Penn set the tone, Princeton got stung, and Yale dodged a bullet on the first weekend of Ivy League play for three of the top contenders to unseat favored Harvard atop the Ivy League. Now, fans will see how everyone responds to what the first round of games says about the conference this season.
One thing seems clear: Nothing is going to come easily.
Princeton was not as fortunate. In fact, for the first time, this current group of Tigers find itself staring up at the top of the standings. The Tigers had won at least their first four Ivy League games in each of the past three seasons, but they dropped their season opener at Cornell, 67-59. And they nearly dug themselves an even bigger hole in the standings, needing to stave off a comeback attempt to hold off Columbia 62-58 the following day.
Rival Pennsylvania was more fortunate. It escaped Columbia with a victory thanks to a missed desperation 3-pointer by the Lions in the opener, and knocked off Cornell on Jan. 14 to emerge as the lone 2-0 team in the conference. Harvard and Yale were the only other unbeatens, but both had played one fewer game.
Looking at the results, it seems clear that depth is going to be critical. Brown’s thin bench and pronounced foul trouble proved fatal in New Haven, as did Dartmouth’s lack of bodies to rotate against the physical Harvard defense the previous week.
Columbia doesn’t have enough options to overcome an off night from an offensive threat it’s counting on like Meiko Lyles; coach Kyle Smith can only wonder whether the team would be 2-0 with a healthy Noruwa Agho available to shoot over a zone. As for Cornell, it missed a chance to really stun the league by sweeping the weekend, but its freshmen performed well enough that the Big Red could hang around the race for an extended period.
This weekend gives Brown and Dartmouth a chance for a bit of revenge, as they complete their home-and-homes with rematches against Yale and Harvard, respectively. Cornell gets a road game at travel partner Columbia in a matchup both teams desperately need to win.
• Cornell’s freshmen came up big on the first Ivy League weekend. Galal Cancer led the Big Red with 17 points in the victory over Princeton, while Shonn Miller paced Cornell with 19 against Penn.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Matchup To Watch: Cornell at Columbia, Jan. 21—It’s just the third game of the Ivy League slate for each team, but neither can afford a loss. This is particularly huge for the Lions, who dropped their first two conference games at home and will have to overcome the propensity for second-half lulls that left them in furious comeback mode against both Princeton and Penn. The Big Red, meanwhile, will be looking to make an early-season statement.
Around The League
• Cornell began the season with a split against Princeton and Penn at home, but it wasn’t because of a strong performance from the outside. The Big Red made just five of their 28 3-point attempts over the weekend.
• Freshman F Shonn Miller picked up his second career double-double in the 64-52 loss to Penn. He led the team with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and he also added 10 rebounds, four blocked shots and a steal.
• Senior F Drew Ferry had a tough start to the Ivy League slate. The leading scorer on the Big Red entering the weekend, Ferry went 0-for-4 against Princeton and 2-for-8 against Penn, finishing with a total of eight points over the two games.
• Cornell has struggled with its rebounding this season, but it was much better in the first Ivy League weekend. The Big Red outrebounded Princeton 42-41, and it hung with Penn before being outrebounded 37-35.
• Penn held Cornell to 37.5 percent shooting from the field, the seventh time this season the Quakers had held an opponent under 40 percent. It did so only six times in all of 2010-11.
• One negative for Penn over the weekend was its free-throw shooting against Cornell. The Quakers made just eight of their 15 attempts from the stripe. Combined with the Big Red’s 13-for-24 effort at the line, this wasn’t a game that youth coaches will be showing their players as an example of fundamental smart basketball.
• Princeton suffered a rare early-season Ivy League defeat when it fell at Cornell in the Ivy League opener. The Tigers had started at least 4-0 in the conference in each of the previous three seasons.
• The Tigers were disappointing on the glass against Cornell, getting outrebounded 42-41 against a Big Red team that has struggled with that all season. And it was even worse the following night, when Princeton beat Columbia despite the Lions’ 36-22 rebounding advantage.