Sports

Last-place Penn, middling Princeton come to Providence

Yet to win two consecutive Ivy games, Bruno takes on Quakers, Tigers in final home stand

By
Sports Staff Writer
Friday, February 27, 2015

Dockery Walker ’15 dribbles past an opponent. Walker will be honored with his fellow seniors before Brown’s game Saturday against a Princeton team that sits firmly in the middle of the Ivy standings.

Five seniors on the men’s basketball team will take the floor at the Pizzitola Center for the last time this weekend, as the squad attempts to salvage a middle-of-the-pack conference finish in the Ivy League’s penultimate weekend. Brown welcomes last-place Penn Friday and third-place Princeton Saturday, with the latter game marking Senior Night for Dockery Walker ’15, Joe Sharkey ’15, Jon Schmidt ’15, Longji Yiljep ’15 and co-captain Rafael Maia ’15.

“That’s going to be an emotional game,” Maia said.

“It’s going to be pretty sad, but I’m looking forward to performing with my teammates in the Pizzitola one more time,” Walker said.

Bruno (12-15, 3-7 Ivy) has split each of its last three weekends in Ivy play, and history suggests that streak will continue in this doubleheader. In a road trip two weeks ago, the Bears pulled away from Penn in a 71-55 win and trailed Princeton for the entire second half in a 75-64 loss.

Penn (7-16, 2-7)

The Quakers are sliding and sliding fast. Penn has lost its last five games — four by a margin of more than 15 points — and has been relegated to the Ivy cellar. Tony Hicks, the team’s talented point guard and leading scorer, struggled to score against the Bears two weeks ago, drew a technical foul out of frustration and was subsequently suspended.

“We played pretty well on the defensive end last time we played Penn, and it showed,” Walker said. The team focused on cutting off Hicks last time and will employ the same strategy in Friday’s contest.

Defense keyed the Bears’ win over Penn at the Palestra. Bruno eliminated scoring threats Hicks and starting guard Antonio Woods, and the two ended a dismal 1-of-21 from the floor. In conference play, Matt Howard emerged as Penn’s second-leading scorer and was the only Quaker to do much damage against Brown, scoring 19 points. Darien Nelson-Henry combines size, talent and experience to give the Quakers a post presence, but he has been prone to clumsy turnovers at times.

With Nelson-Henry patrolling the middle and Penn’s youth at guard, the Bears exploited the perimeter two weeks ago. J.R. Hobbie ’17 poured in 21 points on 5-of-7 from deep, while point guard Tavon Blackmon ’17 hit a pair of treys in a 14-point effort.

Hicks will be difficult to suppress two games in a row, but if the Bears win the battle of the guards by such a wide margin Friday, Penn will be in trouble.

Head Coach Mike Martin ’04 said free throw shooting “has become the identity of our team,” and Friday night could present an opportunity for the Bears to capitalize on that strength.

Penn commits more fouls than any other Ivy. In the last meeting, nine of Bruno’s final 13 points — during a stretch when the Brown lead tripled — came via the charity stripe. Steven Spieth ’17 was the leader of that campaign, knocking down a stellar 10-of-11.

Princeton (12-13, 5-4)

Harvard and Yale are in a two-team fight for the Ivy crown, but Princeton is quietly having a quality year. The team does not start any seniors and is one of two teams — along with Brown — that does not have a player in the top seven in scoring in the Ivy League. But the Tigers feature one of the most efficient and balanced attacks in the league, posting the highest field goal and three-point field goal percentages.

Any player in the rotation has a chance to lead the team in scoring on a given night, and the ball movement and vision help Princeton dish out the second-most assists in the conference. Spencer Weisz leads the team with 12 points per game, and forward Hans Brase has the ability to step out and hit a three. Steven Cook drained three treys as part of a game-high 18 points against Brown at Princeton.

“The main thing with Princeton is to guard the Princeton (offense),” Walker said. “We have to try to limit their shooters.”

While long-range shooting has contributed much of the Tigers offense this season, Brown should be wary of focusing too much on the perimeter. Two weeks ago, Bruno’s defense was tight on the shooters, and Princeton took advantage by shooting a scorching 62 percent inside the arc, leading to a 42-26 points in the paint edge.

Despite Princeton’s potent attack, Brown could find an edge in the frontcourt. Maia had a huge game against the Tigers last time around, scoring 16 points and pulling in 16 rebounds. Other forwards Walker and Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 combined for 20 points as well. On the boards, Brown has a major advantage. The Bears average the most rebounds per game in the league, while Princeton averages the least.

“We felt we had a slight advantage inside” against Princeton, Walker said. “The three of us carried the game well until the last stretch.”

The game’s emotional aspect could favor Brown as well. Not only will the team have a Senior Night crowd and mentality, but Princeton could stumble into it. The Tigers blew a big lead last week in a loss to Harvard and are expected to fall at Yale Friday night.

Bruno will don throwback jerseys for Senior Night, as it attempts to take another step toward the middle of the Ivy standings. Tip will be Friday at 7 p.m.