Sports

Breaking down men’s basketball’s first Ivy League win

What McGonagill’s time on and off the court Saturday means for Bruno’s success

By
Sports Staff Writer
Monday, January 27, 2014

Co-captain Sean McGonagill ’14 sinks three of his game-high 29 points, which he scored in just 26 minutes while fighting foul trouble all game.

A packed house at the Pizzitola Center looked on to see the men’s basketball team capture its first conference win Saturday over Yale. Here is a breakdown of the Bears’ performance in the resounding 73-56 victory.

 

What’s strong

Senior guard Sean McGonagill ’14, the Ivy League’s leading scorer, made easy work of the Bulldog defense, shooting a remarkably efficient 8-for-11 from the field, 7-for-9 from beyond the arc and 6-for-7 from the free throw line. Even more impressively, McGonagill’s game-high 29 points came in just  26 minutes of play. The senior played only seven minutes in the opening half after picking up two early fouls.

“I could say that we defended for 40 minutes and played tough defense, and that’s true,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “But the difference was that we had Sean McGonagill and they didn’t, and that’s why we won the game.”

The Bears (9-7, 1-1 Ivy) also posted a strong showing on the boards, pulling down 40 rebounds to the Bulldogs’ 30, leading Bruno to a 13-6 advantage on second-chance points. Rafael Maia ’15, the Ivy League’s second-leading rebounder, had a game-high eight rebounds, while Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 and Steven Spieth ’17 corralled seven apiece.

 

What’s wrong

The Bears struggled with turnovers throughout the matchup, mishandlingseveral passes while trying to set up their half-court offense as the Bulldogs (7-9, 1-1) made an aggressive effort to deny lanes. Bruno handed Yale 15 points off 13 turnovers, including 10 fast-break points. These mistakes frequently made it difficult for the Bears to get into a rhythm on offense.

“We just need to take what the defense gives us more instead of trying to force the issue,” Martin said. “When we space the floor and move the ball offensively, I think we can be dangerous, and we can be hard to guard.”

Four of the Bears’ turnovers came from first-year guard Tavon Blackmon ’17, who has assumed much of the ball-handling responsibility from McGonagill this season. Fellow first-year Spieth added three turnovers of his own. As Bruno’s  young players gain experience in conference play and grow more comfortable with the offense, the squad will likely see these turnover numbers decline.

 

What’s new

Despite McGonagill’s impressive showing against the Bulldogs, perhaps the biggest storyline of the night was the Bears’ performance in the guard’s absence. The senior left the game due to foul trouble with 14:22 remaining in the first half, when the Bears held a 16-10 advantage. The McGonagill-less squad managed not only to preserve the lead, but also to extend it to 11 by the time McGonagill returned with just under three minutes remaining in the period.

“I thought our guys played with great energy,” McGonagill said, referring to the team’s performance during his time on the bench. “Tavon was getting the ball up and down the court really well, and he found guys and made some nice plays in transition.”

Several players stepped up for the Bears, including Dockery Walker ’15, who was the team’s second-leading scorer with 10 points on five-of-six shooting, and Leland King ’17, who added six points.

“Leland King and Doc gave us great minutes in that stretch,” Martin said. “We believe in our depth, and we think everyone can contribute.”

The squad’s performance is a good sign for a young Brown team. McGonagill has led the team in scoring in 13 of Bruno’s 16 games, and as the Bears continue Ivy League play, opponents are sure to focus their game plan on stopping the standout point guard. Furthermore, Bruno’s production without McGonagill provides a glimmer of hope for the program as it looks ahead to a time when McGonagill — one of only two seniors on the team — is no longer at the helm.