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Breaking down Bruno: an impressive conference split for men's basketball

Second-chance points do Brown in against Harvard, but balanced attack helps them rebound over Dartmouth

In its first full-weekend conference road trip, the men’s basketball team posted two impressive showings, narrowly losing to Harvard 52-45 before bouncing back with a resounding 75-62 win over Dartmouth. Here is a breakdown of the team’s performance on the road.


What’s strong

The Bears displayed a tremendous amount of resilience in their two games over the weekend. Despite falling behind by 15 to a top-ranked Harvard team, Bruno clawed its way back to close the margin. The two teams were neck-and-neck for much of the first period, and though the Crimson went on a 9-0 run to open the second half, the Bears held their ground and managed to cut the lead to three with just over two minutes remaining.

“We’ve been down before, so it wasn’t an unfamiliar position for us,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “Unfortunately we had just dug ourselves too big of a hole.”

Coming off of the loss the following night, the Bears showed few signs of dejection, springing an early 17-3 advantage over the Big Green and never relinquishing their lead thereafter.

“Anytime you play such an emotional game Friday nights, it’s always nice to come back and get the win on Saturday,” Martin said.

For a young Brown squad, the ability to play with a short-term memory shows maturity.  Earlier in the season, after dropping their Ivy League opener to Yale, the Bears managed to avenge the loss the following week in their second showdown against the Bulldogs.  Brown will close its season with a rematch at home against Harvard, and the team’s ability to learn from its mistakes may prove beneficial down the road.


What’s wrong 

Despite winning the battle of the boards in both games over the weekend, the Bears struggled to convert on second-chance opportunities.

In Rafael Maia ’15 — the Ivy League’s leading offensive rebounder — and Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 — the conference’s leading shot blocker — the Bears boast one of the most imposing frontcourts in the Ancient Eight. On the season, Bruno is pulling down an average of 4.9 more rebounds per game than its opponents.

“Their interior guys are tremendous,” said Harvard Head Coach Tommy Amaker. “Kuakumensah and Maia, those two kids are strong frontline players.”

The Bears out-rebounded Harvard and Dartmouth 46 to 39 and 46 to 42, respectively, on both ends of the court, but the Bears struggled to convert this advantage into offensive production. Despite pulling down two more offensive rebounds than the Crimson, the Bears were outscored 18-6 on second-chance points.  The Big Green wrangled one less offensive board than Brown, but still built a 14-13 advantage on second-chance points.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the way we rebounded,” Martin said after the loss to Harvard. “The difference is they converted when they got offensive rebounds and we did not.”

As Bruno continues conference play in a wide-open Ivy League, it is crucial that the Bears capitalize on every possible scoring opportunity, particularly under their own basket on second-chance points.


What’s new

Though Bruno boasts the Ivy League’s leading scorer — guard Sean McGonagill ’14 tops the conference with 18.0 points per game — the squad has seen consistent offensive production from throughout the lineup in recent games.

McGonagill was the top scorer in the Bears’ first two conference matchups against Yale, but since that time, four other players have led the team in scoring. Steven Spieth ’17 and Norman Hobbie ’17 scored 18 apiece against Cornell, Maia netted 18 against Columbia and Tavon Blackmon ’17 finished with 11 points Friday night against Harvard. Spieth and McGonagill led the Bears with 20 points apiece against Dartmouth.

Particularly in conference play, teams have been planning ways to make McGonagill a non-factor. So, the ability of other players to step up and fill the offensive void has been integral to the Bears’ success.

“We have more than Sean on this team,” Martin said. “We have eight guys that average seven points a game or right around there. So when teams focus on (McGonagill), we think that opens up other opportunities for other guys.”

The Bears now rank third in the conference behind Harvard and Yale. After this weekend, every Ivy team will have seen what Bruno is capable of on the court.  If the Bears hope to make a run at the top spot in the conference, they must continue to employ a balanced offensive attack in order to keep opponents on their toes.


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