The Ivy League went 0-2 last night, but those losses couldn’t have been more different. While Penn was dropping a 14-0 run on third-ranked Villanova and giving the Wildcats their toughest game of the season, Dartmouth lost in Portland to a 2-6 Maine team playing without its best player.
One to grow on
The Quakers couldn’t score for most of the contest, but a lot of that was Villanova being a very good, quick defensive team. The story of the game wasn’t Penn’s 1-for-20 effort from three-point range or its missed free throws. It was the fact the Quakers held the number one team in the nation in offensive efficiency to just 62 points on 68 possessions and staged a gutty rally to make a game of it at the end. And all with Steve Danley watching from the bench after the Quakers’ only bona fide post player wasn’t cleared medically to play in the game due to lingering effects of a concussion he sustained in the loss at Duke.
Penn fans are bound to be dismayed by the abysmal shooting performance, but the reality is that if Fran Dunphy gets that kind of effort from his team in Ivy games, they’re going to win a lot of 62-38 contests. Ibby Jaaber had his first poor shooting game of the season, but Friedrich Ebede stepped up for the Quakers. The Cameroon native played a career-high 38 minutes and responded with his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The only discouraging aspect of the game for Penn was Eric Osmundson’s continued shooting slump. Osmundson sat out in favor of Brian Grandieri the final 13:33 after shooting just 1 of 9 from the floor and missing all three three-point attempts, while committing four turnovers.
Another disappointing road loss for Dartmouth
Maine owned a monstrous 28-4 advantage in free throw attempts in this one. Normally when you see a home team with a free throw edge like that, it means either someone got homered by the officials, or the visitors were content to sit back and take jumpshots while the home team aggressively took the ball to the basket. Or both. Dartmouth definitely attempted more three-pointers in this one. Over twice as many, as a matter of fact. But in spite of the free throw disparity, the Big Green could have won this one were it not for the 16 turnovers on 62 possessions — a 25.8-percent turnover rate. Mike Lang led Dartmouth with 12 points, but didn’t grab a rebound in 35 minutes of action and saw his counterpart, Ernest Turner, score a game-high 21 points. Maine was without America East Player of the Year candidate Kevin Reed, so this is the sort of game the Big Green needs to start winning if it wants to make any noise in the league this year.
Princeton and Harvard host teams they should beat tonight, but they’re coming off very different results on Saturday. Princeton pulled off a surprising home win over Wyoming, while Harvard dropped a game to a weak Lehigh team on the road. Both teams should be favored, so if tonight ends without an Ivy sweep, somebody screwed up.
Long Island (2-3) at Harvard (5-3) – 7:00 pm
Harvard continues its quest for a win without Brian Cusworth when Long Island comes calling on Lavietes Pavilion. The Blackbirds have won two straight after starting the season with three double-digit losses. LIU is primarily a perimeter team, with guards James Williams (14.4 points per game) and Randy Jones (11.6 points per game) leading the way. As a team the Blackbirds are shooting a sizzling 39.3 percent from the arc, and only eight teams in Division I rely more heavily on the three-pointer for their scoring. LIU takes very good care of the ball, turning it over on just 16.6 percent of possessions, which ranks 8th nationally, while Harvard is all the way down at 232nd in that department. However, Long Island has struggled defensively (292 in defensive efficiency) and on the boards (313th in offensive rebounding, 325th in defensive rebounding), which isn’t surprising considering two of their starters are listed at 5-10, only one starter is over 6-5, and the tallest player on the roster is 6-7. Harvard needs to limit its turnovers, guard the perimeter and exploit its size advantage by getting to the free throw line. The Crimson ranks 40th in the nation in free throw rate, while Long Island is all the way down at 275th. This is the second game against and Ivy opponent this year for Long Island, who dropped its opener 80-63 at home to Columbia on November 22. Last year Harvard had a similar result at the Schwartz Center, winning 78-60 in a homecoming for Mike Beal.
Monmouth (1-7) at Princeton (2-4) – 7:30 pm
The Wyoming game wasn’t the first time Princeton had looked good this season. People forget the Tigers were also impressive in their second game of the season when they easily dispatched of Lehigh on the road. But the three awful first halves in the three defeats that followed made that Lehigh win look like an aberration. That’s exactly what’s going to happen again if Princeton doesn’t come out to tonight and beat a struggling Monmouth team at Jadwin. The Hawks have lost six straight since an impressive win in Alaska back on November 24 over March mainstay Southern Illinois.
Joe Scott’s matchup zone has had problems getting stops this year, but there’s good news on the way in the form of a Monmouth offense that ranks 277th in the nation in offensive efficiency. Then consider the fact that Monmouth ranks 322nd in offensive rebounding and 294th in getting to the free throw line — Princeton’s two defensive bugaboos — and things look good for the Tigers. The three-pointers should be flying tonight with Princeton getting a Division I-high 53.7 percent of its offense from beyond the arc and Monmouth ranking 82nd in that department at 31.5 percent. Princeton point guard Scott Greenman’s status for tonight’s game has yet to be determined after the senior captain underwent an MRI on his ailing back on Tuesday. The Tigers won last year’s meeting 56-52 on the shore, and have won four straight in the series.