Jon Teitel got to sit in on Wednesday’s Ivy League mid-season conference call and ask questions of all eight of the Ivy coaches. Here is what they had to say:
Yale coach James Jones
We have been playing better of late after a difficult non-conference road schedule. We were able to hold a lead at Iowa ST for 33 minutes before losing the game, so we have 1 more non-conference game to get things right. Kenny Boynton went into our game against Florida shooting only 26% from the arc, which you knew would eventually correct itself. It took us a while to figure out who he was, and at that point there was nothing we could do to stop him. Anytime we mounted a comeback he would come right back and make a three (Boynton matched his career-high with 28 points on 8-10 three-point shooting in a win by FL).
Princeton coach Mitch Henderson
The turn-around for us was after our three-point loss to Fordham. We have gotten smarter with the ball and are better at handling pressure. Hans Brase has just brought a different dynamic to the lineup. We had a lead at some point in most of the games that we have lost. Our schedule is front-loaded with conference home games this year, whereas last year it was back-loaded. We are too good not to be playing well right now, but the Ivy League is a wide open race. We have had a week to prepare for Penn and work on improving ourselves, so we just want to continue to learn and move forward. We have to play with some restlessness and a bit of an edge. Ian Hummer does not get a whole lot of credit for being the passer he is. I joke that he leads us in every category and even gets his own water bottle! Denton Koon is a long 6’7” in the backcourt and he has found a way to make contributions.
Penn coach Jerome Allen
Our previous 14 games have given us a good look at where we are, and we have a talented group. We do not have many seniors, but I do not want to use our youth as a crutch. Sometimes they make me want to pull out the hair I wish I had! We have been able to compete for the 1st 30-35 minutes of every game, but had some hiccups at the end while guarding the basketball. I have tried to not allow my guys to be content: I am encouraged when they battle back, but at the end of the day we play the games to win. Wins and losses are a direct function of our effort: we have to practice/focus the right way. Our league does not have any one dominant team, so it will be tough to consistently win every Friday/Saturday night. Fran Dougherty is coming along okay in terms of his health, and we hope to have him back within the next couple of weeks. We cannot replace him, but it creates opportunities for other guys like Dau Jok (a career-high 18 points vs. Lafayette) to give us a boost.
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker
We have been up and down like most of the other teams in our conference. Our defense has not been as consistent as we need it to be. People have shot a high percentage against us. Our kids are buying in and we are improving. I try to keep an eye on Siyani Chambers’ minutes as a freshman point guard, but it is also important to control our time/rest away from the court. We need him on the floor due to his dynamic presence, even if he has a couple of freshman moments. Wesley Saunders was counted on from day one to be a good player. He came a long way throughout his freshman year, as he learned from the veterans in our program. This summer he did an outstanding job of preparation in his workouts, so he deserves all the credit. We have seen this in the making and we are proud of him, his ceiling is very high.
Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier
We have been up and down, but mostly down, unfortunately. We have quite a few freshmen again who we are counting on. We have not shot the ball well due to a lack of composure. We have to go to practice and worry about being consistent. The kids are working very hard both on the court and in the weight room. There is no question that Alex Mitola is logging way too many minutes as a freshman point guard. Teams are focusing on trying to wear him down with a full-court press, double-team, etc. His motor is incredible, but we are also trying to bring along Malik Gill to spell Alex a little bit and take a bit of pressure off him. I know that we are playing with fire, a lot of freshmen hit that wall in late-January. We have some undersized frontcourt players but they can still be effective.
Cornell coach Bill Courtney
I have seen the progress in our team over the past few weeks after playing a ton of BCS teams on the road. Duke is such a good team, and Coach K is possibly the best coach in the history of college basketball. We played pretty well for 10-15 minutes, and then they started executing and made every correct play. Mason Plumlee played very well on both ends of the court. We responded very well to playing the #1 team in the country at Cameron. Now that Johnathan Gray is back for the 1st time in 18 months after recovering from an injury, he has started to play very well. Nolan Cressler scored 20 points off the bench for us in his college debut and then struggled for a few games, but has gotten back on track. Teams who are fortunate enough to remain healthy will have conference success, as that is extremely important, as is taking care of your business at home in league play.
Columbia coach Kyle Smith
We had a nice non-conference win on the road against Villanova, which opened up a few eyes. When you play back-to-back games you need guys on your bench who have confidence. We need to get better at rebounding the ball with our smaller lineup. Steve Frankoski has one of the best attitudes I have ever been around. He got off to a slow start this year after returning from last season’s injury, but ever since he has come off the bench he has been great. He is a student of the game and I could not be more pleased at how he has been able to work himself back into the mix.
Brown coach Mike Martin
For the most part our effort has been very satisfying to me, but with only eight healthy players on our roster it has been all-hands-on-deck. We beat a Big East team (Providence) in our own city, so at least for one night we had the opportunity to be the most important team in our state, and our guys embraced that. Freshman Cedric Kuakumensah is an outstanding young man who is one of our hardest workers. He needs to improve offensively but he can already rebound/block shots. He is a humble kid but right now is in a position to help us be successful. Our players know they can play through their mistakes due to our short bench, which we try to view as an advantage. Sean McGonagill/Matt Sullivan are being asked to do a whole lot as our veteran leaders, and so far they have been up to the challenge.