Yale 65, Columbia 59
Columbia has impressed this season in its first year under Joe Jones. The Lions play with a lot of energy and harass opponents on defense — they are just not that talented. The Elis let their last meeting stay way too close. Now Columbia is at home and I think it would be fair to call this a pick ’em game, but I still think that Yale has the talent to dominate this team.
Yale 68, Cornell 55
Yale embarrassed this team when they were 5-0 in league play and appeared to be making a bid for the championship. The Elis welcomed the Big Red to reality last time with superb performances by Alex Gamboa ’05, Dominick Martin ’05 and Matt Minoff ’04. I think it will happen again.
First-year Columbia head coach Joe Jones has replaced Maurice Murphy and Jeremiah Boswell, who started against Yale, with Dalen Cuff and Tito Hill. Cuff has finally arrived in Ivy play and is averaging in double digits against conference opponents. Hill, however, does not really find the scoreboard much.
Hill has done a good job finding teammates, as he doesn’t score much himself. As a whole, Columbia is one of the better passing teams in the league.
Edwin Draughan ’05 and Gamboa have both stepped it up. Last weekend, Draughan dropped 17 points against Harvard and teammate Gamboa tallied 15 the following night against Dartmouth.
The Lions have improved, but their two guards are still guys who had trouble making the starting rotation on a 4-8 Ivy team.
Columbia’s two forwards, Matt Preston and Dragutin Kravic, are also their two leading scorers. Preston is also the team’s leading rebounder. Kravic is not much of a presence on the boards.
Preston is one of the best foul shooters in the conference — which does not bode well for the Elis, who foul more than most teams. Both the big men can shoot the three ball, especially Kravic.
Preston is not really tall enough to play his position, so he gets into a lot of foul trouble.
Dodson Worthington starts at center, but backup Matt Land gets more time. Neither does much scoring, but Land hustles as much as any player I have ever seen. His rebounding statistics are, like those of the Lions as a team, poor, but I cannot understand why.
When Yale first played Cornell, Ka’Ron Barnes and Cody Toppert were No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the Ancient Eight in scoring. Barnes has kept it up; he is one of only two players averaging 20-plus points per game in Ivy League play.
Toppert has not. His scoring average has fallen dramatically during league play and he is not even amongst the top 15 in three-point percentage. He is a good rebounder for a shooting guard, and Yale should be vigilant in keeping him off the boards. Toppert shouldn’t be given open 3-point looks, but then again, what shooting guard should?
Though Barnes has kept his scoring average up, Ivy play has sobered his red-hot start, during which the Big Red guard led the league in scoring, assists and steals. He would still be a league Player of the Year candidate, except that Cornell is battling to finish in the upper half of the league.
Finally, a lower proportion of Cornell’s baskets come off of assists than most teams in the Ivy and Barnes has far fewer assists than turnovers — those aren’t good stats for a backcourt.
Lenny Collins has come on strong during Ivy League play. He is the Big Red’s “utility” man, scoring in double figures, grabbing almost six rebounds per game and leading the team in steals. He also shoots close to 80 percent from the charity stripe.
Combined with Eric Taylor and Gabe Stephenson, both of whom are amongst the top five offensive rebounders in the Ivy League, Cornell is one of the best at crashing the boards on “O” in the conference.
Taylor is also a decent offensive option, but he simply cannot be in the game at the end if it is close. Why? Because he has the ugliest foul shot I have ever seen. He is on pace to finish below 50 percent from the line for the second straight season.
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