For the members of the men’s basketball team, coming home meant waiting nearly two weeks longer than everybody else.
After playing the first four games of the season on the road, the latter three over Thanksgiving break, the Bulldogs return to the John J. Lee Amphitheater for their home opener against Sacred Heart today.
Playing at home for a friendly crowd could provide the Bulldogs with a much-needed boost.
“Having the game at home is definitely going to help,” guard Alex Gamboa ’05 said. “There will be a lot of energy with some of our crazy fans in the stands, and we could use some of that energy right about now.”
Yale (3-2) started the season strong with a hard-fought loss to UConn at the Preseason NIT on Nov. 17 followed by a pair of impressive wins over Eastern Michigan and Marist to take the Marist Classic on Nov. 22-23.
But since then, the Bulldogs have struggled. Yale blew a 37-16 halftime lead against Bucknell on Nov. 26, only managing to squeak by with a last-minute 3-pointer from guard Scott Gaffield ’04.
Against No. 18 Wake Forest last Saturday, whether because of left-over tryptophan or Wake’s quickness, the Elis were always a step behind the Demon Deacons, and fell soundly, 86-61.
“We’re looking to get back on the right track and get a win and bring a lot of energy back,” guard Josh Greenberg ’06 said.
Center Dominick Martin ’05, who scored a team-high 15 points against the Deacons, has been one of the brighter spots for the Bulldogs. The 6’9″ Princeton transfer has reached double figures in every game and leads the team with 15.6 points per game.
Guard Edwin Draughan ’05, who led the Bulldogs in scoring the past two years, has been effective as well, shooting over 60 percent from the field while posting 14 points per contest.
Forward Paul Vitelli ’05 is shooting an even 50 percent from behind the arc and has emerged as a legitimate third scorer for the Bulldogs.
In the early going, Vitelli has been the team’s X-factor. In the UConn and Eastern Michigan games, arguably Yale’s best performances this fall, Vitelli scored 11 and 15 points, respectively. In the Wake game, he tallied a mere two.
But even more critical to the Elis’ success than the performance by Vitelli, or any one individual for that matter, is the team’s performance as a unit, Gamboa said.
“We have been focusing on playing as a team,” he said. “That is something that got away from us against Wake Forest. We have to be able to come together and play well together.”
Albeit young, Sacred Heart’s season is already historic. After dropping their opener to UConn, the Pioneers (2-2) won their next two games, marking the first time Sacred Heart has been over the .500 mark since 1999, when it first joined Division I ranks.
Sacred Heart slipped back to .500 the following game — an 85-79 overtime loss to Columbia on Tuesday. With a win today, the Pioneers will get back above even. To do so, they will have to defeat a readied and resolved Yale squad.
“We’re pretty confident,” Gamboa said. “We’ve spent three solid days practicing and we’re excited to get out there and play. We still have a bitter taste in our mouths from last Saturday’s game and we want to put things right.”
NOTES: It will be only the second meeting ever between the Bulldogs and the Pioneers. The Bulldogs hold a 2-0 advantage. Last year, Yale defeated Sacred Heart, 88-69 in Fairfield.