There is no separate place for press conferences at Dartmouth’s Leede Arena, so when Yale coach James Jones emerged from the locker room, he was immediately in front of the few cameras and reporters that made the trip to Hanover, N.H. on a Saturday night where there was plenty else going on in the sports world.
There was no ESPN as there was the night before in Boston, no Sports Illustrated, no New York Times. The crowd was announced at 1,237 and certainly made themselves heard at the end, but it was far from the raucous, oppressive charged atmosphere at Harvard’s Lavietes Gym that Yale had conquered 24 hours earlier.
With Ivy League armageddon upon us Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion, we decided to mix things up a bit. Instead of bringing you an Xs and Os preview, Ray Curren and Kevin Whitaker had an e-mail conversation and here is what they discussed. Kevin has covered Harvard all season, while Ray has seen play of Yale. Can Yale repeat its victory at Harvard last season and put one hand on its first outright Ivy crown (and NCAA Tournament appearance) since 1962? Or will Harvard keep the championship belt for at least one more year?
As much as we like numbers, they sometimes don’t tell the whole story or accurately predict a snapshot in time, i.e. a 40-minute basketball game over the course of a fairly long season.
Friday night, though, one look at the stat sheet – or more appropriately, the KenPom numbers – could have given you a pretty good idea of what was going to happen between Yale and Cornell. The Big Red entered with some stellar defensive numbers that worried the Bulldogs, 69th nationally in defensive efficiency, 34th in eFG%.
As it always does in the 14-Game Tournament, the Ivy League keeps throwing hurdles of different shapes and sizes at Yale, and so far at least, the Bulldogs have cleared them all. Friday, Dartmouth set up their obstacle in the middle of the paint and Yale went right around it, shooting 13-21 from three-point range to post a fairly comfortable 81-66 victory over the pesky Big Green at Lee Amphitheater.
The Bulldogs (16-6 overall) now stand at 5-0 in the Ivy League and will host rival and three-time defending Ivy champ Harvard Saturday night in what is expected to be a sellout.
There was good, bad, and plenty of ugly for Yale Saturday afternoon against Brown, as the Bulldogs looked alternately confused and frustrated as a double-digit favorite against a Bears team it had run off its home court a week before.
Brown didn’t even have its leading scorer and biggest offensive threat in Leland King, either, and yet somehow Yale found itself down six at the half, and when Javier Duren missed a wide open breakaway dunk that allowed Tavon Blackmon to score seconds later, Brown looked like they may steal it.
As Leland King got hot and Cedric Kuakumensah found room to get a layup forcing James Jones to call a time out, the memories started to flood back into the veteran Yale basketball team, and they weren’t good ones.
Glimpses of a lost Saturday afternoon in January of 2014 in Providence when Brown handled a lackluster Yale squad easily, 73-56, a defeat that proved costly while trying to chase Harvard down a couple of months later.
I’ve (pretty much unsuccessfully) tried to start the #RoadGamesAreHard hashtag this season, so I should have been less surprised than most to see Yale struggle to put away Sacred Heart Tuesday afternoon. They finally did 70-64 to go to 10-4 on the season, but it wasn’t pretty to watch, with 20 turnovers (in 64 possessions) and a spirited rally from an improved Pioneer team late.
Despite a season-opening loss to Holy Cross, Harvard is still the three-time defending Ivy League champions and will be heavy favorites to make it four once Ivy play commences in six weeks. But Yale – which won at Lavietes Pavilion last season – fancies itself as the No. 1 contender, and although it will have to wait a while for a shot at the title belt, they sent another message with an 82-60 dismantling of a decent Lafayette team Wednesday night at Lee Amphitheater. It was the Bulldogs’ fifth straight win after losing their opener to Quinnipiac in double overtime, but to make it six, they’ll have to win at red-hot Providence, who bludgeoned Florida St. into submission and beat Notre Dame last week.