,” O’Shea said. “These guys didn’t. It’s early in the season, but that’s a great thing to see from our guys. We have a little swagger, moxie, whatever you want to call it, and I think that’s the sign of a winning team. We didn’t turn the ball over against Gonzaga, Notre Dame. We’re just not going to turn it over much with the guards we have.”

Good night from Smithfield, where Yale found out #RoadGamesAreHard #TMMLegacy

A photo posted by Ray Curren (@goldenbally) on

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3) Some soul searching for Yale

Yale beat Bryant 79-40 in New Haven at this time last season, and yes, all five starters (technically, Downey started over a somewhat ill Justin Sears, but Sears played) are no longer with the team, but Kostur is the only player who started back for Bryant. Yale solved Bryant’s zone at times, but turned it over way too much, and the fact that Bryant was able to get to the rim and finish easily against a team that was 33rd in defensive efficiency last season, is disturbing. As I said, even when Bryant was losing, they were getting pretty good looks at the basket.

Jordan Bruner had a big dunk, but also made his share of mistakes, and Yale is going to need him sooner than later, probably, although Ivy League play is still six weeks off.

“I don’t think we were very good defensively all night,” Yale coach James Jones said. “We didn’t stop penetration. Our interior defense was porous. Our youth and inexperience showed in a way that I haven’t seen this season. We played four freshmen and seven sophomores and we played like it. When they started to play with more confidence, we got tight on offense and couldn’t get going again.”

Game on from Smithfield! #TMMLegacy

A photo posted by Ray Curren (@goldenbally) on

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