The men’s basketball team staged a come-from-behind victory over Penn but fell to Princeton this weekend, making the path to an Ivy League title a bit more difficult for the Bears.
After four weeks of Ivy action, the Bears have now faced every team in the conference and have beaten the majority of them.
Bruno (13-9, 5-3 Ivy) now holds sole possession of third place, two games behind Harvard (20-4, 7-1) and Yale (13-9, 7-1).
Friday: Princeton 69, Brown 65
The Bears started off their weekend against Princeton (14-7, 2-5), a team Head Coach Mike Martin ’04 said is much better than its record would indicate.
“Princeton is a worthy opponent,” Martin said. “After watching them on film and seeing them live, I think they’re the best offensive team we’ve played all season.”
Brown held the lead for the entire first half Friday, but Princeton kept the game close. Bruno kept the Ivy League’s leading scorer, T.J. Bray, off the scoreboard for the first six minutes of the game before he rattled in a three-pointer to bring the Tigers within three.
The Bears immediately regained control with back-to-back layups from co-captain Rafael Maia ’15. Bruno’s center dropped 13 points — 10 coming in the first half — and added five rebounds and an assist to his tally.
The halftime buzzer sounded with the Bears gripping a three-point lead. Princeton scored 24 of its 32 first-half points in the paint, led by Bray, who scored six of his nine points on layups.
The Tigers took advantage of Bruno’s weak pick-and-roll defense and overall lazy play.
“We have to defend better than we did tonight,” Martin said of Friday’s game. “They constantly drove the ball to the rim, and we weren’t very good in one-on-one defensive situations.”
The score remained close in a second half characterized by five lead changes, with the Tigers jumping out to their first lead of the game on a Bray lay-in three minutes into the half.
A few minutes later, Sean McGonagill ’14 managed to flip in a layup even after getting hit from behind. McGonagill hit the free throw to give the Bears a one-point lead with 12 minutes remaining.
Princeton responded with a 10-0 run, starting with a Bray layup and finishing with a Bray trey.
“We needed to get our tempo back,” McGonagill said. “We made some bad passes, some bad decisions. We needed to change sides of the floor, look inside to our bigs, play through them and move more around on the court. We lost our rhythm for a while.”
The Bears never regained their tempo, ultimately falling to Princeton, 69-65. Bray finished with a game-high 26 points, as well as six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Bruno was uncharacteristically out-rebounded by the Tigers, 36-27.
“They didn’t miss many shots, so we didn’t have many chances for defensive rebounds, and they did a great job of not giving us more second-chance points,” Martin said. “When you out-rebound a team, it’s usually because you force them to take back shots and you clean up those misses. And they did that to us tonight.”
Saturday: Brown 62, Penn 55
The Bears rebounded from the tough Friday loss with a clutch comeback against the Quakers (6-15, 3-4) Saturday. Penn’s lineup featured two of the best big men in the league, Fran Dougherty and Darien Nelson-Henry.
The Quakers’ “Twin Towers” went to work early, scoring 12 of the team’s first 16 points. The two behemoths dominated Maia and Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 throughout the half, repeatedly capitalizing on their height advantage.
Bruno was again bullied inside, giving up 24 first-half points in the paint. While Kuakumensah struggled defensively, he excelled on offense. In the first half alone, the sophomore netted 10 points, three more than his season average, including two layups off offensive rebounds.
Penn took a two-point lead into the half, with Nelson-Henry leading the way with 14 points.
“(Assistant coach T.J. Sorrentine)…told me that Penn’s forwards are much bigger than me, but really slow, so I had to use my speed against them,” Kuakamensah said. “Early on, my shots were falling, so I just kept being aggressive and kept looking to score.”
In the second half, both teams struggled to build a lead. Penn had a chance to blow the game open, holding the Bears scoreless for four minutes. But Norman Hobbie ’17 finally beat the Quaker defense with a corner trey to pull the Bears within three.
Then, with five minutes left, Bruno got hot. Rebounding a missed free throw, McGonagill drilled a long three-pointer to cut the lead to just one. Seconds later, following an errant three-point attempt from Penn, McGonagill pushed the ball up the court and nailed another three-pointer in semi-transition, giving the Bears the lead.
“My teammates and coaches have confidence in me to take those shots,” McGonagill said. “They were all telling me to keep shooting. They believed in me to find my touch, and I finally got a few good looks and I took them.”
A layup and four free throws from Steven Spieth ’17 sealed the game for Brown. Bruno managed to tighten up its interior defense, allowing 14 points in the paint in the second half, compared to 24 in the first.
“(Kuakumensah) continued to work hard, but (Nelson-Henry) is a load down there,” Martin said. “Our guards did a better job of pressuring and helping whenever (Nelson-Henry) got the ball, and they turned the ball over some trying to feed it down low.”
The Bears will get a break from teams that pound the ball inside this upcoming weekend against Columbia (15-10, 4-4) and Cornell (2-20, 1-7), two squads that love to fire threes whenever they get the chance.