Coming off its first Ivy League victory of the season, the Red will look to continue its winning ways in two pivotal conference games this weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard.
After losing its first three Ivy League games by an average of 26 points, the Red defeated Columbia in an 82-81 nailbiter at Newman Arena on Saturday. Highlighted by a combined 54 points from the prolific scoring tandem of junior guard Matt Morgan and junior forward Stone Gettings, the win provided the Red some much needed confidence heading into the pair of league contests.
“We suffered a couple big time losses on the road,” said head coach Brian Earl. “It was helpful to get us back to center and realize we can put some pretty good performances out there.”
“It gives us a little momentum going forward,” added Morgan, whose team-leading 23.6 points per game is good for sixth in the nation. “It was good to get a win and hopefully we can build on this and defend home court.”
The win over Columbia came only seven days after a 88-62 loss on the road to the Lions.
“If you look at what we did at Columbia compared to what we did at home, [we were] a completely different team,” Earl said.
Gettings said he attributes the difference between the two games against Columbia to his team’s intensity.
“The biggest difference between the two times that we played Columbia was that we just came out with a lot more energy the second time around,” Gettings said. “If we continue to play with a lot of effort and stick to the game plan, we know that we can compete with any team in this league.”
Entering the matchups with the Green and Crimson, the team hopes to play with sustained effort. The Red has emphasized keeping up the intensity no matter the opponent or venue.
“I think the most important thing is just to play hard,” Earl said. “We’ll talk about different personnel and schemes, but we realize right now we need to have everyone who checks in the game to go as hard as they can go.”
On Friday, the Red opens up action against Dartmouth, (4-13, 0-4 Ivy) who held leads in two early-season losses against ACC opponents Notre Dame and Boston College. Dartmouth features a balanced offensive attack, paced by five players averaging over 10 points per game.
Friday’s game will highlight a matchup between Morgan and breakout Dartmouth sophomore guard Brendan Barry, the centerpiece of the Green offense and the team’s leader in minutes.
“Despite what Dartmouth’s record is, they’re really talented. They played Harvard close both times,” Morgan said. “We really have to lock in on Friday and take it one day at a time. It should be exciting.”
Saturday will present a more daunting challenge against Harvard (9-10, 4-0 Ivy). After a tough 77-71 loss to the Crimson at home last year, the Red is confident in its ability to earn a win.
“We had them on the ropes here last year so we’re capable of making it a game,” Earl said. “But again we just need to make sure everyone is going as hard as they can go,” Earl said.
Coming off wins over Brown and Yale, Harvard has been a force defensively, allowing only 66.1 points per game. Forward Seth Towns’ 20.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game lead the Crimson offensively.
“Defensively, [Harvard is] one of the best in the country. It’ll be a fight for 40 minutes, but as long as we stay focused and play together as a team we should hang in there and hopefully get a win,” Morgan said.
If there is an achilles heel for Harvard, it is playing away from home. The Crimson have put up a 4-8 road record, and the Red is excited about its chances on its home court.
“It definitely feels better to play in front of a crowd that supports you, in a gym that you are most familiar with,” Earl said. “But no matter where we play, we have to compete with the same intensity.”
The games tip off at 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday, both at Newman Arena.