Sports

Men’s basketball goes cold in road trip north, sinks to last place

Consecutive losses to Ancient Eight’s worst teams have Bears looking up at rest of conference

By
Staff Writer
Monday, February 15, 2016

Momentum is a fickle friend. When the men’s basketball team made the trek up to Harvard and Dartmouth with a chance to even its Ivy record, momentum decided not to make the trip.

A week after topping Cornell and playing a league frontrunner in Columbia from start to finish, the Bears fell on consecutive nights to the conference’s last-place teams. Harvard (10-13, 2-5 Ivy) rode a 51-point second half Friday night to a comeback 79-73 win, and Dartmouth (8-14, 2-6) delivered another blow Saturday, besting the Bears 87-70.

The pair of losses draged Bruno back to the Ivy cellar as its road woes continue. The Bears are now 1-9 in opponents’ gyms, an alarming sign given that four of their six remaining games are on the road.

Harvard 79, Brown 73

The Crimson’s five-year Ivy championship streak will come to a close this year, as the Cambridge bunch has severely underperformed given its talented recruiting classes.

But Harvard flashed some of its talent with a monster second half Friday.

An even game through the first 30 minutes swung Harvard’s way with a 9-2 Crimson run midway through the second half. Despite continual surges by the Bears, Harvard’s timely long-range shooting and late success at the charity stripe kept the Bears from cutting the lead to fewer than three points the rest of the way.

Just how much did Harvard rely on three-pointers and free throws? In the game’s final 11 minutes, the Crimson scored 30 points to turn a one-point lead into a victory and hold off a Bears offense that was also scoring in bunches. Of those 30 points, just four came on two-point field goals. Instead, the home team nailed four treys and converted 14-of-18 free throw attempts, scoring its last 13 points from the charity stripe.

The Crimson “shot the ball extremely well when they needed to,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04.

Making more shots is easier when you take more shots, something the Crimson were able to do all game thanks to 15 offensive rebounds. Harvard shot a lower percentage from the field, but a 10-point advantage in second-chance points vaulted the Crimson above Brown.

Tavon Blackmon ’17 emerged as the key cog for the Bears’ offense down the stretch. The point guard scored or assisted on all Bruno’s final 10 points and finished the contest with a game-high 19 points and six dimes. But, like the rest of his teammates, Blackmon’s good came with some bad, namely a season-high nine turnovers.

Foul trouble for starting forwards Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 and Steven Spieth ’17 kept them out of the game for much of the first half. But Bruno overcame their absences to carry a five-point lead into the locker room.

Four starters finished in double-digits, including a 14-point outing from rookie Obi Okolie ’19 against his brother’s team. But the offense is not the primary problem for the struggling Bears, as the squad’s 40-point second half  was outshadowed by Harvard’s 51 in the same period.

Defense and rebounding failed the Bears in the second-half, and those troubles carried into Saturday’s contest in Hanover.

Dartmouth 87, Brown 70

Bruno fell behind early in a streaky contest, and the Big Green pulled away in the second half to condemn the Bears to a winless weekend.

A 14-2 Dartmouth run early in the game foreshadowed the consistent control the Big Green would exert throughout the game. A 9-0 Bruno answer preceded another Dartmouth run — this time 11-0 — as the home team held a 38-28 lead at half.

Bruno fell victim to another second-half offensive surge, allowing 49 points in the period and falling behind by as many as 21 points.

The Big Green is the second-lowest scoring team in Ivy League play this season, but against a putrid Bears defense, the Big Green racked up more points than it has scored against any Division I team this season.

“Dartmouth was really efficient running their offense,” Blackmon said.

Dartmouth forward Evan Boudreaux, frontrunner for Ivy Rookie of the Year, put on a show Saturday. The first-year put up game-high totals with 25 points and 13 rebounds.

For the third loss in a row, Bruno shot a higher percentage than its vanquisher. But offensive rebounds allowed Dartmouth to make up the difference by putting up more attempts. The Big Green crushed Bruno 16-2 on second-chance points.

Blackmon and Okolie led the way for the Bears once again. Blackmon poured in 22 points, and Okolie chipped in 16. Kuakumensah notched 16 points, and his five rebounds and six blocks accounted for the little success Bruno found on the board or interior defense.

Martin said the Bears would turn the page quickly as they prepare to battle Penn and Princeton next weekend. But Bruno’s road woes and 82 points allowed per game in Ivy play is not a recipe for success, so the Bears will look to buck those trends beginning Friday night in Philadelphia.