Courtesy of Keenan Hairston
Drawing on significant crowd support at Lavietes Pavilion, Harvard snapped Yale men’s basketball’s eight-game win streak in a 65–49 win last Friday night in Boston.
This Friday night in New Haven, Yale (13–4, 3–1 Ivy) has a chance to break a different streak, when it meets two teams trending in opposite directions. The Bulldogs, who are still undefeated 6–0 at John J. Lee Amphitheater, host Princeton (12–5, 4–0) and Penn (13–7, 1–3) in the season’s second back-to-back. The Tigers enter the weekend on a seven-game winning streak that includes a road victory over then-No. 17 Arizona State and a sweep of Penn to open Ivy play. The Quakers, meanwhile, have dropped five of their last eight, as Yale seeks a new win streak and a return to the top of the Ancient Eight.
“The most important lesson we took from the Harvard game was that we have to stay together as a team and be ready to go with a high level of focus and energy at the start of every game,” guard Eric Monroe ’20 said. “It was definitely a reminder for us that we have to be 100 percent locked in for every play of every game, so, hopefully, we can learn from the loss and be ready to go when they play us here.”
The Bulldogs looked flat last Friday, allowing the Crimson to jump to a 15-point lead at the end of the first half. The Elis finished the game with just 49 points on a season-low 30.5 percent shooting from the field.
Yale ensured it delivered an offensive explosion Saturday in Hanover. The Bulldogs downed Dartmouth 89–68 behind 53.8 percent shooting, 11 three-pointers and a career-high 31 points from guard Miye Oni ’20. Despite the resurgent performance, players have carried lingering frustration with the Harvard loss into this week.
“We are trying to avoid another night like the Harvard game, so it starts in practice,” guard Azar Swain ’21 said. “We have been sharp and focused and are looking to carry that energy over into the weekend. We know how it feels to be on the losing side, and we don’t want to feel that again for the rest of the year.”
The Tigers, who enter the weekend as the only unbeaten team in league play, are without their star, 6-foot-2-inch guard Devin Cannady. The senior still ranks second in the Ivy League with 19.5 points per game but has been suspended from the team indefinitely. On Jan. 18, he was arrested following an early-morning confrontation with a police officer in a campus convenience store. The timeline for his potential return remains unclear.
But the absence of its program’s fifth all-time leading scorer has not seemed to hinder Princeton’s momentum. The Tigers swept Columbia and Cornell last weekend in their first league games without Cannady, after benefitting from suffocating defense and standout performances from guard Myles Stephens and center Richmond Aririguzoh. Freshman guard Jaelin Llewellyn, who joined the Tigers as an ESPN.com top-100 recruit, is averaging nine points and 3.4 assists per game.
As Princeton has rocketed to the top of the Ivy League, the Tigers have seen their rivals across the Delaware River fall to the bottom of the Ancient Eight. Penn, picked second in the conference’s 2018–19 Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll, has started league play 1–3 after advancing to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament last March.
At one point last spring, the Quakers trailed their one-seed tournament opponent Kansas by only four, and though the Jayhawks advanced, many set high expectations for Penn this season. Returning junior forward AJ Brodeur and welcoming freshmen forward Michael Wang and guard Bryce Washington, Penn met those expectations early, opening the season 10–2.
Three days after losing to Yale on Dec. 1, Miami fell to the Quakers by 14 in Philadelphia, and Penn defeated then-No. 17 Villanova in front of more than 8,000 fans at the Palestra a week later. Brodeur and senior guard Antonio Woods each scored 16 and led the Quakers to their first win over an AP-ranked opponent since 1998. Brodeur’s 15.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game both lead the team and rank in the top five in the Ivy League. Woods, Washington, Wang and guard Devon Goodman round out Penn’s collection of key contributors.
Despite the signature wins, Penn has been inconsistent since the end of December. Wang left a Dec. 29 Toledo loss after rolling his ankle, and previously winless Monmouth picked up its first win against Penn two days later. Though Wang has since returned, the Quakers fell to Cornell last weekend, and Penn’s Ivy Madness hopes likely hinge on which Quaker team — the one that beat Villanova or the one that lost to Monmouth — travels to Brown and Yale this weekend.
“My thing is I control what I can control, so whoever they decide to be when they walk in the building, that has nothing to do with me,” forward Jordan Bruner ’20 said. “As long as I do what I’m going to do and as long as my teammates do what they’re going to do, it doesn’t really make a difference.”
In the midst of the program’s Alumni Weekend, both games — Princeton on Friday and Penn on Saturday — will tip off at 7 p.m. in John J. Lee Amphitheater.
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