Led by All-Ivy selections forward Greg Mangano ’12 and guard Reggie Willhite ’12, last year’s men’s basketball team terrorized Ivy League defenses. The senior tandem averaged just over 30 points per game combined and helped the Elis to finish atop their conference scoring offense rankings at nearly 69 points per game.
Yet after the departure of Mangano and Willhite, the men’s basketball team has struggled to score in the nascent season. The squad has managed just 59 points per game in its first seven contests, ranking above only Princeton among Ivy League rivals. The Elis have also seen their field goal percentage dip by nearly six percentage points, from 43.2 percent to 37.3 percent, and their number of assists per game dropped from 13.2 to 11.4.
“What we’re trying to do is share the ball between everyone on the team,” head coach James Jones said. “Last year, Greg and Reggie dominated us … The offense kind of stopped when they touched the ball because they made a lot of individual plays, so our focus this year is to try to be able to move the ball and have more equal parts on offense.”
Guard Austin Morgan ’13 said that learning a new offense has contributed to the early struggles.
While the team runs the same offensive sets as last year, its motion offense in transition and after those sets break down differs from the previous season, said captain and guard Sam Martin ’13.
He added that without the presence of Mangano and Willhite, the focus of the offense has shifted away from one-on-one play towards team offense. Some elements of that team offense include generating efficient shots, moving the ball from inside-out, creating kick-outs off of penetration and looking for backdoor cuts.
He also said that having multiple players with the ability to score about 10 points puts more pressure on opposing defenses. Teams that were able to limit Mangano and Willhite last year effectively contained the Bulldog offense, he added.
“I think everybody on our team is a capable scorer, so now if you can spread the ball it makes us much more difficult to guard,” Jones said. “The hope is that we have more guys averaging more points.”
Still, the Bulldogs (2–6, 0–0 Ivy) have struggled to attain that goal. The Elis have topped 60 points in regulation in only three out of their first eight games this season; the team accomplished that feat in every one of its first eight contests last year.
Jones said the team will look to improve its offense through practice, especially by focusing on the players adjusting to their roles on the floor and continuing to learn how to share the ball.
“I think the timing just isn’t there yet. We’ve been doing a lot of dummy stuff in practice,” Martin said. “It just takes repetition, but I think we had a good week of practice and hopefully it’ll be better in the next couple of games here.”
The men’s basketball team takes on Bryant University in Rhode Island tonight at 7 p.m.