After suffering its first Ivy loss of the season on its home floor to Brown last Saturday, the men’s basketball team wants to return the favor.
With a week off following that 87-82 loss, the Bulldogs (10-7, 2-1 Ivy) return to action with a rematch against the Bears (12-4, 3-0) 7 p.m. Saturday in Providence, R.I., the first of three straight league road games for the Elis. Although it is early in the season, Yale must right the ship with its first win in Providence since 1998 in order to stay within striking distance of the first place in the Ivy League.
The Bears currently occupy that position, by virtue of Saturday’s win in New Haven. In that game, Brown used its lightning-quick transition game to build an early lead and maintained it with pristine free-throw shooting.
“We have never seen a team have a transition offense as they did,” forward Paul Vitelli ’04 said after the game. “We didn’t know how hard they were going to push the ball.”
Last week, Yale stepped up their defense in the second half in order to contain the up-tempo Bears. Brown, with the aid of easy layups in transition, shot 48.4 percent from the floor in the first half but only 34.8 percent in the second frame. To drive home the level of speed and alertness the team needs to slow down the Brown attack, head coach James Jones replayed the videotape of Saturday’s game for the team on Monday.
Against Brown, “if you don’t run at a full sprint every time [down the floor], someone is going to get an easy look,” Jones said.
Of course, knocking down shots on the offensive end, something Yale did not do well Saturday, would also help curtail the Bears. Poor shooting, both at the free-throw line and from 3-point territory, plagued the Bulldogs the entire night. Yale’s four for 26 shooting performance from beyond the arc was their worst of the season.
In the rematch, Elis will look more to the low post for their scoring. Big man Josh Hill ’04 had a career-high 21 points on seven for nine field goal shooting, as the Bears had difficulty stopping him on the interior. Starting center T.J. McHugh ’03, whose 57.9 field goal percentage leads the Ivy League, must play a bigger role than he did last Saturday, when two fouls in the game’s first minute confined him to the bench for most of the night.
“[Brown] has a difficult time guarding us at the basket,” Jones said. “We have to do a better job getting the ball inside as opposed to taking so many threes.”
Hill and McHugh can run the floor reasonably well for big men, so having them out there should not be liability for the Bulldogs as they try to stop Brown’s transition.
A key match up in the backcourt will be between a pair of Ivy Rookie of the Year candidates, Yale’s Edwin Draughan ’05 and Brown’s Jason Forte. Saturday night, Forte stole the spotlight, hitting a handful of acrobatic shots in the lane en route to 21 points.
Forte, brother of the Boston Celtics’ Joseph Forte, did most of his damage in the first half, quieted in the second half by Draughan’s defensive pressure.
Draughan is Forte’s equal in quickness, and, at 6-foot-5, he has a 5-inch height advantage over the Brown standout. Containing Forte’s dribble penetration will go a long way toward containing the Brown offense.