Harvard needs to improve defensively with Princeton showdown six days away

Leave a comment

With Princeton suffering a surprising home loss to Yale on Saturday, the Harvard Crimson entered today’s rescheduled game against Columbia with a chance to move a game ahead of the Tigers in the loss column atop the Ivy League standings.

Kyle Smith’s Lions, who got off to a less than stellar start to league play, had other ideas.

Steve Frankoski hit five three-pointers and led four Lions in double figures with 27 points in the 78-63 Columbia victory. The result drops Harvard (5-1 Ivy) back into a first place tie with Princeton (4-1), with the first meeting this season between the reigning champions and preseason favorite coming next Saturday.

Wesley Saunders was the only player to have a good afternoon offensively for Harvard, and their defensive issues were exposed as a result.

The sophomore, whose role is far greater this season due to the departure of Kyle Casey, shot 8-of-11 from the field and scored 27 points. Thirteen of those points came in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as Harvard shot 8-of-21 from the field and 0-of-5 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes.

Remove Saunders’ numbers for the entire game and the other Crimson players combined to shoot 10-of-31 from the field. By comparison Columbia shot 50.9% from the field and 9-of-17 from three, with this simply being the first time that Harvard’s lost as a result of their defense in Ivy League play.

In the five league games before Sunday’s defeat Harvard opponents shot 46.2% from the field, and after Columbia’s offensive performance the Crimson are seventh in the Ivy League in field goal percentage defense (47.0%).

With the offensive talent that Harvard possesses they’d been able to rack up some sizable leads in Ivy League games, most recently leading Cornell by as many as 19 points on Friday night (67-65 Harvard win), but their defense has allowed teams to fight their way back.

Columbia made Harvard pay on Sunday, and if the Crimson don’t improve defensively Princeton is every bit as capable of doing the same.

Photo credit: Columbia University Athletics (Steve Frankoski)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Syracuse wins, Miami loses, Valentine is nation’s best?

Denzel Valentine
Brad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
Leave a comment

(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: Not only did the Shockers drop their second straight at the AdvoCare Invitational, but they also saw Anton Grady leave the game on a stretcher after being involved in a scary second-half collision. He was awake and alert shortly after leaving the court. While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.

Good luck Goodluck: UNLV’s Okonoboh to transfer

Goodluck Okonoboh
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
Leave a comment

UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told

The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.

With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.