Yale 73, Dartmouth 64: Bulldogs Keep Rolling On

Some tend to confuse playing slowly with automatically being poor offensively in basketball circles, but there are many, many teams (looking at you TCU, Virginia, and Saint Mary’s) who play deliberately, but are among the most effective offenses in the country. You can’t really put Yale in that category, but while most of the attention went to their defense (33rd and 70th the last two seasons), they have been a very solid offensive team the last three seasons.

Friday against Dartmouth, they again showed why. With the Big Green taking away the perimeter, Yale went to the basket, making 24-of-40 on two-point shots. While senior captain Anthony Dallier was held to 5 points (and only 3 shots), Alex Copeland stepped up with 14 points on 7-12 shooting. With Miye Oni held to 9, Trey Phills stepped up with 10.

In the end, despite 19 turnovers (27.5%), Yale finished at 1.06 points per possession, above 1.00 ppp for the 12th time in 13 games (the only one it failed to was its lone Ivy loss at Princeton). The Bulldogs’ amazing scoring balance sees Miye Oni at 13.1 points per game, Alex Copeland at 12.4, Sam Downey at 12.2, Anthony Dallier and Blake Reynolds both at 10.1, and Jordan Bruner at 9.8. And Eric Monroe, shooting 45% from three-point range, also added 8 points off the bench for another offensive weapon opponents have to guard.

“We’re really good at every spot, and when the guys have their opportunities they take advantage of it,” Yale coach James Jones said. “That makes us a hard guard, because if you take out one guy, somebody else is going to step up. We feel really good about all the guys that play for us. When we’re playing well, we lead the league in field goal percentage, and that’s because we have a good player at every position.”

Can an inexperienced Yale squad continue to pick people off piecemeal in big games like the inaugural Ivy League Tournament? We won’t know until we get there, but signs point to most likely. And they will be there, the Bulldogs have opened up a four-game lead over fifth-place Brown and Cornell with just seven games to go.

“They’re long and athletic, which is a tough combination,” first-year Dartmouth coach David McLaughlin said. “We shot the ball well, but they had 8 blocks. That’s one factor. They really capitalize on the offensive glass. Their athleticism really took its toll by them being able to get into the paint consistently. We had a hard time keeping it out of there, and they hit some timely shots when we collapsed.”

What else did we learn in snowy New Haven, where Yale had a much easier time than it did last year against Dartmouth?:

  1. The streak is part of something larger

Obviously, 22 straight home wins is impressive, fifth-longest in the country, which will be put on the line against rival Harvard Saturday night. But it also shouldn’t take away from just how impressive Yale has been over the last three seasons in Ivy League play. The Bulldogs (14-6, 6-1) are now 30-5 over that span in conference, with just two coming at home, one to Harvard in 2015 (the other to Columbia).

At some point the home streak will end (Yale has three more home games coming in the next 8 days against Harvard, Princeton, and Penn), but it shouldn’t take away from what looks like a third straight season with an excellent Ivy League record that puts them near the top of the standings.

“We don’t to limit people to a certain number of rebounds, we don’t want them to get any at all,” Jordan Bruner, who will play in his first Yale-Harvard game Saturday, said. “I try to make sure I guard mine, but if one of my teammates gets beat, I try to come help them out, that’s what team defense is about.”

2) KenPom computers not impressed

After beating Penn on Jan. 13, Yale cracked the KenPom top 100 for the first time, moving to 98. Even the loss to Princeton the next night only pushed them back two spots to 100. The Bulldogs have won five straight games since then, yet stand at only 111 on the computers, which is strange, but someone explainable. The highest ranked team they beat was Columbia (226) and unlike last season, have not beaten people by wide margins (biggest one was 10).

They also haven’t been helped by teams they’ve previously played having bad seasons like Washington (159), Lehigh (113), Albany (135), and even people they’ve lost to like Temple (108) and Pitt (69). Other than Virginia (2), their highest ranked opponent is red-hot Vermont (65), whom Yale barely lost to on the road.

It matters little in the end, but the Bulldogs finished at 46 last season and 77 in 2014-15 when they didn’t even make the NIT after the heartbreaking loss to Harvard in the Ivy playoff at The Palestra.

3) Work to do for Dartmouth

Dartmouth was just obliterated in the paint defensively (44 Yale points), and this game was a clear display of how the bottom of the Ivy League might get left behind by Yale, Harvard, and Princeton if they don’t watch themselves. Jordan Bruner, Miye Oni, and Trey Phills are extremely athletic young players that the Big Green (4-16, 1-6) had no answer for, and while Evan Boudreaux did finish with a game-high 15 points, he didn’t provide too much resistance on the defensive end.

Yale also won the block battle 8-0, which isn’t too surprising, as Dartmouth is 350th in both blocking shots and getting shots blocked at the other end. They are young, but it will be interesting to see how they develop under McLaughlin in the next couple of seasons.

“We have a tough group that still has not defined itself and is still really growing to that,” McLaughlin said. “I knew this league has excellent coaches that are really well prepared. Everybody’s ready to play.”

Game on from New Haven! (They had to rejump this) #TMMLegacy

A photo posted by Ray Curren (@goldenbally) on